Social recognition isn’t a very complex concept. If you sum it up as the public acknowledgment of merit, you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. So when a sales manager praises her top salesperson during a private discussion, that is not social recognition. But if that same sales manager honors the salesperson in a weekly team meeting, it is social recognition.
Social recognition is effective in three ways: as a morale booster for the employee receiving it, as a motivational booster for colleagues who are exposed to it, and as a performance guide for everyone who benefits from seeing a good example. Some businesses choose to acknowledge employees through bonuses or other rewards, but there is evidence to suggest that rewards are not any more effective than publicly recognizing a job well done.
Simply put, social recognition is effective because it targets the basic human needs for esteem and self-actualization.
With intelligent leveraging of social recognition, businesses can realize a number of practical operational benefits, from encouraging more positive attitudes, to helping to instill a spirit of amicable competition, and even building loyalty to the business. Over time, these elements add up to a more engaged workforce and lower turnover rates.
While social recognition is a simple concept, there are still several things any HR manager should consider before launching a new program. Here are four pieces of advice for those looking to implement social recognition in the workplace:
- Take steps to ensure that recognition is given out fairly and equitably. If acknowledgment is focused on just a few individuals or teams, those left out can become demoralized and eventually put in less effort—the opposite of the intention behind your social recognition program. For companies that do attach financial rewards to their social recognition efforts, be careful not to inadvertently deploy measurably discriminatory compensation practices.
- Focus on core performance measures and core values. Recognizing employees for activities that are unrelated to the duties and responsibilities of their positions is much less effective than recognizing them for good performance. Think about what you’re recognizing your employees for and how that falls in line with your company’s core values. The best social recognition programs build support for the pillars of your company. If an organization’s own values are not taken into account, social recognition may even end up reinforcing behaviors company managers are seeking to avoid.
- Don’t limit it to a top-down model. Peer-to-peer social recognition can also offer benefits to your organization’s culture and workforce while reducing the burden on management to constantly be giving feedback. Everyone likes to be recognized by the boss, but employees also enjoy receiving compliments from their peers. By encouraging kudos among peers, you can create an open, collaborative, and supportive environment, which is more likely to produce positive business results.
- Get buy-in. In order for social recognition to be useful, your employees need to believe that it’s effective. Encourage your managers to recognize employees whenever they can, and to thank employees when they notice them encouraging each other. Think about how you’ve successfully implemented new programs in the past and try to replicate those strategies. Finally, talk to your employees. Explain why you think this will work and ask them what they think. They know better than anyone how they want to be recognized.
These are all important tips to keep in mind when considering a social recognition program. What matters most is that your employees feel valued. They’ll work harder, better, and stay with you longer.