HR professionals and senior managers acknowledge today that a company culture that celebrates employees who perform their job well or display a commitment to the shared values is an important factor to foster team-building and motivation. It leads to higher employee engagement and performance across the organisation.

Employee recognition has been in place for a long time, but traditional methods such as ‘Employee of the Month’ or ‘Gold Stars’ look out-dated or even fake in our social network era, where everyone speaks their mind. There is often a general discontent with how effective those old systems are at expressing genuine gratitude, celebration and recognition.

While the main reason for implementing an employee recognition programme is to build a culture of appreciation, launching such a programme designed and built on a lack of trust will undermine efforts from the outset. And formal recognition systems that focus exclusively on feedback from management to staff are increasingly viewed with suspicion, in the same way advertising messages from brands are losing their impact with consumers, while genuine peer reviews of products and services gain in popularity.

This rampant cynicism is an expression of a change of forces, from haves to have-nots and from top-down to peer-to-peer and then bottom-up. So in most organisations, co-workers are the ones best placed to appreciate the quality of work of their peers, and to bestow praise on a particular co-worker or a team. Colleague recognition appears more trustworthy in their eyes, because it is free of managerial influence. And it works well because the trust factor is much higher. It can have a very powerful impact too, when recognition from peers comes as a surprise and it promotes openness and transparency, two cherished values in society today.

What is needed is an effective method and tools for regular, timely feedback, as soon as possible after an employee does something worth commending. When an effort or result is immediately rewarded, the employee feels compelled to repeat it. If recognition is delayed, the link might be vague and the company loses the momentum for increased performance and engagement.

Effective real-time peer-reviews motivate people to perform consistently well, and not just when a job evaluation is due. Yet these programmes cannot be casually set up. They must be tied to core corporate values, compatible with the latest technologies, launched and communicated well, used by everyone in a timely fashion, and relied upon by managers to trust that they are not cut out of the chain of command.

The one modern communication tool that comes to mind to provide real-time, peer-to-peer reviews is the mobile app that with which everybody is familiar. Pretty much everyone brings their smartphone to work, so providing employees with a dedicated app for such internal communication on their own device increases the potential for employee engagement.

A well-designed internal communication app has to enable the social recognition of employees’ work because that praise is amplified as other colleagues ‘like’ the post or photo and ‘comment’ in adding their own congratulations or ‘thumbs ups’.

And we’re making our app-building platform ready for this new phase of employee-led digital internal communication.

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