This original article appeared on The Business Journals on October 30, 2015. Everyone acknowledges the importance of employee recognition, but few companies actually manage to keep recognition fresh and up to date. Good leaders will tell you that they make every effort to highlight employee achievements, but well-deserved praise is too often confined to face-to-face meetings or one-off emails. Organizations desperately need a strategy for recognizing employees that fits with today’s highly social and remote workforce. Broadcasting employee success across the organization in a fun and engaging strategy that can amplify the power of recognition, so workers truly feel engaged and motivated to perform at their best. Not only does the recognition become more meaningful when shared in a company- or department-wide context, there is also a networking effect that takes place when other workers feel inclined to add their personal congratulations to the mix. Making employee recognition an exciting, shared experience can have a transformative impact on the way people relate to their jobs and each other in this digital age.  

Avoiding disengagement

  Businesses have fought hard to keep employees engaged and motivated at work, but their efforts have not yielded much success in the past decade. According to research from Gallup, just 30 percent of U.S. employees say they are engaged, while nearly 20 percent are actively disengaged, costing companies an estimated $500 billion through lost productivity and poor customer service. To upend the status quo, leaders and managers need to take a fresh approach. The lack of progress in employee engagement can largely be credited to the stale methods that many organizations still use to recognize and reward workers. The way that we exchange information and interact have fundamentally shifted in recent years, but the technology that managers and leaders use to communicate with their teams remains stuck in the past. Shortening attention spans have spawned social networks and applications that package information in easily digestible, shareable formats — especially video content. But when it comes to sharing company goals or employee achievements, organizations have largely stuck with legacy methods such as whiteboards and company-wide email blasts. This results in a lack of organizational transparency and focus, late feedback, and missed opportunities for recognition and interaction. When employees have to devote 28 percent of their time to managing emails, overcrowded inboxes become a great place for important updates and feedback to get lost. Next to the instant interaction opportunities offered by popular platforms like Instagram, Vine and Snapchat, taking the traditional approach to employee recognition can make it look like an afterthought, leaving employees feeling disengaged and unmotivated.  

What consumer technology can teach us

  Learning from the latest trends in consumer technology and social networking offers leaders a chance to finally address lackluster employee engagement and recognition campaigns. Instead of relying on traditional tools to communicate feedback and motivate employees, companies can take a cue from new applications that people have increasingly adopted in their personal lives. Highly visual content that people can easily interact with and share has been a hallmark of these emerging consumer apps, and by taking this concept into an enterprise setting, companies can foster a similar level of connectedness and excitement among employees. We have seen the early stages of this idea in the concept of “gamification,” which integrates elements from video games, like badges and levels, into employees’ daily activities. However, this approach has largely failed to deliver on promised results. Gamification has been effective for jumpstarting a new behavior or teaching a new skill, but wasn’t built to sustain long-term performance. Additionally, individuals can quickly get tired of the same gamification techniques, which are often difficult to apply to existing business processes. Companies should instead focus on making news about employee achievements and goals accessible to as many people across as many parts of the organization as possible. Broadcasting wins and important milestones using videos, images, and newsflashes that can be viewed on mobile devices, laptops, in-office TV screens and in remote locations delivers a new level of connectedness and excitement. By harnessing the power of social interaction with company-wide broadcasts, leaders now have the ability to tackle the long-standing challenges around engaging employees and motivate their workers to perform at their best.