Many leaders believe that a significant or steady income is the key to employee engagement and happiness. However, while money can provide some level of job satisfaction, many employees have said that peer-to-peer recognition matters more.
“One of the main reasons why we fall in love with our work is the relationships that we build with our peers while on the job,” says Igor Avidon, Founder of Avidon Marketing Group.
If you’re looking to increase employee engagement and even have better financial returns, then you need to take peer-to-peer recognition seriously.
We surveyed twenty-one executives and HR leaders who’ve had experience implementing peer-to-peer recognition in their organizations and wanted to share the greatest insights we gleaned from them. As an executive or HR leader, we’re sure you’ll appreciate pointers on how to build an effective peer-to-peer recognition program if your company doesn’t have one. And if your company already has a peer recognition program, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to discover ideas that can make it even better.
Many executives have used peer recognition successfully, and in this article, we provide ideas and examples on how to launch or strengthen your peer recognition program.
What Is Peer-to-Peer Recognition?
Peer recognition is a genuine expression of commendation and appreciation between coworkers.
Employees have three basic needs from their organization: doing purposeful work, having an awareness of the things happening in the company, and gaining recognition for their work.
82 percent of employees consider recognition an essential part of their happiness at work, according to a survey by SurveyMonkey.
Companies realize how important recognition is, so more than 80 percent of organizations have a reward or recognition program in place.
Unfortunately, most companies have placed the responsibility of recognizing employees on the managers. While manager-to-employee recognition does some good, it’s essential to pay attention to peer-to-peer recognition too.
Why is Peer Recognition Important?
Peer recognition is vital for one fundamental reason: feeling appreciated is an essential part of human happiness. This fact is seen in all aspects of life, starting from parents encouraging their kids to write thank you notes up until the workplace.
At its root, receiving praise from our peers reinforces a positive self-image. When praised, you see yourself in a positive light. And who doesn’t want to feel good?
Apart from its benefits to the individual, there are also benefits to the organization as a whole.
Here are some of the best reasons why you should encourage peer recognition between coworkers.
SHRM research shows that a peer recognition model is 35.7 percent more likely to benefit your financial results—even more than manager recognition. Therefore, a peer recognition model is great for your bottom line.
While the bottom line is vital to any business, there are still other exciting benefits from peer recognition. Here are five research-backed benefits of having this program in your company:
1. It Promotes Company Values and Aligns Behavior with Them
Staff recognition programs don’t just make it easier for staff to have better relationships with each other. It also allows for the right behaviors to get rewarded.
When rewards are linked to company values, the behavior in line with these values is enforced. Therefore, your employees are more likely to practice these behaviors.
Additionally, employees feel more affiliated with organizational values, which is very important for retention. In fact, 9 out of 10 millennials will prefer to take a pay cut to work at an organization whose values align with theirs.
2. Little Hierarchical Oversight
One of the most significant advantages of the best peer recognition examples and ideas is that it has little to no hierarchical oversight. Therefore, workers feel free to recognize the good things that they see their coworkers do.
And a flatter hierarchical structure in an organization is what most workers want. 66 percent of participants in a study revealed that they felt better because their company moved to a flatter hierarchical structure.
One reason they gave for this feeling is that the structure allowed them to feel more involved in the company’s decision-making process.
3. Improves Employee Retention
Out of the 1500 respondents in a SurveyMonkey survey, 63 percent of them who were consistently recognized for their work and input said they are unlikely to look for a new job in the next six months. In contrast, only 11 percent of employees who weren’t often recognized said they would remain at the organization within the same period.
What does this prove? It proves that peer recognition is a vital element in employee retention. If your staff doesn’t feel valued, they are more likely to walk away.
4. Improves Productivity and Efficiency
Feeling recognized for our work delivers a tremendous shot of motivation. When you receive a compliment for work you have done, the chances are that you felt very motivated and wanted to do even more.
And you are not alone. According to a survey by OGO, a lack of recognition seriously affects how the staff feels about the workplace. The survey revealed that a staggering 82 percent of professionals don’t feel recognized for their work in their company, which significantly affects their productivity.
This same survey revealed that 40 percent of workers say they’d put more energy into their work if they received more recognition. And it makes sense because employees are doing work that someone else requires them to do—not something that they might want to do. Therefore in this situation, the reward comes from the feeling that what they do is appreciated and meaningful.
Increasing employee motivation should always be at the forefront of company's minds.
Steve O’Dell of Tenzo Matcha says, “This recognition program not only gives those who are working more to work for, but it also pushes those who have not received an incentive to up productivity to receive recognition themselves too.”
5. It Builds a Strong Team
A lack of peer recognition has been linked to employee turnover and poor employee retention. If people do not feel appreciated in a company, they tend to leave for greener and friendly pastures. With a solid and effective peer recognition program in place, employees have a platform that can allow them to buy into the company culture.
By praising each other and offering genuine commendation, coworkers strengthen the bonds that hold them together, and the result is a team that wins. With peer recognition, there is an improvement in work relationships.
Peer Recognition Best Practices
Now that we have seen some of the benefits of having a peer recognition program let’s now consider some of the best practices.
Each of these has been implemented by several executives to great results. These practices have helped their companies—and they can help you too!
1. Make it Immediate
One key element of good peer recognition is that it is immediate. Imagine that a coworker completes a vital project after weeks of back-breaking work, but they are recognized months later. How would they feel? While they might be glad that they at least got some recognition, the recognition would have been more powerful and beneficial if it were immediate.
There is a reason why yearly performance appraisals don’t work the same level of magic as peer-to-peer recognition. For one, these yearly appraisals are viewed as planned and an annual occurrence. On the other hand, peer recognition, when given immediately, feels spontaneous and from the heart. It shows the staff that what they do is valued.
“We give recognition to our coworkers as soon as they do something amazing rather than having to wait for a dedicated time or day when we might forget,” says Shayleen Stuto, VP of HR at TechnologyAdvice.
Her company uses a recognition software that integrates into the company Slack. She further adds, “Recognition happens organically, which makes it feel more genuine.”
2. Create Awareness About the Recognition Program Among Co-workers
Another feature of a good recognition program is that it is publicized. This way, all employees know that there is such a program in place. Advertise it often, reminding your staff of its presence and the benefits that it can give.
When employees hear about the program often, it will be easier for them to implement it.
Skill Success’s HR manager, Cath Garcia, says, “We ensure that all of our employees are aware of the peer recognition program and that everyone has the opportunity to do great work and receive recognition regardless of their job title. Publicizing recognition, whether it’s a wall of fame to highlight the achievement, allows others in the organization to see the great work the employees are doing.”
3. Make It Authentic
Recognizing the work done by colleagues should not be a chore or task that must be completed at the end of the week, whether they like it or not.
If your staff see it as a chore or just as another item on a to-do list, they’ll be unlikely to give sincere commendations.
Therefore, ensure that recognition is from a heart full of genuine gratitude. When it becomes perfunctory, it loses its meaning and purpose.
Sharon Van Donkelaar, CMO at Expandi, says this about the type of compliments that peers should give:
“Be sure to make it meaningful. People on your team will really appreciate when you express your gratitude sincerely for their great contributions to your success.”
She continues, “Once you have started doing this, be consistent. Your team will always have to look forward and be more determined to achieve the goal, benefiting your whole team and the company.”
4. Be Specific
A generic “well done” will not lift anyone’s spirits.
In manager-employee recognition, especially when in teams, a manager’s “well done, people” comment might be sufficient. However, when it comes to peer recognition, the recognition needs to go beyond that. Peers have the familiarity and leverage to give genuine compliments to each other—which is usually very specific.
Therefore, when giving recognition, encourage your people to tell the exact reasons they’re complimenting a peer.
For example, instead of saying “Good job,” they could say, “I admired how you talked to Client A about dealing with Problem B. It was really well done.”
Such a specific commendation will spur peers to do even more and build a good culture in the team and company.
“Encourage the staff to provide individual compliments to one another rather than just a generic well done so that they and their coworkers know what food behaviors or specific achievements are being recognized” says Celynn Leow, CEO of The Halo Pets.
5. Make Recognition Fun
The best way to ensure that people adopt a recognition-rich culture is to make it fun. If the experience is not fun, easy, and engaging, you will lose the interest of your employees.
To that end, include incentives that will make your people look forward to sending and receiving recognition from their peers.
Heather Reid, Resource Manager at Ukulele Tabs, relates a memorable way her former company gave recognition. “The company I worked for before created a #General Slack Channel where all employees can freely communicate with each other. Then, the employees can send a shoutout to anyone who they believed did a good job.”
The result? She goes on, “It worked like magic for us and encouraged a supportive, appreciative, and closely knit group.”
Therefore, make it your aim to create a recognition experience that your staff will love.
6. Be Inclusive
While giving recognition is excellent, doing so to only one person or group every time can breed resentment among other coworkers.
Therefore, ensure that your recognition program is inclusive. You can praise individuals on the platform, but it would also be great if you could recognize teams. With better inclusion, your teams and the employees in such groups will feel valued and highly appreciated for what they do.
“Try not to overly recognize a single person or team in public, even if they deserve it. Top performers are great employees that you want to recognize, but not to the detriment of the greater team or company,” says Christian Eilers, an HR and Career Expert at Goodwall. “Recognizing the same people on a regular basis can easily cause discontent or discouragement for others . . . and cause problems for your top performer. If this situation comes up, reach out to the person or group in private. Explain to them how much you appreciate their hard work, and it’s clear they’re a success while also touching on why you chose to recognize them privately. It’s a win-win, and everyone leaves happy.”
7. Have a Dedicated Recognition Platform
The VP of Human Resources at Advanced Technology Services, Jim Hefti, says of the company’s dedicated recognition platform:
“Employees are encouraged to electronically submit recognitions based on the pillars of our culture. These generate a live feed where other employees can comment as well. We then use this system to highlight different employees from all areas of our business.”
8. Make it Easy To Use
Don’t make the recognition process complex. It should be easy for employees to nominate a peer or give commendation.
Eve Melon, Head of People at Tidio Chatbots says:
“While creating the recognition program, it is essential that our employees see it as a culture-building initiative and an integral part of company values. The first step is choosing an easy-to-use, peer-to-peer application or system (for example wall of fame, a monthly newsletter with success announcements, etc.)”
Peer-to-Peer Recognition Examples and Ideas
Here are some pretty exciting peer recognition examples and ideas that some companies around the world use:
1. Podcast Interviews with Recognized Employee
An interview with a selected employee can be an excellent way of showing recognition. It makes them feel seen.
Mariel Davis, the co-founder & CMO of Spokn, says, “A lot of our customers do Praise Pods, a 5–10 minute podcast interview with an employee who’s being recognized. It’s a fun way to highlight their personal story, achievements, or hobbies outside of work, and of course, the way they are making an impact on the company. Sometimes, a manager will even hop on to share why they want to highlight this employee.”
2. Use a Point-based System
Leveraging social and monetary recognition is a surefire way of improving peer recognition. When your people feel recognized, there is a higher chance that they will promote the organization, feel aligned with the goals and values, and feel motivated to do even more than what is required from them.
Point-based recognition is one of the best ways of leveraging social and monetary awards—and the stats prove it.
77 percent of respondents in our survey agree or strongly agree that a point-based system is an essential component to drive employee engagement in a peer recognition program.
Melissa South, the SVP of Swingtie, reveals some of the advantages this system has had for her company. She says, “A point system is a great way to scale the productivity of your employees . . . this not only allows for praise to be given, but it encourages employees to collaborate on projects to better their points”.
She goes on to say that the points can be cashed in for incentives and rewards.
The managing editor of Five Barks, Tammi Avallone, also gives an idea that works for the company:
“By allowing your workers to choose incentives that are meaningful to them, a point system is a perfect way to demonstrate that you value them as employees. Employees will accumulate a significant balance by consolidating points into a single system, which increases enthusiasm as the points accumulate. Employees should use their points to get a gift that they like.”
3. LinkedIn Endorsements
Most professionals use LinkedIn. Creating a recognition program that involves vouching for a peer’s skills is one highly effective way of making employees happy and more fulfilled in their professional life.
4. Water-Coolers on Channels Like Slack
With the pandemic still in full force, many organizations have embraced remote working. But remote work does not negate the need for peer recognition. In fact, 95 percent of respondents in our original research believe that peer recognition is more important in a remote work environment.
However, 60 percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic and shift to remote work has made it more challenging to manage peer recognition.
If your company falls into this category, then taking advantage of platforms like Slack can help with peer recognition.
Daivat Dholakia, Director of Operations of Force by Mojio, reveals how their company uses a virtual Kudos board due to the pandemic and resulting shift to remote work.
“We used to have a Kudos board in our office for our peer recognition program. It was a whiteboard where employees could write positive messages to and about each other.”
“We’re all working remotely now, so the Kudos board has become a Kudos Slack channel. Employees will tag each other with positive comments, just like they used to do on the board.”
Daivat also advises leaders trying to implement an employee recognition program “. . . not to force it. Instead, set an example by recognizing people yourself and encouraging others to do the same.”
5. Award Certificate
Christian Eilers of Goodwall also has more to say about how you can have a great program.
He says, “Allocate a certain amount of money or award certificates to each employee.”
“For example, perhaps $10 per employee per month. Each month, the employee can use that $10 allotment to privately recognize another team member. You can add rules to boost fairness and creativity. For instance, you could stipulate that the $10 must not be given as cash or gift card, but rather a course, item, or event: this would make each recognition instance more thoughtful and personal.”
6. Free Coffee Day
“Free coffee day after project completion is a simple yet effective way to express gratitude,” says Scott Cairns, the Founder, and CEO at Creation Business Consultants.
Aside from free coffee day, other peer recognition ideas and tips include creating a peer-to-peer recognition team and celebrating milestones, achievements, and progress even if they are not work-related.
7. Thank You Cards and Handwritten Notes
“Paper notes have always been an all-time favorite,” says Branka Vuleta, the Founder of LegalJobs, when asked about what they believe is an excellent peer-to-peer recognition example.
“Another strategy is creating a digital system of reward bucks.”
8. Social Media Shout-outs
A social media shout-out can be an excellent recognition idea.
Kerry Wekelo reveals how Actualize Consulting does its recognition program.
“Allow team members to recognize their coworkers; invite them to nominate anyone within the firm for any act or initiative they feel should be celebrated.”
“Awards can be for an ingenious solution to a problem or for exceptional teamwork.” She goes on, “We announce the good news to our firm via newsletters, email blasts, and company meetings. We take the accolade a step further and post an image that incorporates the winner’s headshot publicly on social media.”
9. Use a Peer Recognition Platform Like Nectar
Employee recognition software makes it easy to design and manage recognition programs.
However, not all software are made equal—some are better than others.
With Nectar, your people and managers can recognize each other in public based on core values. It allows a rewards system and provides
employees access to thousands of discounts.
How to Build An Awesome Peer Recognition Program
While many companies realize the importance of peer recognition, several do their programs poorly.
Abby Ha, Head of Marketing of WellPCB, gives some reasons why. She says, “Rewards are based on soliciting feedback vs. delivering exceptional service or doing actual good work.” Soliciting feedback is a need-to-know activity, not a nice-to-know activity.
She adds, “Too much process from asking for feedback to the actual acknowledgment and celebration also results in poor programs. Additionally, there isn’t enough up-front planning to identify what actions will be recognized.”
Regardless of the type of peer recognition program you choose to adopt, some fundamentals are involved in the implementation. Let’s show you what these are.
1. Define your objective
Before you start the program, all stakeholders must know what they are getting into. They need to see the end purpose of the program.
Knowing what you aim to achieve helps shape the whole program and gets you off to a great start. After learning what the program seeks to achieve, align the program in ways that allow for recognition.
A clearly defined goal will help you communicate to your employees the aspects of their coworker’s performances that they should praise.
In line with setting objectives, Mike Chappell, Founder of Formspal says, “You can create your own peer recognition program by beginning with describing the program’s objectives and structure. Understanding the organization’s general aim will aid in designing the curriculum in a manner that will achieve certain objectives.”
2. Build a Team to Implement the Program
Scott Cairns of Creation Business Consultants advises managers to “Create a peer-to-peer recognition team. The team will be responsible for creating activities that emphasize everyone's contribution for recognition and awards. If a specific group is assigned for it, the peer-to-peer recognition activities.”
Some of the qualities that you should look out for in employees when creating the team include the following:
- Good knowledge of what a peer recognition program is about
- High level of interest in the program
- Alignment with company values
In creating a team for the program, Bill Glaser of Outstanding Foods remarks, “I recommend collaborating with upper management to combine peer-to-peer recognition with company-wide employee appreciation programs for a double-whammy of motivation and appreciation.”
In addition to the team, using a software vendor can help build the right peer recognition program. Of the respondents in our original research that have both built internal recognition programs and used a software vendor, all of them were likely to recommend using a software vendor, and 63 percent were highly likely to do so.
3. Collect Input from Your Employees
“When putting together a peer recognition program, ask your employees what motivates them. You can have them respond via email or in a survey if you want to keep it anonymous”, says Ravi Parikh, the CEO of RoverPass.
Ravi continues, “Use a set list of options and let people choose their top three. Once the results have been gathered, figure out how to create a peer recognition program that appeals to one or two of the most common responses.”
4. Lead by Example
“If leaders use the tools to recognize employees . . .others will too,” according to Jim Hefti of Advanced Technology Services.
5. Measure the Success of the Program
After implementing the program, you need to measure the metrics to know whether it is effective. Some of the metrics that you should measure include the following:
- Number of peers recognitions sent
- Number of active leaders
- Activation Rate
When you measure the right metrics, you can make adjustments to the program and optimize it.
Essentially, you need to analyze the data to see if there is a relationship between the recognition and vital business metrics like customer retention and satisfaction.
Regardless of the size of your company, peer-to-peer recognition has tremendous effects on vital parts of your business like employee engagement, retention, and productivity.
The peer recognition ideas that we have sourced from executives and HR leaders across different industries have caused positive effects in these industries. With a tool like Nectar, you will find it easy to design, start, and manage any employee recognition program. Get in touch with us today and watch your company enjoy the massive upticks that will follow. For specific examples of rewards you can give to remote team members - check out this post.