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Micah Fairchild Rewards and Recognition Applications Trending Up

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 By Micah Fairchild

Rewards and Recognition Applications: The Nexus of Performance & Engagement

With recent announcements from the likes of RoundPegg and Globoforce at this year’s HR Technology Conference; and acquisitions of Sonar6 and Rypple in the not-too-distant-past; it’s becoming quite clear that reward and recognition (and the corollarily-related engagement) applications are in the throes of a renaissance. What’s not quite so clear is why. After all, reward and recognition programs have long been a staple of the performance management diet; celebrating years of service or other inane aspects of the employment relationship. Yet few proponents would argue that organizations have lived and died by their ability to recognize and incent top performers. As Bersin & Associates’ Stacia Garr puts it though, “the business world and, consequentially, the workplace [has] changed substantially over the last five years”.

Maybe this change revolves around organizations getting wise to the fact that good employees are increasingly hard to attract and retain. Perhaps it’s simply a by-product of a new generation coming of age in the workforce. Or maybe as Garr and countless others have suggested, economic circumstances, flattening organizations, increased competition, and technology are all factors that come into play. Whatever the case may be, the market for rewards and recognition software solutions is rapidly heating up. But with this escalating reward/recognition trend though come a number of questions that have to be reviewed when considering whether a reward and recognition program and/or application is worth the investment, or suited to your organization’s unique needs.

Reward & Recognition Application Question #1: What Are the Benefits?

Whether perusing research from the likes of Gallup, The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), the Corporate Executive Board, or numerous vendor customer studies, findings all echo the same sentiment: engaged employees are more productive and (from an engagement standpoint) are more committed to the organization and less likely to turnover voluntarily. What’s important to note is that these areas are all related (both directly and indirectly) to recognition. For instance, studies by Robert Half found that 17% of top performing employees left positions voluntarily due to lack of recognition. Likewise, reports from Nelson Motivation unsurprisingly highlighted that fully 78% of employees indicated strong preferences to be recognized for their work. Further, on a not-unrelated note, Watson Wyatt research uncovered the fact that “companies with effective incentive programs realized a median return to shareholders about double what companies without recognition programs achieved”.

Reward & Recognition Application Question #2: Automated or Manual?

Irrespective of the specific goals associated with your organization’s business strategy, it’s important to note that a rewards and recognition program should be aligned with those objectives. As such, if your company’s communication and collaboration efforts are relatively non-existent, then leveraging a social platform designed to enhance those elements would be fairly pointless. Likewise, if after surveying employees about mobile device usage you find that adoption of a mobility-driven recognition program is likely to fall flat, a different approach might be needed. In fact, organizations should be aware that, as Fortune magazine recently reported, “There are no guarantees that recognition software actually will do much”—in large part because the whole process is so tied to culture. Indeed, as Peter Cappelli, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Center for Human Resources, puts it, the feeling of inauthentic, system-driven feedback turns off more than a few employees due to the fact that many feel recognition is only being received "because software triggered my supervisor to respond”.

All that said, reward and recognition technologies can achieve things that manual processes simply cannot. Want to have an instantly available system that allows any employee to recognize another in real-time? You can’t do that without software. Similarly, if you want to publicly reward an employee for a novel idea outside of a system your means are limited. As it is with most human resources activities, care and due diligence must be exercised before selecting the method of deployment for your reward and recognition program.

Reward & Recognition Application Question #3: What Technologies Exist?

Recent highlights from solutions like Globoforce’s Applause have allowed companies such as Symantec to be able to congratulate colleagues who go above and beyond or reward fellow employees with set monetary spot bonuses. In a similar fashion, Rypple has functions such as allowing employees to post both private and public thank you notes to a Facebook-style wall. But these technologies only represent a fraction of what’s available on the reward/recognition application market. For instance, Achievers (a firm dedicated to the verticals of retail, healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing) has recognition tools in the form of postcards, customer feedback forms, peer reviews, and socially-integrated apps. They even have rewards programs that revolve around areas such as milestones, contests, social recruiting, and surveys. Similarly, PeopleStreme is a solution that centers on a nomination hub for performance, behaviors, and organizational value displays. And adding to that already impressive functionality has the capability for full payroll import.

Final Thoughts on Reward & Recognition Applications

Although compelling indications in the form of research, case studies, and anecdotal evidence support the idea that rewards and recognition programs are important, the fact of the matter is that tie-ins must be made to organizational goals and performance management strategies in order to truly be effective. Sure, you might get a high engagement score from those employees with longer tenures if you reward years of service, but what happens when those employees leave? Besides, how does that strategy actually support your organization’s objectives? Rather, look for those areas where engagement can be fostered for performance-related tasks; such as recognizing employees for innovative thinking or rewarding them for cost-cutting strategies. Further, whatever the agreed-upon strategy, understand that the technological tools available at your disposal are simply enablers to achieve engagement via rewards; organizational culture is the key driver. Even David Stein, co-founder of Rypple, supports this; saying, “Software can play a strong role as part of a broader program”. As such, businesses need to understand that socially-driven reward and recognition applications might not work (or be the main focus) for a given business; and the same applies to mobile. But rest assured there are applications within the HR technology industry that can sync to your company’s unique make-up and needs. Just understand what you want first, and then look for the software that can help make that happen. End

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Author  Author: Micah Fairchild
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Few proponents would argue that organizations have lived and died by their ability to recognize and incent top performers. As Bersin & Associates’ Stacia Garr puts it though, “the business world and, consequentially, the workplace [has] changed substantially over the last five years”


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