Showing Appreciation with Peer-to-Peer Recognition

One of the drivers of employee activism is not getting recognition or feeling unappreciated for the work and effort put into their jobs. When an employee doesn’t feel valued at work, the person is unhappy, and unhappiness can lead to quiet quitting, union organizing, low-quality customer service, and other disruptive events. People want regular recognition. The concept of employee recognition usually makes people think first about leaders giving employees recognition, but peer-to-peer recognition is also important. Peer recognition can elevate leadership recognition by confirming, adding to, and even filling in the recognition gaps and can support a positive workplace culture, among other benefits.   

Peer-To-Peer Appreciation Appeals to Human Nature 

The famous author and sales motivational speaker Zig Ziglar understood people when he said, “Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” Nothing has changed because a desire for recognition is part of human nature, and human nature doesn’t change no matter how much the workplace or business environment changes. The statistics prove this is true.  

  • Survey Monkey’s survey found that 82 percent of the employed Americans surveyed said they are happier when recognized at work, and 63 percent who are always or usually recognized at work see themselves as very unlikely to seek a new job within six months. 
  • A Psychometrics engagement study found that 52 percent of employees who were asked what their leaders could do to improve employee engagement said to give recognition. 
  • Gallup’s global survey said that employees who strongly agree that recognition is an important part of the culture are up to 91 percent more likely to be thriving. 
  • A OnePoll poll conducted for Bonusly found that 46 percent of respondents have left a job because they felt unappreciated; 35 percent want recognition in the form of perks, bonuses, or a recognition program; and 35 percent care as much about being recognized by coworkers as they do the CEO. 

Numerous other statistics are available, all indicating that employee recognition is important to workplace satisfaction, and many found that recognition from leaders and peers is equally important.  

peer-to-peer recognition

Building an “Us” Culture with Peer-To-Peer Recognition  

Peer-to-peer recognition is part and parcel of how people treat each other in the workplace. Leadership recognition is important but only part of the recognition equation. Without peer recognition, the recognition process is limited to when the manager or supervisor takes the time to praise an employee or bestows an award of some kind, such as a promotion, bonus, or raise. Yet, your employees spend hours of their work time without interacting with their manager or supervisor, meaning the culture must be self-supporting.   

Peer recognition fills the recognition gap. It provides measurable benefits to the workplace culture, which leads to other benefits. This kind of recognition can be thought of as a support system that is always active and pervasive. The peer-to-peer recognition system is not just a “pat on the back” system. It contributes to a recognition culture. A Globoforce survey conducted in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said in its report that a survey of 738 HR leaders found that an organization’s feedback environment is more likely to be supportive of employees when it is based on human-centered approaches like ongoing peer feedback.  

There are so many benefits that your organization can realize with a peer-to-peer recognition culture. A recognition culture is emphasized instead of a specific recognition program because a program is only as good as the use it gets. It is a tool that supports a recognition culture. A recognition culture means your employees know their organization values them, the recognition given among members of the workforce is valued, and employees understand that their contributions are contributing to team success.   

A recognition culture is not a “me” culture. It is an “us” culture. Some of the benefits of the “us” culture include the following. 

  • Strengthens employee engagement 
  • Improves employee retention rates 
  • Increases employee productivity 
  • Increases employee motivation 
  • Adds depth to the employee voice 
  • Improves employee morale 
  • Promotes teamwork and employee collaboration 
  • Reinforces company values by aligning employee behavior 
  • Improves organizational financial performance 

There are plenty of statistics backing up each of these claims.  

Peer recognition can also help with improving the inclusion and belonging of diverse people. Women, for example, must overcome conscious and unconscious gender bias in the workplace to advance. LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company did a study with 333 companies and 40,000 employees participating. For every 100 men promoted from entry-level positions to manager level, 87 women are promoted. Many don’t get credit for their work, with the study finding 37 percent of women leaders saw a coworker get credit for their idea compared to 27 percent of male leaders. A better work experience is created when work is valued and people don’t exclude each other. The peer recognition system can significantly showcase employee achievements to peers and senior leaders who review the recognition data. In this sense, the peer-to-peer recognition system helps the organization be more transparent, equitable, and inclusive.   

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Peer Recognition Best Practices 

There are two ways to strengthen the culture of recognition and inclusion. One is by using a peer-to-peer recognition platform, ideal for a large, hybrid, or remote workforce. Today’s tech-based recognition systems are largely point-based, with a certain number of points leading to a monetary or non-monetary award.  

The other peer-to-peer recognition system doesn’t use a recognition platform. It relies on physical or virtual gatherings, handwritten notes, and other activities that don’t rely on a platform.    

However, even if you use a peer recognition software platform, the organization should supplement it by helping employees recognize each other in other ways. For example, if you hold in-house or virtual meetings, allot time for employee shoutouts. You can also utilize internal communication tools like Slack or internal social media as a recognition tool.  

Using a Peer Recognition Platform  

Employee recognition delivered by peers has special meaning. Your employees are in more contact with each other than your managers and supervisors are with them on a routine basis. Developing a cohesive workforce depends on the team members feeling recognized and appreciated - routinely. If you choose to implement an employee recognition platform, the following are some suggestions to promote maximum effectiveness. 

  • Promote the recognition platform, and don’t assume employees will use it or even understand what it offers. 
  • Develop opportunities for employees to recognize each other whenever it makes sense. 
  • Don’t let your leaders turn employee recognition into a competitive game or a chore, and keep it meaningful. 
  • Encourage employees to describe the reason they are recognizing a peer or team of peers. 
  • Include everyone in the peer recognition system. Ensuring everyone has access to peer-to-peer recognition systems is important to supporting diversity and inclusion. Remote employees, deskless employees, and field workers need access to the system equal to the access of onsite employees. A recognition system accessible via a mobile app gives all employees the ability to participate, no matter where they work. But be sure to develop ways the employees can appreciate each other, even if there isn’t a recognition program available, i.e., virtual meetings, office visits, attendance at moral-building events, etc. 
  • Make the peer recognition system easy to use so it doesn’t seem like it’s yet another technology demand on employees. 
recognition

Recognition By Any Other Name 

Not all companies can afford a peer recognition platform system or are not large enough to justify the expense, but creating a recognition culture is still important for every business. Peer-to-peer recognition opportunities can achieve the same goals as a peer recognition platform or complement the peer recognition program on a platform if one is available. Without a platform, the recognition process must be more intentional.  

  • Celebrate employee milestones like work anniversaries in some way. Employees can come together to celebrate in the workplace or use internal social media to recognize remote employees.  
  • Employees can use external social media to applaud a team’s success which takes recognition to the outside world.  
  • When holding onsite or virtual meetings, give employees time to recognize employees or teams. 
  • You can encourage employees to send emails with recognition messages. 

IRI Consultants shared a number of unique employee recognition gifts and ideas that don’t rely on a software program in an article. Nectar is an employee recognition platform that also suggested activities like free coffee day, podcast interviews with recognized employees, and LinkedIn endorsements. Your leaders can use the communication tools already available and their imagination to create a vibrate recognition process. 

What Should You Avoid? 

Marcey Uday-Riley, Senior Consultant at IRI Consultants, offers some advice to employers interested in instituting a peer-to-peer recognition program.   

  • Don’t make a peer-to-peer recognition program or process mandatory because it makes it seem phony.  
  • Only start such an endeavor once there is some confidence that leader recognition is consistent and valued. 
  • Watch that the peer recognition process stays focused on contributions to work and work results and doesn’t turn into a popularity contest. 
  • Leverage the results by identifying best practices that the team can learn from instead of certain team members seeking favors from others.  

The peer recognition system doesn’t replace the recognition your leaders give employees. The peer-to-peer recognition system is an addition.  

Leadership in the Peer Recognition System 

Reinforce the recognition culture by reminding your leaders to be role models, reinforcing the idea that employees should appreciate each other for their work. For example, when a manager decides to recognize a project team’s success, specificity matters. Did the project team produce innovation, solve a problem, beat a deadline, or collaborate with another division? By being specific, employees better understand what is considered an effective and informative recognition. 

Your organizations should collect the data and information, so your leaders can improve or elevate the peer-to-peer recognition employees receive when appropriate. Some insights you may gain include identifying employees with potential leadership capabilities, employees who are introverts and not recognized despite their quality work contributions, employees who are effective collaborators, employees who go above and beyond to help others, and so on.   

IRI Consultants can help your organization develop a peer-to-peer recognition strategy that supports positive employee relationships. The strategy includes leadership training because leadership support is a key success factor.  

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.