In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard L. Florida highlights the factors that motivate creative workers like programmers and scientists. One of his conclusions is that increasing numbers of modern workers are motivated, at least in part, by peer recognition. This is why, even in today’s rocky economic climate, many people are willing to work for free on projects that they feel will win the respect of their peers. Fortunately, progressive managers are beginning to recognize the power of peer-to-peer recognition.

In addition to the motivational factor, many managers encourage peer recognition because they know that it is usually accurate. As Judith A. Hale explains in Performance-Based Management, peers may deliver more detailed, effective feedback, since they have more opportunities to observe their coworkers’ performance. As Ms. Hale writes, “It is not uncommon for the manager to be removed from where the work is performed and, therefore, rarely see what people do or how they do it.”

If you’re looking to develop a peer recognition program for your workplace, keep a few general feedback guidelines in mind:

  • Remember that specific feedback is more effective than general praise. Encourage your employees to be precise when complimenting their peers.
  • Additionally, you should involve employees in designing your peer recognition program. Avoid launching new recognition programs without ensuring that the whole crew is on board. Your new recognition procedures will be far more likely to take root if everyone in your organization understands why they are being implemented.
  • It’s also important that everyone in your firm has equal opportunities to give and receive feedback. Set up a level playing field. Make it easy to give recognition.
  • Your system should aim for immediate gratification. Don’t let peer compliments pile up for weeks or months, since employees will be more motivated by timely feedback.
  • Finally, keep in mind that employees follow their managers’ lead; your managers and executives must lead by example, especially in providing helpful, positive feedback

As you discuss possible programs with your team, here are a few examples of how companies incorporate peer-to-peer recognition.

  • The Recognition Raffle. Each time an employee receives recognition from a peer, he or she is entered into a raffle.
  • Let the Most Kudos Win. Employees fill out a card or form to thank, compliment, or recognize their peers. The cards are then displayed on a central bulletin board to foster a positive work environment. Regularly, managers review the kudos board and award the employee who has received the most peer recognition. (If you choose this method, you might also incorporating a raffle, to avoid popularity contests.)
  • The Company Store. Employees receive points for each peer recognition. Points may be accumulated and traded in for prizes at The Company Store. Your prizes don’t have to be big; perhaps five compliments would be enough to earn an extra hour off, for instance.

This post is by Monica from

Rewarding and recognizing an employee should be easier.

Back in the day, my VP of HR gave me a $50 gift certificate to Ann Taylor for meeting my quarterly goals and objectives. It was a nice surprise. I was appreciative. I walked into the store — where the cheapest petite pants were over $50 and needed to be hemmed — and I bought a pair of sunglasses. Then I walked out and forgot about the gift.

Isn’t that how most rewards and recognition programs work? You do your job because you are an adult. Someone gives you a nice surprise for being an adult. You say thank you. Then you go about your business and forget about it.

Well, it’s much more complicated than that. There is a huge industry built around the psychology of recognizing colleagues. And there’s a huge business in giving junk made in China stuff to employees and acknowledging accomplishments.

Who’s in that business? There is OC Tanner, Globoforce, Kazoo, Michael C Fina, Inspirus, Martiz, and I Love Rewards. There are hundreds, actually. Go search for them.

Some of these companies operate as clearinghouses for gas grills and gold watches. Other companies allow you to use the fancy internet to thank your colleagues and send them a bottle of wine. None of these programs are cheap. It’s more cost-effective to go buy a gift card at Macy’s than to recognize an employee through one of these systems.

But if you are in HR, you want a reliable and valid way for colleagues to recognize one another. You want data. And you want to avoid ‘quid pro quo’ recognition. And you don’t want HR to manage this shit. Aren’t you busy enough with the company picnic?

You probably want to look into employee recognition software, but please don’t pick a vendor based on a catalogue full of pens and golf bags.

  • The best ’employee rewards & recognition tools’ allow an employee to share the recognition with friends and family members. (The recognition is sticky and lasts longer than a simple transaction at an overpriced retail store.)
  • You want to buy a system that allows employees to build a history of her accomplishments and fold that information into her social networking profiles and enhance her professional ‘brand’.
  • And a great tool will allow a manager to keep track of the data, review the information in an organized way, and import the data into a performance management tool.

So If you’re in the market for a rewards and recognition provider, I don’t care what company you pick. I am not part of some chumpy affiliate program where I earn 15% if you pick a certain vendor. I do want you to apply critical thinking skills and understand how your company historically recognizes and rewards its people. I want you to choose a program that is easy to use. I would also recommend a software solution that requires very little effort from IT to implement and maintain. Finally, I would recommend a program that you would use yourself.

Is it fun? Is it simple? Does it require very little oversight from HR?

If you can say yes to all three, you’re on the right path.

And you can keep your dated rewards catalogue and give me something meaningful for my hard work. I want to be recognized with a trip to London. (Just saying. Just. Saying.)

This is a guest post by Laurie Ruettimann from

It can be said that recognition means most coming from the people who are impacted by the behavior, but more often than not, administering and maintaining a recognition program falls on the shoulders of HR and management.  Many times it’s because the perception is that it’s too big of an initiative for people to manage on top of their daily duties – surely someone like HR needs to own and run it.  Not for the logistics giant FedEx.

FedEx is a company that is doing employee recognition right.  Here are just a few of things they pride themselves on when it comes to making FedEx a great place to work:

  • Fortune “100 Best Places to Work” for 10 out of the past 11 years.
  • Consistently ranked in Fortune’s list of “World’s Most Admired Companies” since 2002.
  • More than half of all management has risen through the ranks at FedEx.
  • Tuition reimbursement for full-time employees and benefits for part-time employees.
  • Recognition programs that touch every aspect of the company including humanitarian efforts, safety and compliance, customer service, profitability, and delivering exceptional service in line with FedEx’s customer promise.

One of FedEx’s biggest recruiting tools is its culture of appreciation and the value the company places on each individual employee.  How does a company of that size make every employee feel their contributions are noticed?  It’s simple. HR doesn’t do the recognizing.  Instead, HR is tasked with constantly improving programs through surveys and intensive data analysis, training managers on how to spot positive behaviors, and ensuring that company-wide recognition programs continue to align with business initiatives.  And if HR realizes something doesn’t work, they take immediate action to fix it.  But, they leave recognition in the hands of the people who are most affected by the actions of others: their employees.

At FedEx, HR plays a supporting and facilitating role, but the managers and front-line associates are the key players in creating and executing a culture of recognition.  The company has been very intentional about making sure recognition programs aren’t a check box that HR oversees, but instead, something that is ingrained in the culture through management’s ability to set the example and execute day-to-day.  HR is merely the vessel by which the programs are delivered, ensuring managers are trained and evaluated on their ability to recognize others and that employees on the front lines are empowered to make critical recognition decisions.

FedEx knows that if recognition isn’t supported and encouraged at the management level, the chances of a successful company-wide adoption grow slim. But they also know peer-to-peer recognition programs have the greatest impact, and thus, the best results.

Here are a few simple tips to help recreate the magic of FedEx in any company:

  • As you build out your own recognition program, survey employees to identify where efforts should be targeted. No need to recreate programs that are already successful and well-received.
  • Equip managers to spot and recognize positive behaviors that impact the business. This may seem like second nature to many, but they don’t teach this stuff in business school! Knowing how to recognize and effectively reward behaviors is more of an art than a science, so ensure your team is properly equipped.
  • Measure expectations, and if something isn’t getting results, change it.  This can be done by monitoring employee engagement surveys, retention numbers, and increases in key metrics.
  • Don’t expect your HR department to have eyes and ears for the whole company.  Empower managers and employees to participate in recognition.  Praise is far more sincere coming from someone in real-time and who was directly impacted by the positive behavior.

Yesterday at our company all-hands, we had all offices dialed in and connected, albeit virtually, to each other to celebrate a strong year and have one last team hoorah before 2013 begins. I think most could say that a year-end, all-hands meeting is not the definition of fun or engaging, so I wasn’t too pumped. Just another to-do before my afternoon of packed meetings.

Luckily for me, and to my surprise, I left the meeting energized and fired up. Yes, the financials and new clients were exciting to see, but honestly, my head is in the middle of these things all year so that wasn’t all that new. I would venture to guess that this wasn’t the highlight for others either. The best part of the meeting, evidenced by nodding heads and smiling faces, was when the founder and CEO made our company priorities very clear: focus on each other first and our current clients next. Excuse me? In most company meetings I’ve experienced in the past, and when I asked colleagues about their company meetings, the take-away message was pretty consistent: “Let’s get excited and head into 2013 and GROW NEW BUSINESS!!!!! Stay focused! Work smarter! We can do it! Who’s with me?!”

We all know that businesses exist to thrive, to grow, to be healthy. That’s understood. But to encourage an organization in a very competitive market to focus internally first and on external growth second, truly resonated with me. It connects with what drives and motivates the best of the best talent. It’s the type of message employees need to hear; it engages them, and compels them to act.

A recent employee engagement study by AON Worldwide proves that employees’ needs are clear. They continue to tell us the same thing: engagement starts with the right leadership and a genuine interest in the well-being of the workforce. Sounds simple, but unfortunately, many of these year-end messages communicate the importance of working hard, working faster, and getting new business.The recipe for success, however, starts with the employee first, and that employee must be personally motivated to work harder and faster which stems from connectivity and engagement with the leadership and the organization.

Another need expressed by employees is genuine recognition for effort and performance. Despite the economic challenges we still face, good talent has options – the option to stay or go with your company; the option to check the box each day or show up fully present and ready to give what they never knew they had. Taking time to recognize top contributors costs very little, but it can mean the difference in a solid culture and strong organizational performance.

As we wrap up the year and sprint to the end for a strong finish, I am happy to be reminded of the internal focus. Take care of your people, show a commitment to the culture, and enjoy the holidays.