We live in a world that is increasingly being measured at every click, every decision, every outcome – even within the tools we use to connect and praise our peers and employees. Praise and recognition are an important part of any collaboration platform. Of course, different users, teams, and business units are motivated in different ways. Having lived through a couple sales-centric organizations, I saw the power of leaderboards to drive the competitive nature of the sales teams – providing a powerful motivational tool, as well as a real-time snapshot of the performance of the business.
Praise, like any gamification technique or tool, should be customized or adapted to fit the organizational culture, because recognition tools are most effective when in context to how you collaborate. For example, if your primary collaboration is around a Team Site in SharePoint, you may want to surface individual recognition as part of that community conversation or newsfeed, not hide it away on a user profile. Praise may look very different within two channels on the new Microsoft Teams: where the product team channel may be filled with stickers and memes to recognize the good work of peers, something more formal may be used on the company-wide announcements channel, where individuals are called out by the executive team for strong performance.
Of course, the more complex your tools for praise, the more difficult it becomes to track and measure. Isn’t that true with all business systems? Managers may want to find and review praise given to their employees on a monthly basis as part of their regular one-on-ones, but having to pull data from different communication tools and platforms and sort through it all (does a Good Job! meme = a thumbs up?) can get messy quickly.
That’s not to say you have to get it right out of the box. Never underestimate the power of praising your employees or co-workers – and it's better to try something (or several things) and learn from the process than to never move forward. While some may consider the practice of recognizing others, publicly or privately, as a nicety and simply a matter of management style, creating a culture where managers and employees alike actively engage in identifying and rewarding positive behaviors can have a dramatic effect on employee engagement and job satisfaction AND data around leadership and organizational effectiveness point to recognition as a key ingredient to organizational success.
The best productivity tools help people to easily share their knowledge and ideas, make their work discoverable inside their organization, and enable colleagues to show their appreciation and recognize each other’s work. – Mark Kashman, Office 365 Product Manager, Microsoft
Within enterprise social networks (ESNs) and most collaboration platforms, praise is an essential tool that can inspire and motivate, keeping employees actively engaged. According to Office 365 MVP Jussi Mori (@jussimori), there are a number of ways that organizations can do more to “humanize” their collaboration platforms, but four of his points specifically highlight the benefits derived from active recognition practices:
- They are a way to provide instant and constant feedback
Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing what’s going on within a project. In certain situations, it is best to give too much feedback as opposed to not enough, or none at all. While many organizations perform annual staff performance evaluations, these practices fail to create the kind of change they hope to achieve. By regularly providing positive feedback, it encourages the development of certain behaviors and performance, leading to the improved delivery of business milestones/objectives.
- They are a method of embracing positivity
Creating an active and positive work environment for your teams to operate in is not something that will happen by chance. Nothing is more demotivating than negative feedback, which often ignores what may have gone right on a project. When something is learned together with positive (or with negative) emotions, it can become hardwired into our brains. Some examples of activities that trigger positive emotions: Join, share, gift, exchange, collect, complete, choose, accomplish, and help.
- They encourage people to be more social
Humans are very social beings, and not being part of social groups or circles makes most people unhappy. Try as much as possible to involve individuals through active, rather than passive, engagement. As more people become engaged and actively participate, the quality of collaboration increases. Collective intelligence is always more capable and effective than the work of an individual.
- They are focused on reward instead of punishment
Operant conditioning has taught us that educated and motivated employees perform better with the prospect of receiving a reward, rather than the threat of receiving a punishment. We all have fundamental desires for status, achievement, self-expression, competition and altruism. Using these desires as rewards will help you to motivate your teams and create a positive working environment.
Giving employees tools to recognize each other is fantastic – but organizations need to also start thinking about how they capture this data, and measure it. You see some of these features popping up in Office 365 as part of your personal metrics, and within individual workloads. We are quickly moving toward a state of constant and automatic recognition data collection, and it will become increasingly important to how we measure the effectiveness of individuals – and their managers. Rather than pushing out an annual employee satisfaction survey, look at the trends in peer recognition. Gamification is not just about games, folks. This is the future of managerial metrics.