How to Start a Peer Recognition Program That Works

Date: December 13, 2022
peer to peer

Human resource managers appreciate the role of recognition in enhancing employee engagement, increasing productivity, and improving retention rates. As such, most organizations have established recognition programs to enhance employee engagement. These recognition programs revolve around the conventional boss-to-subordinate evaluation and recognition. 

Managers spend a significant part of their time filling evaluation and recognition forms at the end or beginning of a year. However, many feel that formal annual reviews are insufficient to enhance engagement and productivity. They feel it's time to explore a more effective peer recognition program.

While the traditional formal reviews cannot be entirely abandoned, incorporating a peer-to-peer recognition program can boost intrinsic motivation. Indeed, 76% of HR managers believe annual performance reviews are more effective when combined with peer feedback. 

Moreover, 89% of HR managers whose organizations have set up a peer-to-peer recognition program report a very positive or somewhat positive impact on employee engagement and productivity. With these statistics, the concern shifts from whether an organization needs a peer recognition program to implementing one.

Every organization should spend time and part of its resources to develop an effective peer recognition program. It does not help to say an organization has an employee recognition plan; the program should speak for itself. While there are ways of enhancing employee engagement and morale, an effective recognition program should reflect customer satisfaction, employee retention, and an improved bottom line.

This post will cover how to start a program that does just that.

What Is Peer-to-Peer Recognition?

A peer recognition plan allows employees to evaluate and rate each other. The program allows employees to give positive feedback on their colleagues' performance publicly. A peer recognition plan differs from the conventional approach of recognizing employees since the workers mainly control it.

Such programs are founded on the belief that colleagues spend more time together than they spend with their immediate supervisors. As such, workers are better placed to identify colleagues who go out of their way to help the organization achieve its goals. 

Being identified by fellow workers carries a deeper meaning than the annual boss-to-subordinate reviews. While peer recognition may be more effective, HR professionals should not completely depart from the supervisor to subordinate appraisals.

Why Peer-to-Peer Recognition Is Impactful

Peer recognition programs have numerous benefits to an organization and its workforce. To understand it better, HR professionals should look at peer recognition from an employee's perspective. 

From this perspective, peer reviews are more of organic gratitude from colleagues than formal reviews. As such, it can naturally trigger intrinsic motivation in the workforce, leading to the following benefits.

Retains Younger Employees 

Millennials and Generation Z seek recognition at work. With most organizations struggling to attract and retain the younger generation, an effective peer recognition program comes in handy. Organizations that implement colleague recognition plans no longer face the challenges of an aging workforce. 

Enhances Employee Engagement

Peer recognition triggers an intrinsic motivation in the workforce, leading to improved employee engagement. Employee engagement refers to a worker's attachment to their job. 

Workers become engaged when they develop a positive attachment to their work and feel appreciated in their workplace. An engaged worker develops a sense of belonging that leads to improved productivity.

Enhances Productivity 

When workers feel recognized for their exemplary performance, they become motivated to become even more efficient. They’ll strive for improvement, increasing productivity.

Improves Employee Retention 

Research shows there is a relationship between employee recognition and retention. Organizations that have established effective recognition programs report higher retention rates than those that still rely on conventional annual staff appraisals.

Peer Recognition Has a Higher ROI Than Other Approaches 

Peer-to-peer recognition is not the only tool for enhancing employee engagement and productivity. However, it is among the cheapest. While extrinsic motivation strategies impact employee performance, they are more expensive than peer recognition. 

Moreover, other strategies may not match the effectiveness of peer recognition. Compared to monetary rewards like a small salary increment, a peer recognition plan is twice as effective in enhancing employee engagement. 

Enhances Positive Workplace Relationships 

A peer recognition plan triggers a cycle of appreciation. When one worker is publicly recognized for exemplary performance, they are motivated to vote for another in the next review period. The workers create a cycle of recognition and appreciation that enhances relationships and teamwork.

Fosters Diversity and Inclusion

Peer recognition is mostly a public appreciation of a colleague for exceptional skills or performance. This approach helps employees to appreciate different talents among them. 

Reduces Reliance on Supervision 

Peer recognition enhances employee engagement, which means they require less supervision to achieve their target goals.

Creating a Peer-to-Peer Recognition Program That Works

At this point, everyone appreciates the importance of incorporating peer recognition into the conventional annual reviews. However, organizations must understand and implement peer recognition best practices. Here are the steps to follow when creating an effective peer recognition program.

Define Goals

Organizations would want a peer recognition program for various reasons. One organization would want to use the program to enhance employee satisfaction, while another views it as improving engagement and productivity. An organization faced with high staff turnover would want to use recognition plans to enhance retention. 

However, most organizations would want a plan that brings numerous benefits. Regardless of the objective, HR professionals should have clearly defined goals right from the onset, such as to keep employees connected

In addition, the goals should have measurable benchmarks. An example of a measurable benchmark requires the plan to provide at least one positive piece of feedback within a month.

Define Tools and Methods

There are various tools and methods for conducting peer recognition. An organization chooses online or offline tools to nominate the best worker. Online tools include using social media platforms, emails, or text messages to vote for the employee of the year. 

An offline platform can include suggestion boxes or hanging sticky notes in designated areas. The secret here is to choose a convenient platform for all the participants.

HR professionals can also look at the demographics of their workforce. Online tools will be the best if they have a more youthful workforce. A combination of online and offline platforms would be the best for an organization with a mixed workforce. 

However, today's workers use at least one form of digital tool to complete their assignments. Incorporating peer recognition platforms in digital tools would enhance its effectiveness.

HR teams can order customized tools and software for employee recognition programs. The good thing with the software is that HR teams can request a demo to assess the tool's effectiveness in their setup.

Involve the Employees

Like other organization policies, stakeholder involvement is crucial to the program's success. HR professionals do not want to introduce a program that is out of touch with the target users. 

As such, the HR team should involve the employees in the development of the program and provide training on how to use the tools. The employees should own the program; if they do not, its effectiveness is questionable.

Managers Should Lead by Example

Leaders in any organization play an important role in providing direction, particularly after introducing a new program. That means managers should be on the front line in recognizing their department counterparts and juniors.

Encourage Participation

Managers and supervisors should encourage the workers to recognize their colleagues' efforts toward meeting the organization's goals. Encouragement includes identifying situations worthy of recognition but allowing the compliments to come from the employees. In other words, managers should take an offhand approach, allowing employees to come to conclusions on their own.  

Monitor the Progress

Since the program had its goals and benchmarks, HR teams and other stakeholders should assess its progress. If the plan was to have at least each worker get recognition in the first twelve months, managers should check whether this was achieved.

Managers should also not miss on assessing the program's effectiveness in enhancing employee engagement and improving productivity and retention. HR teams should not forget that they have to justify their investment in the program. 

The shareholders would want to get a return on their investment. Since the managers are the shareholders' agents, they should work in their best interest.   

Ready to Start a Peer Recognition Program? 

Peer recognition provides organic gratitude to employees with exceptional performances. It is more than an annual review that only focuses on extrinsic motivation. You can develop and implement a peer recognition program that works for your organization with the proper tools and methods. Ready to start your peer recognition program? Contact us for a demo request and to learn more about how Bucketlist can help your organization increase employee productivity and engagement through peer-to-peer recognition.

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