Posted on September 8, 2011
by Joanne Mundy, Research and Product Development Manager
Time and time again, we provide our members with valuable information on the importance of employee engagement and recognition. In the last decade business has seen a shift from long service terms to employees staying for the short term and then moving on. This behaviour has a huge impact on organizations! As employees with talent and knowledge leave the company, the overall value of the organization's human capital is greatly diminished. Many strategies have been developed to conquer this problem including succession planning, retention programs, professional development and recognition programs to increase employees' commitment to the organization.
Recently, we sat down with Steven Green, the CEO
of PollStream, to get his view on employee engagement. Steven Green started his career as a social worker. When the Internet emerged from a niche for technologists to a mainstream communications channel, he realized an opportunity to help businesses and employees connect. By merging social work theory 101 with technology, he was able to develop programs aimed at fostering communication, commitment and overall employee engagement. In addition, Steven wanted to develop programs that would work for each unique business, so he recruited a team of what PollStream calls Conversation Consultants that would work closely with his clients to develop ongoing programs that supported their business goals and objectives.
Question and Answer
I understand that PollStream has a unique perspective on rewards and recognition. Can you share your insight with our members?
Rewards are completely different than recognition: rewards are the things you give people while recognition is the honour you bestow on a person to acknowledge their contribution. Recognition is what has an impact on satisfaction, retention and acquisition of talent. Organizations tend to put a great deal of emphasis on the reward as an object rather than on the recognition. The majority of programs today are based on gifts such as watches, gift certificates, credits and clothing which changes the focus from recognition to the bottom line or allowable budget for the item. This ultimately places a limit on what, and how much, an employee can be recognized for.
Praise and recognition need to be part of the culture and should be handed out frequently and generously. Employees thrive on being told that what they are doing is worthwhile. The old system of handing out points and prizes isn't working if your goal is employee satisfaction, retention and discretionary effort; the research of MIT, Carnegie Mellon and the London School of Economics shows this to be the case. If we look at today's statistics, employee tenure is lower than ever and approximately two out of every three employees would leave their current job if the right opportunity came along. At PollStream, we focus on developing and providing products that increase organizational communication. Our non-monetary, peer-to-peer recognition software solution, The Hive, changes the way employees interact with each other and offers an innovative way to transform praise and recognition into a business asset.
I noticed that your products often allow employees to provide recognition to their colleagues or to communicate directly with each other. How would you respond to a manager or company that is fearful of having such an open system?
In my experience, the issue is more a lack of familiarity about the workings of social recognition. We all already support and encourage open networks in the workplace such as lunch rooms, staff meetings, work events and town hall meetings. Employers sometimes need a reminder that their employees are the same people they trust with keys to the office and access to the network and who they allow to interact with customers on a daily basis. Those permissions all require a greater level of trust than allowing employees to recognize the contributions of co-workers in an open and public forum.
Managers are key to encouraging recognition in the workplace but they are busy people who cannot possibly see all the behaviours that make a positive impact on co-workers and employees, whereas front line employees see these things every day. Social recognition is tool to empower the employee to recognize and celebrate the simple, repeatable behaviours that can help shape the culture of the organization.
As an example, a story I tell is about an employee in a bank who leaps to the aid of a customer who has a heart attack while visiting the branch. The employee went above and beyond and, in every sense of the word, was a hero. The customer, in turn, moved all his business to the bank and the organization recognized the employee for the hero that she was. Great story but does it show other employees what they should be doing on a daily basis to improve the customer experience? No, because it is a once in a lifetime situation.
Whereas, what is the potential benefit in sharing a story about an employee who returns from lunch each day and stops to greet customers by name and ask how they are before heading back behind the wicket? This story represents behaviours that once shared, can be replicated by all of your staff members and would have an impact on the client experience in every branch several times each day.
What if an organization has remote employees or employees that don't have computer access?
For remote employees, implementing an online communication network is essential to engaging them to the organization. If an employee is working remotely and has no interaction with colleagues or the organization, how can they be engaged? Having a system that allows them to see what is happening, read what their colleagues are saying about others and the organization will give them a direct plug into the business. They will have the tools to reach out to colleagues for support and advice.
Employees who are not actively on the Intranet by day can have access to what are called, 'After Hours Sites'. A large, well-known corporation has a wonderful after hours site for its non-corporate staff. If that option sounds too good to be true or extremely unrealistic given your environment, the organization can consider setting up computers in the staff room. These computers could only allow access to the program in order to give employees the opportunity to read what is happening during meal times and breaks. Furthermore, if the company produces an employee newsletter, they could consider removing that process and instead print comments, discussions and information directly off the Intranet thereby sharing consistent information while greatly reducing the costs associated with a separate printed edition.
If an organization is concerned about costs, what are some budget solutions that could be considered?
Social recognition is the most affordable option available to organizations. Typically, if the company has a rewards program they could be spending anywhere from $40.00 - $100.00 per employee per year, if not more. A social recognition program costs around $4.00 - $6.00 per employee and is more beneficial because once a gift or reward is given, it's over. The employee uses her gift and over time, the recognition is forgotten. With social recognition, it lives forever. The information is stored in a public, browsable and searchable online gallery. Employees and managers can search the public gallery to find best practices and the people who live those best practices within their own organization. For the individual, every instance of recognition contributes to the employee's legacy with the organization.
Companies could consider implementing cards and notes of recognition; however, this temporary solution really doesn't have the same impact as a system that retains the information. Just as gifts are used and forgotten, cards and notes of appreciation tend to be put in a drawer, over time and are not easy to share with all employees. Social recognition allows an employee to be recognized and others to comment on the recognition which in turn grows the confidence of the employee. Confident employees will aim a little higher, attempt more and succeed more often. Every time they are recognized for their efforts, they will become just that much stronger.
If you are interested in developing your recognition program consider using HRdownloads' Recognition Policy to get you started. Increase internal communications and recognition by initiating peer-to-peer recognition with HRdownloads' Employee Recognition Template. To further grow your engagement strategies considering watching HRdownloads' Knowledge Centre module on Employee Motivation and Engagement for suggested solutions.
If you would like to learn more about PollStream, visit them online at www.pollstream.com or contact them at 1-866-494-4840.