Employee recognition programmes have evolved dramatically in recent years, as organisations seek to leverage the benefits of acknowledging and rewarding staff for their efforts and contribution.
In most cases, however, the basis of these programmes is ‘top-down’ feedback from leadership and management, while lacking input from peers. Yet including insight from fellow team members within recognition programmes is increasingly being shown to bring substantial benefits, including boosting team morale and heightening employee engagement, while improving customer service, lowering absenteeism and increasing productivity.
What is peer-to-peer recognition?
Peer-to-peer recognition is a way of acknowledging a colleague’s skills, output, or talent. Generally, most people think of recognition as coming from their employer or line manager, but positive reviews and feedback from peers can be just as effective. Because colleagues are with each other day in, day out, they know the unique daily obstacles and challenges faced. This depth of understanding can make peer-to-peer recognition particularly meaningful and valuable.
Benefits of peer-to-peer recognition programmes
Enhances an organisation’s culture
Peer-to-peer recognition can help in establishing a more collaborative and compassionate working environment. When a peer is recognised by a colleague, it helps them feel appreciated and can increase their confidence. Peer-to-peer recognition has been found to strengthen connections among team members and help staff experience a greater sense of belonging.
Encourages inclusion and diversity
By encouraging team members to outwardly recognise their colleagues for their unique set of skills and experiences, it begins to create a sense of belonging and connection. Some organisations even have written company values around diversity and inclusion incorporated into their recognition policies.
Strengthening team morale
Positive working relationships are vital to keeping the workforce happy. These relationships can become harder to uphold during times of change and crisis. But peer-to-peer recognition can increase staff morale by empowering colleagues to extend words of encouragement and appreciation to one another on a daily basis.
A Harvard Business School report found that peer-to-peer recognition can increase employees’ motivation and performance dramatically. Because peer-to-peer recognition can be implemented at little or no cost to an organisation, it can have a significant impact on productivity and performance.
Increasing employee engagement
Recognition is the leading driver of employee engagement. Increasing peer-to-peer recognition motivates staff to produce improved business outcomes, deliver better customer service, and maintain a positive working environment.
Boosting profits and ROI
A research survey by Gallup has revealed that organisations with highly engaged workforces have a 21 percent improvement in profitability. An increase of only 1% in employee engagement leads to an additional 6% growth in sales. This is because peer recognition has dramatic effects on an employee’s happiness, wellbeing, and, therefore, output.
Empowering managers and leaders
Staff look towards their managers to set the tone of their working relationships. Peer-to-peer recognition empowers managers to see how their teams work collaboratively and gives them opportunities to strengthen and build high-quality teams. Where peer-to-peer recognition is low, managers can take the lead and work out how to boost staff morale. When peer-to-peer recognition is high, managers can celebrate team success and continue building on the positive team culture.
Decreasing employee turnover
Staff retention has long been an ongoing issue within organisations, and building a culture where peers feel valued and appreciated is essential in minimising staff turnover.
Adopting peer-to-peer recognition: best practice
There are many advantages to adopting a policy for peer-to-peer recognition, but it can be daunting when thinking about getting started. Ways to build an effective peer-to-peer recognition policy include:
Putting a recognition programme in place
You may already have a recognition programme in place, but does it include peer-to-peer recognition? Organisations that include peer recognition policies as an additional component of existing recognition initiatives tend to be more effective than those that do not.
Recognition tools must ensure peer acknowledgement is fun and easy for employees, and allows them to send, perhaps via email, for example, recognition from anywhere, at any time. A recognition policy should also promote the organisation’s values, by allowing staff to attach each recognition to a pre-existing company value. Colleagues who recognise one another widely for activities related to core values inspire others to emulate them.
Ensuring recognition is inclusive
Every employee should have the opportunity to give and receive recognition. An inclusive culture must be established to enable employees to develop a sense of connection, trust, and belonging. By allowing every employee to recognise their peers, it encourages them to find a community where they feel valued and supported.
Whilst it is important to encourage your staff to engage in peer-to-peer recognition programmes, it should be emphasised that participation is voluntary. Mandatory recognition feels disingenuous. Employee recognition should be authentic and come from a good place. Even minor acts of recognition can multiply and cause more employees to motivate and recognise one another. The more recognition is inclusive, the closer a business comes to maximising the ripple effect, resulting in a culture of recognition across the whole organisation.
Giving public recognition
If possible, you should make use of company public platforms, such as the intranet, or company-wide newsfeeds. Public recognition can offer a significant spotlight on employees that private recognition does not deliver. Via a company-wide newsfeed, colleagues can easily stay up to date on each recognition in real-time. They can also show their own support by adding a ‘like’ or congratulatory comment. By recognising staff publicly, it encourages others to take part and mirror commendable behaviour.
Practising frequent recognition
If recognitions are only sent out once every couple of months, or are spread even longer apart, the impact of the recognition is likely to be miniscule. To build a culture of recognition, it must be frequent and given in real-time in correlation with the task or project completed. If you wait too long, it will lose meaning to the recipient.
Organisations giving frequent recognition are 41% more likely to see an increase in employee retention, and 34% more likely to see greater staff engagement.
Peer-to-peer recognition works best when it is specific. Best practice when delivering staff recognition training is to encourage peers to be specific, explain what their colleagues did in detail, describe their behaviour and personalise the message. A simple thank you message given to hundreds of other employees is unlikely to cut much ice with the recipient. Descriptive recognition delivers results, 92% of employees have been found to repeat their positive behaviour and work harder as a result.
Encouraging leadership to model peer-to-peer recognition
When managers model desired behaviour, employees are more likely to emulate them. All too often, managers focus exclusively on helping their team think about what to do next. People in leadership roles should lead by example, recognise their team’s success and take pride in their team’s work.
Only one in three organisations train their employees how, when, and why to recognise their peers. And only half of those report they offer recognition training to managers. Ideally, best practice should flow from the top-down, so think about training your managers to give meaningful feedback frequently and in real-time. Start by teaching managers about the benefits of recognition and how they are expected to take part in training sessions.
Leveraging monetary and social recognition
Staff who feel recognised are far more likely to promote their employer’s brand, go above and beyond their own key duties, and contribute to company-wide goals. Social recognition once a month has been shown to increase employee engagement by as much as 43%.
Consider implementing a points-based recognition policy. Employees receive a certain number of points per month that they can use to recognise their peers. Once employees have built up sufficient points, they can redeem them for their chosen rewards. This enables staff to personalise their rewards experience and choose gifts which are meaningful to them.
Celebrating milestones, work anniversaries, etc
As well as celebrating work achievements, major milestones, both professional and personal, should be celebrated too. Think about sending employees digital celebration cards that they can use to recognise their peers. Work anniversaries and birthdays are a perfect opportunity for employees to sign a digital card, for example, or host a team party. Managers should be recognition champions and come up with inventive ways to congratulate employees on reaching huge milestones in their work and life.
For example, organisations can recognise peers who have completed college or university courses, or achieved certification, bought a house, or finished a marathon. Some companies arrange periodic reward and recognition meetings to highlight top performers. Regardless of the type of recognition method, it should be remembered to empower and encourage staff to celebrate one another in their major milestones and everyday wins.
Delivering a fun recognition experience
Employees will not become involved in a recognition culture if it is not fun. Recognition should be an engaging and easy experience. Employees will look forward to sending and receiving recognition by enabling them to write custom messages, add fun imagery or GIFs. Perhaps give a social dynamic by letting employees ‘like’ or comment on others’ recognitions.
Measure, measure, measure
There are some metrics that you might want to track: the number of peer-to-peer recognitions sent and received, and trends in upticks or losses. If recognition activity is slow, it may show you need to consider more creative ways to get people more engaged with peer-to-peer recognition. If it is difficult or not fun, it is unlikely your employees will want to use it.
Analyse your data to find correlations between recognition and key business metrics, for example, retention and customer satisfaction. Figures reveal increasing peer-to-peer recognition from twice a month to twice a week yields a 5% increase in customer satisfaction scores. This suggests that recognising employees’ contributions has a direct impact on frontline staff quality of customer service and the company’s bottom line.
Creating an peer-to-peer recognition programme
When designing a peer-to-peer recognition policy, you should ensure it is reactive and adaptable to enable you to try out new ways of recognising staff and that it fits into every employee’s working practices with ease. For example:
- Set objectives that align with your organisation’s values, which encourage employees to underpin and grow your company’s recognition culture.
- Align with the organisation’s culture by attaching recognition to company values. And be ready to manage, measure, and invest in cultural alignment across the entire workforce at all levels.
- Allocate sufficient budget for effective recognition management and monetary rewards.
- Outlining policies governing your recognition policy will help employees understand how, when, and why recognition takes place. Show employees examples of good recognition, and how it can correspond to different tiers of reward. Ensure that any policy is regularly and thoroughly reviewed to keep pace with changes, both from within the organisation and the workforce.
- Determining global scale – this applies to organisations who have worldwide offices. 50% of organisations say they have offices across multiple worldwide locations, but fewer than 10% say their recognition policy is available. If you are considering developing a global scale scheme, you should ensure it provides a consistent recognition experience for the whole global workforce.
DavidsonMorris’ HR specialists support employers with all aspects of employee reward and recognition. Working closely with our employment lawyers, we provide comprehensive guidance on how to approach employee entitlements to optimise engagement and return and nurture positive and healthy working cultures. For help and advice, speak to our experts.
Peer-to-peer recognition FAQs
What is a peer-to-peer recognition program?
It is a system where colleagues publicly give one another positive feedback for a job well-done. Both employees and management alike can choose who is rewarded.
What are the benefits of having peer-to-peer recognition?
The benefits of peer-to-peer recognition include an increase in positive emotions, improvement in wellbeing, strengthening and growth of working relationships, and thriving employees and organisations.
How do you encourage peer recognition?
There are a number of ways to encourage a peer recognition culture, for example: implementing a recognition raffle, or using a points-based system which can be exchanged for gifts.
Last updated: 15 September 2021