Harnessing the Power of Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Employee Experience 2 min read

Can’t we turn that employee frown upside down? The answer may be no if you’re in the 43 percent of workers who cite a lack of recognition as one of their primary sources of unhappiness in the workplace.

We’ve recently written about how managers can take a more proactive role in mentoring their employees to enhance employee engagement and retention. But at the end day, most managers supervise around 10 employees, and as any parent with multiple children—or even any parent with a few unruly pets—can tell you, things get tricky when they start outnumbering you. There’s simply not enough time in the day for you to complete all your work while constantly monitoring your staff to note behaviors worth recognizing. That kind of surveillance borders on micromanagement, a practice that diminishes employees’ sense of autonomy and happiness at work, and nobody’s got time for that. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why a recent study by Discovery Surveys found less than half of employees receive frequent feedback from their bosses.

The value of recognition, though, remains crucial to growing and retaining employees.

There must be another way to provide your staff with the vital constructive criticism and praise they need to thrive on the job.

Luckily, you aren’t alone in this: while your employees undoubtedly have you for guidance, they also have each other.

A study by the folks at WorldatWork found that peer-to-peer recognition is the third most popular way people show appreciation at work. Roughly 42 percent of employers surveyed said that they make it easier for their employees to share a few virtual pats on the back. That’s promising, given the financial and cultural benefits recognition brings to the workplace. But the flipside ain’t so pretty:

The majority of businesses are missing out on the positive impact peer-to-peer recognition has on retention and overall performance compared to manager-only recognition. Boosts in company morale? Improved inter-office relationships? And that key satisfaction 43 percent of workers are deprived of because no one demonstrably appreciates their job well done? These all fall by the wayside when your company’s peer recognition system isn’t itself worthy of recognition.

But wait—that’s not all you’re missing out on—when your workers are recognizing good behaviors in others, they’re learning to model those actions themselves. At the same time, they’re developing an active stake in your company’s culture by remembering and rewarding those who are exemplars of your all-important core company values.

If you don’t already have a peer-to-peer system in place, there’s no reason to fret, though, because a good peer-to-peer recognition system is easy to set up and can be as low-tech as a public forum featuring post-its of praise for coworkers. That said, Millennials are increasingly favoring social-network-style recognition systems that allow peers to provide real-time responses to their work.

To think about it practically, your workers are surrounded by each other for 40+ hours a week—that’s sometimes more time than they see their family members!—and by providing them with a reason to talk to one another in the guise of a peer-to-peer recognition system, friendships and mutually beneficial professional relationships will form. And according to E Group, those employees with friends at work love their companies more and rate themselves as more engaged at work. When you encourage peer recognition, you really just can’t lose.

Check out the Recognition and Reward Buyer’s Guide for more details on Recognition 101 and the ROI behind having an employee recognition program in place.