According to a recent report from the Gartner Group, social employee recognition programs can have a positive impact on business results. These programs increase intrinsic motivation for employees to perform well, and therefore influence the organization’s bottom line in terms of higher performing and more productive employees. Does this mean that any social recognition or “gamification” program, regardless of how poorly planned and implemented it is, will have such a positive outcome. Of course not, and Globoforce Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting Derek Irvine explains why that is.
Most social recognition programs involve some form of gamification, which can include awarding points or badges for attaining certain milestones, or can involve rankings on a leaderboard. Gamification promises greater teamwork, collaboration, and participation, but only when it is part of a thoughtfully designed and implemented program. According to Irvine, such programs help to make “tasks more appealing by inserting a competitive or a fun, game-like element.” Where caution must be taken, though, is in doing anything that may “trivialize significant work accomplishments,” Irvine adds.
In other words, the reward must be proportionate to the milestone or achievement. Social recognition programs must be properly planned and executed to reward the correct type of behavior, instead of rewarding the wrong type of behavior. For example, Irvine points out that providing an incentive beyond voluntary participation in nominating employees for awards could lead to skewed data. Rather than rewarding someone for nominating employees for awards, it is “critical for employees and managers to be inspired by the great work itself, not the promise of badges or personal awards for the nominating.”
Social recognition programs can include elements of gamification, Irvine stresses, but “there needs to be a scale of recognition that is reflective of the level of achievement.” Giving an employee a “thumbs up” for helping a colleague set up furniture for a meeting is hardly on the same scale of accomplishment as an employee who saves the company a million dollars by discovering a flaw in a new product, so the recognition and rewards need to be appropriately scaled for the level of importance of the achievement.
The report acknowledges such risks and points out that the risks of poorly designed social recognition plans must be planned for and avoided. According to the report, the “mitigation of such risks requires careful plan design and a regular review of the program metrics, including participation levels segmented by manager, division, region, job function and others; trends and deviations from norms; gaps in participation; and other critical success indicators.”
Care must also be taken to make sure any use of technology in such programs fits in with the corporate culture of the organization. According to Gartner, “80% of social business efforts will not achieve their intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology.” Cultural readiness for social recognition programs is essential; what works flawlessly at a cutting-edge company such as Google might not fare so well at a more traditional organization like General Motors or IBM.
The moral of the story here is that even though Gartner has implied that social recognition programs are beneficial to organizations, care needs to be taken when planning out such programs. Proper scale should be assigned to different “levels” or awards, and HR professionals and managers should be extremely aware of anything that might trivialize work accomplishments.