Tuesday, 6 December 2011

With Globoforce on Social Recognition


   I’ve just been attending an event with Globoforce and the Conference Board on social recognition.

I’ve been a long supporter of Globoforce’s work on recognition, eg this webinar we did together, and also my support for their book – see this endorsement (which I still support) printed at the start of this:

“Recognition is a hugely underused and badly misused HR and management tools.  It’s effective use isn’t helped by various myths and misunderstandings about the value of transactional recognition schemes.  Using executive and research insights, supported by a series of ‘myth busters’, Mosley and Irvine provide a clear and compelling case for a more strategic approach – the time for Strategic Recognition is here.”  Jon Ingham.


It’s been a natural progression for Globoforce to move beyond strategic recognition into the growing social HR space with a focus on social recognition too -  though in a sense, recognition has always been a social sort of thing.  (We didn’t really talk about this, but my perception is that Globoforce has moved progressively from enabling people to exchange thanks, to sharing points, badges, kudos etc – ie slightly more tangible ‘social recognitions’.)

Some of the most interesting points included in the presentation were:

  • Recognition is key to engagement.  Globoforce’s Mood Tracker suggests that ‘only’ 38% of (N American?) employees are searching for a new job, but that 49% would move to a company offering better recognition.  (I’m still not sure about this.  I think employees like recognition because of what this is likely to lead to, rather than because it’s an engagement driver itself – see this post on this Globoforce webinar.)
  • Social recognition differs from more traditional approaches by being frequent and widespread.  (Yes, although I think it’s deeper than that – it’s about meaningful recognition, and it’s meaningful because it’s from people you know, and work with, rather than just people more senior than you).
  • Social recognition allows organisations to overlay their structures with employee recognition moments, creating a representation of the power players in the organisation.  You can see who is participating in the corporate values and how deep these go across the organisation.  (Yes, though this is just one representation, and other tools will enable you to draw different types of social network too.)
  • Organisations are increasingly interrogating social recognition data, overlaying this on performance and compensation systems and identifying the correlations, providing a sort of multi-person review.  (I worry about this – firstly because of the point that was made that there is a spectrum of people who won’t give feedback, and secondly because once recognition is any way linked to formal performance management and particularly reward, the potential for dysfunctional outcomes is dramatically increased.  I’d just keep it for engagement, and individual and organisational development.)
  • Social recognition is a powerful lever for culture (deepening or) change.  Stanford research suggests that just 5-8% of the workforce providing weekly nominations is enough to develop a self-sustaining culture and significantly increase employee engagement scores.  (Yes, but 5-8% of the workforce doing anything involving discretionary behaviour is a powerful boost for change.)
  • The need for social recognition applies everywhere although the way you might encourage it varies by geography.  (Yes, although I do think some cultures would take to it much more easily than others eg African vs Asia again.  Globoforce mentioned Celestica as an organisation that had cracked social recognition in Asia Pac, but then suggested that India was particularly active – well yes, they would be.  India is a very different place to the rest of Asia – at least as far as social media is concerned eg there are probably more bloggers in India than the rest of the world combined, at least excepting the US, but there are still very few people involved in social media travelling further East.)
  • Social is broader than just social media (a suggestion you might have picked up previously in my blogs).  Eg GE managers in Asia go out to dinner with their employees’ families to support retention by applying a bit of ‘social pressure’ on the parents – a very nice idea.  (But shouldn’t you do that anyway – though perhaps with older employees with partners and kids instead?  It’s a great way to ensure you see your employees as whole people rather than just as interchangeable resources.)


Despite my concerns, it’s great to see the development of social recognition.  I recollect Euan Semple’s remark at HR Technology Europe that all this is doing is formalising something that has (or should have been) always been happening informally.  I think that’s right, and I do think the formalisation of the informal is a good thing.  It’s just too important to be left to chance.

My only remaining worry about a system like Globoforce (and therefore also with Achievers / I Like Rewards, Rypple, Sonar 6, Small Improvements etc) is whether one of more of these areas is important enough for your company that this is where you want your social interaction to be?

Or do you want this interaction in your knowledge management, collaboration, innovation or CRM system instead?  Because if so, you’re potentially going to be reducing the impact of both systems if you split the interaction in two.

So think about which you need to prioritise.  Eg if your whole organisation is built around personal and organisational appreciation (eg using AI, strengths etc) then social recognition might fit well.  If it’s based on more balanced performance management (failures as well as successes), you may need to use one of the social performance management systems.  And if it’s about innovation, then I’d go for a social system that is built around this.

Of course, over time, all these systems will become increasingly integrated (through organic development or acquisition) in exactly the same way that best of breed HCM systems have all been joined together into a small number of integrated talent management platforms over the last five years.  But until then, my advice would be to focus clearly on what it is you want.


Addendum: I thought that was a good last line with which to finish off the post.  However, thinking it through, I’ve got one more: if more social appreciation isn’t what you want, then think about whether it should be (what you should want)!

Eg if you’re going to prioritise innovation, you need to be clear about which you think comes first – ie does appreciation follow innovation (you need to encourage appreciation to stimulate more innovation) or is it the other way around (that stimulating appreciation will most likely lead to more innovation taking pace)?

I think that increasingly organisations are going to have develop their people and build their cultures first (what I refer to as creating value).  If you agree with this, then recognition is a pretty good place to start.



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  1. Jon,

    Thank you for attending our event yesterday. It’s great to see your level of thinking about employee recognition. Our discussions today clearly illustrated that recognition has evolved and reinvented itself as both a social and strategic practice critical for HR leaders.

    This post is good and leads to important questions for the industry moving forward. I did want to address a couple of the ideas, as I do think we share similar vantage points. The most effective recognition is a by-product of a great company culture (though recognition can also reinforce a company’s cultural vision/core values). Effective social recognition is also certainly more meaningful when it’s between the people that matter to you most - peers and managers alike. Think of it as a living performance review that shows employees how their work is benefiting people around the organization. This leads to higher performance and engagement as employees get greater clarity about what their peers – their social network at work – expects and needs from them every day.

    Lastly, I wanted to address your question regarding our Globoforce Mood Tracker, which surveys employees in the United States about their current attitudes and perspectives on their job. It is true 38 percent said they planned to look for a new job. We view this as a high figure that should make HR leaders take notice. That figure likely has two opposing factors in play as well – economy/job availability may keep this number lower, while job cuts and added work push it higher. Regarding the 49% who said they would leave a job for a company that offered better recognition – we see this as employees expressing their need to be valued. Employees are more engaged when their needs are met on both psychological and monetary levels – however, the psychological need is often ignored. When this is met, employees feel more confident in their roles and productivity rises, as does overall satisfaction with the company/job. Here is a link to the full report from September 2011: http://www.globoforce.com/mood-tracker-september-2011.

    Charlie Ungashick
    Chief Marketing Officer

  2. Thanks for all this Charlie, and also thanks again for the invite to a great event.


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