Social Recognition 2017: A game changer for HR, the software horizon

Social Recognition 2017.

Is this yet another blog post about the year ahead?

I hope not.

The social recognition industry is still in its infancy; however, it has demonstrated an ability to adapt and innovate away from its traditional roots and is becoming a HR space to watch. On that basis, I offer some genuine predictions into the future of employee recognition.

1. Expect to see onboarding features

In today’s workplace, celebrating an employee’s first month’s milestones is more important than what happens in 25 years’ time.

However the fixed, pre-determined, easy to deliver forms of employee recognition such as long service awards are not completely dead. Instead the carriage clock is being broken up into small pieces and delivered where it is needed, as part of an employee’s onboarding experience.

A host of automated triggers are being used by organisations to feed recognition into the onboarding process. Why are they rewarding some of the compulsory or mundane parts of becoming a new employee? Actually, they’re not. This is about delivering a connected, modern onboarding experience. Recognising new employees for completing a training camp, induction or their first week’s work lets employees know the type of organisation they’ve joined from day one.

Plus an organisation’s social recognition app is a great place to see and learn about what’s going on day to day, giving new recruits the opportunity to get involved and contribute from the get go. Expect social recognition to start getting far more creative with onboarding features.

2. Expect to see time and activities as rewards

Survey after survey highlights time and flexibility as an employee preference over money. That’s not to say employees are saying no to pay rises or not aspiring to greater salaries. It just reflects the realities of the workplace.

One, employers are having to pay better salaries to attract better employees, leaving less budget for ad hoc reward.

Two, more than ever before, employees are more focused on the saying ‘all work and no play makes Jack (or Jill) a dull boy (or girl)’. That means a little time to carry out a personal task or enjoy a new activity is going to be pretty motivating to most.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, shareholders now see the workforce as being the key to future company growth, there is unlocked potential. This is changing the philosophy of reward, certainly within employee recognition programs. There is a shift towards giving small rewards that are good for us and will enhance lives, and wellbeing, not just our shopping baskets.

3. Expect to see the givers and takers

Employees who happily receive recognition and any associated rewards, but have never once given others recognition, are bad for an organisation.

Looking for an employee who’s a good fit? Then take a look at these ever more popular interview questions:

‘Can you name the last few people you have recognised in your current job, and why?’
‘Which of your current employer’s values is your favourite, and how did they live up to it?’

The thinking behind these questions? Are you a giver? Are you a contributor?

The negative impact of an employee who’s a ‘taker’ is two to three times greater than the positive impact of a giver; successful givers produced 50% more annual revenue (Professor Adam Grant, Wharton) than colleagues who focused less on helping others. Moral of the story: don’t employ takers and work harder to keep givers.

Givers can tell you the last 10 people they recognised without thinking, and businesses are looking for active contributors just like them. Expect social recognition software to start to analyse employee characteristics such as givers and takers.

4. Corporate values don’t matter? Maybe, maybe not, but talent and customers do

Virtually every company on the planet is sitting on a time bomb. They have this unofficial contract stuck on the last page of their website called ‘our values’. It would be doing some companies a disservice to say they don’t take them seriously.

However, we are close to the point where some organisations are going to step it up a gear and push those values to the front page, even making them marketable assets. Others, the majority, are going to be sitting ducks waiting for employee activism or a customer backlash to make them wish they never existed.

Expect to see employee recognition evolve and provide the outside world with social proof that an organisation takes its values seriously, through employee recognition. That includes Glassdoor review prompts and better packaging of recognition content to be pushed to corporate Twitter and Facebook pages.

5. Managers. Average does not cut it anymore

You may have noticed the four points above look at how employee recognition can influence or improve other areas of the business.

Not this one.

The evidence linking managers to the engagement, happiness and wellbeing of employees is growing by the day. The 2014 CIPD report ‘Are UK organisations getting better at managing their people?’ states ‘There is a strong positive association between employees’ satisfaction with their line manager and overall job satisfaction’. Gallup research suggests that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. Other research from Indiana University points to the impact of supervisor behaviour on employee wellbeing.

The evidence linking employees feeling appreciated and valued to sustained improvements in those very same areas is also overwhelming. In their paper Happiness and Productivity Andrew Oswald et al. concluded there are important links between human happiness and human productivity and that happy employees have approximately 12% greater productivity. A report from the American Psychological Association found that employees who feel valued are more likely to report better health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who don’t feel valued by their employers. Individual manager recognition analysis, and action, is inevitable.

Expect social recognition to become more confident in its analysis of managers. The alarm bells and triggers for action are already alerting HR to the problems, the software needs to get better at solving the problems. Improved dashboards, team dynamic insight and access to thousands of narrative ideas will make a difference to the managers who need help.