Peers can inspire each other. Image: Shutterstock

Wednesday 13th July 2016

From me to you

What's the lowdown on peer-to-peer recognition?

At a time when organisations need to see the very best performance from their employees, big salaries and bonuses are not necessarily the answer. Two words – Wayne Rooney. Rooney earned £300,000 a week while leading the England football team out of Euro 2016.

Traditional methods of recognition and reward in the workplace tend to create a parent-child dynamic, with the manager-parent cheering on the achievements of the employee-child.

Yet just as any parent sets out to create a well-rounded independent adult, organisations should look beyond bestowing bonuses from on high. Instead, they should aim to create a supportive peer environment where grown men and women recognise each other’s good work and support each other’s development in the workplace.

Hodgson: no thanks
Hodgson: no thanks

Managers should remove themselves from the parental role and see themselves more as a football team manager – although perhaps not England manager Roy Hodgson. However, like football managers, businesses can put all the best structures in place, have their players (employees) practise good passing (communications), and reward the players well.

A tight knit, supportive team can achieve miracles without the big pay package – think Wales or Iceland’s football teams. In any field, no one person is a champion in their own right. Top tennis players and cyclists too depend on coaches, physios and sports psychologists for their success.

Yet teamwork does not come naturally to many people. Most employees are so used to the top-down hierarchical structure of traditional companies that their first inclination is to seek direction and approval from managers above them in the hierarchy.

Promoting peer-to-peer recognition aims to break down this culture.

Here are five ways to win the game with peer-to-peer recognition:

Cut the corporate BS and make P2P recognition fun. There’s no need to send in the clowns, unless ‘silly’ works for your organisation. This could be as simple as changing a routine meeting into a picnic, for example. Make people laugh. Lots of research shows that children laugh a lot more than adults because adults take life far too seriously. Why not foster health and wellbeing in the workplace by focusing on making people happy?

Design entertaining push communications to keep P2P communications going. Ask, “What have you done today to make you feel proud?” “Has someone made a difference to you today?” The goal is to make the act of peer recognition habitual, part of the weekly or daily agenda. Peer-to-peer communication occurs naturally at the coffee machine and around the printer. Aim to fit peer-to-peer rewards and recognition just as naturally into workflow.

Give power to the people. A P2P recognition programme should be designed and created for the people by the people. After all, in human terms any business is just a community of people. Turn the hierarchy on its head and spin it round. Leaders can start the ball rolling, identifying and promoting the need for P2P recognition but then they must let it go and gather its own momentum.

Do the motivational maths. If all this sounds like expensive fun, here are some sums that will help demonstrate the value of effective P2P recognition:

  • Individual performance x great employee recognition = increased productivity and value to organisation
  • Disengaged staff = high attrition + negative environment
  • Basic needs + meaningful goals x recognition for effort + great leadership = engaged happy employee

Don’t recruit Mood Hoovers. Handbags in the Boardroom blogger Sandra Green puts it best:

You know the ones. When you walk into a meeting and see them sitting there your heart sinks. Mood Hoovers moan. Mood Hoovers blame. Mood Hoovers complain. They find fault. They play the victim role. They are never happy. Mood Hoovers are never satisfied.

If a Mood Hoover or two has infiltrated your workforce, design P2P recognition that supports positive thinking.

Small things, big difference

The small things make the biggest difference. A genuine ‘thank you’ from a colleague goes a long way.

Leaders have a part to play in working with line managers to apply segmentation techniques that will allow them to really get to know their audience and what types of peer recognition will work best for them.

Succeed in getting people involved and they will deliver a successful P2P scheme for you, putting the organisation in a good position to handle any and all changes. Don’t forget, peer recognition works well at every level from the shop floor to the senior management team.

Employees tend to assume that their organisation will be successful, much as small children expect parents to be omniscient and omnipotent. Now more than ever however, organisations need to foster a workforce of fully functioning adults who take individual and collective responsibility for the success of their endeavours.



About the author

Kuljit Kaur

Kuljit Kaur is a rewards and recognition expert at P&MM Motivation, an award winning motivation and performance provider.