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Part 1: The Importance of Peer-to-Peer Recognition

If you look at a typical organizational chart, it can appear that communication—and feedback—flows from the top down in most companies. Employees look primarily, if not exclusively, to their managers for feedback and support—or, at least, to others in manager-level or more senior roles.

That can be a flawed assumption, though, that also results in organizations missing out on the real power that recognition can provide for employees regardless of their job, their organization, the organization’s size, or the industry they work in: the power of peer-to-peer recognition.

Although feedback from direct supervisors and managers is clearly important, feedback from peers can be equally and sometimes even more powerful. Peer-to-peer feedback strengthens relationships between team members which can build team culture, while improving morale and productivity. And, because employees work most closely and most often with their direct peers, this feedback can pack more power because peers know exactly what the employee does to make a difference. This kind of peer recognition is especially important to Millennials and members of Gen X as it taps into their need to have their voices heard.

Big Benefits from Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Organizations report big benefits from focusing on and encouraging peer-to-peer recognition. It fosters a stronger team culture and creates community and belonging. It motivates employees to do better work, to have more positive attitudes, and to exhibit team-supportive behaviors. It promotes open lines of communication and transparency.

Southwest Airlines is one great example of an organization that has built a strong culture that supports peer-to-peer recognition. Southwest is also known for their strong customer service which, they recognize, requires a supportive employee environment. Southwest Airline’s recognition program is accessible to all employees—used by 95% of them—and allows employees to reward each other SWAG (Southwest Airlines Gratitude) points that can be redeemed for meaningful rewards.

For many companies, as employees are working from a wide range of locations during the pandemic, now is an especially critical time to focus on peer-to-peer support.

Remote and Hybrid Environments Prime for Peer-to-Peer Recognition

With work environments increasingly more remote or hybrid, employees have less face-to-face interactions with their peers. A focus on peer-to-peer recognition and a process making it easy for employees to recognize each other can yield big benefits. Employees working from their homes don’t have the advantage of connecting with each other in the hallway or breakrooms and having “great job” or “thanks for your help” conversations. Without these face-to-face reminders it can be easy for recognition between peers to suffer.

That’s unfortunate.

Peer-to-peer recognition can boost a sense of community and offer opportunities for proactive and meaningful interactions between employees. Those connections can help to build bonds, and especially in a dispersed workforce, strengthen relationships.

Recognition feels good. Those good feelings can help to boost employee engagement and commitment—and the likelihood that employees will feel positive about the work they do and the company they work for.

When they do, they can serve as important ambassadors.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition Builds Brand Ambassadors

Employees can be strong ambassadors for organizations. This is especially true when they feel valued and recognized. As we noted in our 2021 Trends & Forecasts report: “There are plenty of ways to paint a picture of what working for your organization might be like, but an employee doing it will more than likely resonate a lot more strongly, and connect with a wide audience, than any other way.”

So how can you encourage peer-to-peer recognition in your organization? There are a variety of things you can do.

Ways to Help Employees Recognize Their Peers

There are a wide range of ways that employees might recognize each other and their efforts. These can take a variety of forms and focus on both work (e.g., appreciation for a collaborative team efforts) and personal (e.g., recognizing anniversaries, birthdays, and other life moments) recognition events.

While some peer-to-peer recognition likely occurs organically in most organizations, it’s not something that should be left to chance. Being proactive in encouraging employees to recognize each other and providing them the avenues to do so easily and seamlessly can produce real benefits. In fact, progressive companies have found that building and nurturing a climate that supports and enables peer-to-peer recognition can have many positive impacts—including a positive impact on ROI.

Automating these processes is the best way to boost recognition between peers as well as to monitor and measure the use and impact of these efforts. Using a technology platform, like Inspirus Connects, puts the ability to recognize their peers literally at their fingertips—whether their fingers are on their desktop or laptop keyboard, or their smartphones. Keep recognition top-of-mind and make it easy to share positive reinforcement widely, regardless of where colleagues may be located.

Feedback matters. Facilitating feedback between peers can be a great way to build teamwork, camaraderie and a sense of engagement that will lead to satisfaction, loyalty, and longevity.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series next week: Beyond “Thank You” — Opportunities for Peer-to-Peer Recognition.

Topics: peer-to-peer recognition, recognition, team culture