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As Organizational Design Evolves, Recognition is There to Help

by Derek Irvine

SkylineRecognize This! – Organizations increasingly benefit from designs centered on networks of small teams. These models are a natural fit for similarly flexible and empowered approaches to recognition.

One of the largest themes emerging from Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report is the need for companies to be much more agile. In the face of rapid change and frequent disruption, a full 92% of companies put responsive organizational design at the top of their priority lists.

With these types of designs, similarly responsive practices are required to achieve the full benefits. Social recognition is just one such practice that can enable organizational agility and individual performance.

What does the New Organization look like?

At the core of this shift is what Deloitte calls a “network of teams” model. Instead of traditional functional areas, companies are now increasingly organized around teams that are formed around specific needs, customers, products, or markets. They are flexibly deployed to match expertise with business needs, highly empowered, and networked via centers that facilitate the flow of information and knowledge.

According to the report, smaller teams are often better suited to achieving faster results, fostering more engagement, and maintaining a closer line-of-sight to the mission than traditional methods of organizing.

A network of teams essentially amounts to a structure-within-a-structure approach. These mission-driven teams are nested within more traditional administrative or “talent” structures. These structures help the organization to build the skills and capacity necessary to effectively form and re-form teams over time, as well as provide a “home” for team members to return to at the end of one team’s lifecycle and prior to joining the next one.

The parallel use of “mission” and “talent” structures in an organization also helps to maintain alignment between the various teams’ missions and the shared vision, culture, and strategy of the organization.

Effectively Linking Practices with Design

There is no doubt that these kind of designs can help organizations rapidly respond to changing conditions and compete more effectively, but certain challenges remain from the employee perspective.

Chief among them is perhaps the lack of a longitudinal and central picture of an employee’s performance, with contributions spread across ever-changing teams, under many different team leads, and spanning business units or geographies. By that same token, however, there are now potentially many more contributors to that performance picture than ever before. This challenge is at the heart of leveraging social technology that can capture how we work as humans.

Take social recognition for example, and the role it can play in the “mission” structures. During the course of working with a team, all team members can record performance contributed by any other team member. In fact, the informal leadership-by-expertise model may even lower traditional barriers to peer-to-peer recognition. In real-time, individuals are recognized and are motivated to continue contributing to the team at a high level. Recognition can amplify many of the benefits of small teams mentioned above, spanning results, engagement, and line-of-sight.

Social recognition also plays well with the “talent” structures, providing the employee’s “home” with a clear picture of the sum of that employee’s contributions to each and every team over time, in addition to the more traditional metrics of group performance and business results. Despite not always being able to observe the employee, a manager can “hear” from many different voices, and ideally leverage those voices into performance feedback and coaching. As a result of technology, moments of recognition are recorded and preserved, greatly expanding the impact on motivation as well as growth and development.

Does your organization operate with networks of small teams? What other practices have you seen be effective?

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