How peer-to-peer recognition works |

How peer-to-peer recognition works

Posted by Luke Thomas

Are you a team leader or executive at your company? If you are, I’d like to talk today about why you should care about employee recognition, specifically peer-to-peer recognition.

Why should I care?

If you weren’t already aware, the reasoning for employee recognition is pretty obvious – it’s a key aspect of building an agile performance management process. Here are a few data points to illustrate my point:

  • According to O.C. Tanner research, of the people who report the highest morale at work, 94.4% agree that their managers are effective at recognition.
  • Research firm Watson and Wyatt has asked employees to identify “very
  • significant” motivators of performance and 66% said “appreciation.”
  • 79% of people who leave a job cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving the company.

In short, it intuitively makes sense why you should recognize people on your team for doing great work. But let’s dive a bit more into what’s preventing you (and others) from actually giving recognition.

Team leaders own recognition, not HR

The first point I’d like to make is the recognizing your team for doing great work is YOUR job, not the human resource department. Many organizations have HR teams run recognition programs. This only creates silos and abstracts responsibility; it needs to be owned by team leaders and executives inside the organization. If you are the CEO of a company, you need to ensure that managers (especially for new managers) know that they are responsible for recognizing their team, not HR.

It's not about trophies and prizes

The second point you need to know is that employee recognition isn’t about giving out cheap trophies and prizes. Employees can see right through that. Prizes are cheesy and have  little impact compared to a well-intentioned and clear “thank you” from the right person.

We aren’t saying that a gift isn’t relevant, but recognition at its core is not a tangible item.

Recognition should be a regular event

The third point is that recognition needs to be a consistent activity inside your team or organization – ideally it’s part of a weekly check-in or a sprint retrospective. It’s not a once a year event or ceremony, but it’s a daily decision to recognize the effort your coworkers put into their job, especially when they go above and beyond.

We recommend setting aside time once per week (at least) to reflect and send recognition to people on your team. You can use our tool(specifically the kudos feature) to make this a habit.

Creating a culture of recognition

At this point, you should understand the extent of how important recognition is, so let’s start exploring ways to implement this inside your team/company. 

The basics

What are the basics of recognition? At a primitive level, it revolves around this ideal structure:

“Thanks [insert name here] for doing [behavior]. It helped [accomplish result].”

While this structure may seem elementary, it’s pretty important to call out the specific behavior where the team member went above and beyond the call of duty. It’s also helpful to explain how that behavior helped accomplish a particular goal. This aids the team in connecting the dots between their work and the business goals. This also creates a sense of psychological safety.

A weekly ritual

Next, there needs to be a time that’s set aside for saying thanks to fellow coworkers. This may be a bit awkward to do in person at first, or you could use a system like Friday to send kudos online (which will increase the likelihood that people will do it as they are behind a screen).

Accessible and visible to everyone

It’s not enough for you as a team leader or executive to give recognition. You need to propagate this behavior through the entire organization to make a difference.

How do you do that?

We recommend keeping a tally (once again, this is why online systems can help with this). If you have staff meetings or monthly company all-hands meetings, make sure to reference the recognition that was sent inside the organization over the last month.

Technology can help this too – there are plenty of systems that can display recognition “feeds” to everyone inside the company.

Tie recognition to company values

If possible, we recommend tying recognition moments to core company values. If you track these in a system, you can quickly determine who at the company is best living up to a set of values. It’s a much better replacement to annually asking people with a survey (which can easily be gamed).

Personalize it

If you do decide to give out some form of tangible recognition, we strongly encourage you to tie the gift to a particular employee interest. Don’t be boring!

Is the employee going to a concert or show? Maybe you can grab a gift card at a nearby restaurant for them. The point is to be specific – it shows your paying attention to seemingly small details. We’ve included a list of employee recognition ideas you can check out.

Wrapping up

Great recognition programs revolve around getting everyone involved – it’s a key piece of the continuously improving. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition inside your team or organization, and make sure to say, “thanks.” Who knows, it may save one of your best employees from turning over. I've also developed a personal "user manual" for working with me. This may also help your team understand how to work with each other.

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