Here's a piece of early-2016 bad new for managers and employers: Employees care more about the approval of their peers than that of their superiors.
Related: Want an Unstoppable Team? Try Using Manager and Peer Recognition.
And there's proof: A 2014 TinyPulse survey of more than 200,000 employees found that an employee’s peers were the number one reason respondents said they might go the extra mile at work. Which begs the question: How can employers use the influence of co-workers to their advantage?
The answer is a peer recognition program. By encouraging employees to acknowledge and praise one other’s hard work, employers have the opportunity to better engage, motivate and retain their workforces. However, an effective peer recognition program entails more than just telling employees to "pat their co-workers on the back."
Here are four ways to create a successful peer recognition program:
1. Define and communicate the goals of the program.
As with any new strategy a company undertakes, the point of a peer recognition program has to be clear to all those involved. Is the organization trying to improve employee engagement, strengthen a culture of accountability or create a more positive work environment?
Whatever the goals, they must be aligned with the means through which employees can praise each other. For example, if employers are trying to motivate employees, co-workers need to recognize the peers they believe went above and beyond. If the goal is to improve office morale, employees need ways to acknowledge their co-workers with particularly positive attitudes.
Once the program’s goals are defined, communicate them to employees so they know what aspects of their peers’ performances they can recognize.
2. Make peer recognition easy.
A peer recognition program won’t be successful if participation simply feels like more work for employees. Partaking in the program should be fun and easy, almost like a game. And not all employers "get" this: A 2015 SHRM survey of more than 800 HR professionals found, for instance, that 88 percent of companies don’t “gamify” their recognition programs.
Yet gamification, or the incorporation of gamelike features like leaderboards and accomplishment badges, can encourage employees to get involved and work to do better.
So, look into the different recognition apps available and find one that is simple for your employees to use. These apps not only make it easy for employees to recognize and be recognized, but also provide employers with data to help them analyze the effectiveness of the program and general performance management.
Related: 6 Rules for Effective Peer-to-Peer Communication
3. Give peer recognition weight.
For many companies, raises and promotions are given based on an employee’s merit. But, do employers consider peers’ opinions when evaluating that merit? They should.
Unless organizations give peer recognition the same weight they give managerial opinion, there’s still a feeling that employees’ opinions aren’t that important. When deciding which employees have earned bonuses or promotions, find a way to take peer acknowledgement into consideration. And when rewards are presented to employees, make it clear that their performance isn’t just appreciated by the higher-ups, but also by co-workers.
4. Strive for top-down participation.
Remember that managers have peers, too. By participating in a peer-to-peer recognition program, managers can not only set an example for their employees, but also reap the benefits the program offers nonmanagerial employees.
Having employees from all levels participate in the program means company-wide motivation and accountability. Involving all employees can also create a more united team, where each member feels his or her opinion is important and valued by the organization and their peers.
What other factors are important when starting a peer recognition program?
Related: 4 Ways Companies Foster Productive Co-Worker Friendships