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How to Recognise Employees In The Social Age

Almost every human resources director is currently looking, or will have recently looked, at investing in flexible benefits, wellbeing initiatives and online employee recognition programs. All in the quest for improved employee engagement scores and morale-boosting people strategies.

But for many of them the number 1 quick win on employee engagement is right under their nose. It’s removing anything that demotivates, annoys, restrains or blocks their workforce from making an emotional attachment to their work and colleagues. Before investing time and money on improving employee engagement, start by taking a look at what might undermine all your hard work.

The world has changed. Recognise it.

In the Industrial Age it was easy for companies to speak with one often highly scripted voice. Marketing departments told consumers how great their products were. The only way to verify that was to buy the products. Even a company scandal could be carefully managed to minimise its impact in the media – and if the media weren’t talking about it, who else would be? There was no alternative way of uncovering the truth until the Social Age arrived. And now every aspect of how consumers and employees both perceive and interact with organisations has fundamentally changed.

We make up our own minds when it comes to the actions, behaviours and values of companies. We buy action and honesty, not words. When it comes to motivating employees perks, benefits or rewards mean nothing if your words are not aligned with your actions.

Communication failures

Senior managers and CEOs used to communicate with employees exclusively through the management hierarchy. It barely qualified as communication in many respects – it was more of a top down pronouncement. There was certainly almost no opportunity for direct dialogue. Not any more. Social means leaders need to be accessible and ready and able to engage with employees whoever they are. Fail to provide that accessibility and it could well become a growing source of resentment and frustration. Social media has become a great leveller and that applies just as readily in companies- no matter how many organisational layers it has.

Company reputation

Who wants to work for a company which is highly profitable but whose reputation is crumbling? Headlines used to be tomorrow’s fish and chip paper but not any more. They hang around along with the rest of the story. While that gives those charged with recruiting for that company a particular problem, it’s every bit as demotivating when you’re already an employee of that company. In a world where purpose and pride matter more than ever,  good benefits and great recognition are merely compensation if you don’t respect your employer, they have little to do with motivation and engagement.

How do you know if your employee recognition program is still in the industrial age?

Is your employee recognition program dominated by occasional manager only activity? Does your employee recognition program really mean a one off thank you at Christmas or on employee appreciation day? Maybe you moved to peer to peer or social recognition programs but still don’t fully trust employees and insist managers have to check what’s been written?

I would suggest these are demotivating blocks for employees. Employee recognition programs need to be redrawn. They should be about employee expression, not a managerial transaction. If that feels like a leap too far remember that the Social Age is demanding big changes from organisations. Is it time to embrace social recognition as the way to send the right message to your employees?

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