I recently read an article from Achievers, entitled 2013 Trends in Recognition. The article outlined four trends in employee recognition today, and also provided a reminder on the basic requirements for successful recognition practices.
Here are the four trends that Achievers identified, together with my observations on these points:
Four Trends in Recognition
Trend 1: Embrace Peer-to-Peer Recognition in Every Direction
Achievers points out that peer-to-peer recognition is becoming common. In my opinion, this is a good thing, because the boss doesn’t always see employees acting in ways that merit recognition, but co-workers are almost always aware of whose performance is superior. The best recognition programs today allow peers and subordinates to recognize their colleagues for a job well done.
About ten years ago, the HR division where I worked instituted a peer recognition program for employees in our group. At each quarterly division meeting, the Vice-President of HR read the citations we wrote for each other to recognize outstanding performance, a job well done, or even just a helpful act. These became the highlight of the meeting.
Trend 2: Recognize Performance, Not Presence
The second trend Achievers identified is that recognition is becoming more and more based on performance. Most companies moved away from recognition based on attendance or years-of-service milestones several years ago. After the Family & Medical Leave Act became law, perfect attendance awards became meaningless. Moreover, milestone awards are too infrequent to make a difference in employees’ day-to-day actions.
Even if your company chooses to keep service awards, it is also important to recognize strong performance. Particularly when leaders are trying to change their corporate culture, recognition programs should identify and reward behaviors that are aligned with the desired culture.
Trend 3: Leverage the Power of Social Employee Recognition
The third trend is to recognize employees publicly in the social media forums where they interact. Recognition used to be done in secret, during performance reviews or individual staff meetings between boss and subordinate. But public recognition goes a long way toward changing the culture of an organization. When desired behaviors in the new culture are publically recognized, other employees see concrete examples of what the organization wants.
Moreover, we are used now to commenting on our own and other people’s actions on Facebook and Twitter and similar forums. When a company publicizes its employees’ strong behavior, it tells the world about the culture of the organization and also integrates the employee’s work life with his or her social life.
Trend 4: Use Data to Identify High Performers and High Potentials
Finally, Achievers found many companies using the data from recognition programs for other employee programs. Employees who receive frequent recognition from co-workers are likely to be strong performers. Obviously, management needs to assess the reasons for the recognition, but if it is deserved and is supported by other aspects of the employee’s performance, then perhaps that individual is ready for more responsibility or for leadership positions within the company.
The point of the Achievers article is that the recognition data are there, and company leaders should integrate this information into other HR systems, such as performance management, succession planning, and leadership development.
And Achievers reminds us not to forget that recognition should be Specific, Meaningful, and Timely.
No matter what recognition programs you design, nor what behaviors you choose to incent, recognition should always meet these basic criteria. Employees will appreciate the recognition more if you tell them specifically what they did that was great, why it was so wonderful, and tell them close in time to when they did it.
And other employees will also be influenced to behave similarly, when they see specific, meaningful and timely recognition of their peers. After all, the purpose of recognition programs is not only to reward an individual’s strong performance, but also to motivate other employees to perform better as well.
The workplace is changing, and our recognition practices need to change with it. One fact in the Achievers materials that impressed me was that Generation X, Generation Y, and the Millenials now make up 51% of the working population. These younger generations are used to constant feedback.
The years when the bulge of Baby Boomers passed through the recruiting office is over. Baby Boomers still influence the workplace, but the growing population of younger employees means that HR practices need to change. The Achievers article on 2013 Trends in Recognition is a good reminder of how HR systems should evolve.
What changes has your workplace made in recognition programs recently?