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Employee Engagement: How Social Media is Changing Reward and Recognition Programs

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Employee EngagementFacebook has 500 million, Twitter 190 million, LinkedIn 70 million. It’s undeniable that social media has changed the way the world communicates. The business community has embraced new media, with marketing and sales leveraging a variety of platforms to connect with and engage their customer. In many cases companies have also worked on perfecting their employer brand, attempting to appeal to potential recruits through Facebook and LinkedIn. But what have companies been doing for their current employee base?

If social media has become part of daily life, should employers not also leverage for their employee communications? What if companies were to combine recognition programs with new media?

This idea was the topic of a recent webinar I attended entitled Recognition 3.0. It examined traditional programs, from the top down where companies have provided recognition for years of service or similar milestones. An increase of Gen Y in the workplace coupled with near-blanket adoption of social media has provided the backdrop for changes to existing practices.

With Gen X and Gen Y comprising more than 50% of the workforce, preferences have changed since the days of getting a gold watch or a plaque to hang on the wall. With more mobile workforces, there may not be any walls to hang awards. Companies offering flexible or telecommuting work options may have a large portion of their headcount working from home or even from Starbucks.

Recognition programs need to be timely, specific and meaningful, so why wait for that years of service anniversary to come around. If most employees are using social media, why not use this platform to recognize employees, showcasing them to their peers, friends and family?

The webinar featured a company that provided a social media recognition program, allowing employees to be publicly acknowledged by peers, superiors and subordinates through an intranet/social media site, but also connect with external sites to share posts and ‘like’ content with their personal networks. Employees feel motivated by the public recognition and companies concurrently receive the added exposure strengthening their employer brand. If employees are increasingly looking for the non-monetary benefits of a company, including the ability to further their career and gain recognition for their contributions, this new technology seems to be a great tool to help companies in their overall recruitment and retention efforts.

With the onslaught of mobile communications, the above recognition programs can be adopted for both iPhone and Smartphone applications, providing employers the opportunity for feedback and recognition, anytime, anywhere.

I think leveraging social media, with its popularity and permeation into every day life is an excellent decision for employers. If they can motivate their teams and improve their employer brand, while also communicating with their employees, even better. What’s your thoughts? Please share any best practices or ideas on our Facebook or Twitter pages.
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