5 unique ways teams benefit from peer recognition

Peer recognition is an extraordinarily powerful tool organizations of any size can benefit from. Whether you’re operating within a team of five or five thousand, each member deserves recognition for their contributions.

Although managerial recognition and feedback are crucial elements of a working relationship, there are some unique advantages to inviting the team to participate in building a culture of appreciation and recognition across the organization.

Here are a few of those benefits, and some tips on maximizing them:

Observational learning

For many employees, it’s a challenge just to know what success in their organization looks like. This sentiment isn’t limited to new hires. As an organization evolves, so do the roles within it, along with their associated expectations.

Peer recognition provides a unique opportunity for new hires, seasoned pros, and everyone in-between to see first-hand examples of what it takes to move the team forward. It helps identify activities employees can engage in that help push their entire team forward – activities that positively impact the workday of others.

Someone who might have been comfortable working from a purely tactical perspective might find that recent contributions they’ve been making on the strategic side receive a stronger reception from peers. A new employee might witness the same interactions, and tailor their own work to match.

Peer recognition also provides an excellent opportunity for managers and leaders to observe the interactions of their team, and learn what each member values most.

How to maximize it

Prioritize visibility in any peer recognition solution you build or implement. Each piece of visible recognition is a potential learning experience for every member of the organization – from the new hire to the executive suite.

Stronger communication

When building and strengthening interpersonal relationships, communication is everything. The better a group of people can communicate, the more effective their partnership will be.

Peer recognition is an exceptional tool for improving communication skills. It encourages members of an organization to consider the contributions of their colleagues and express the impact those contributions made on them.

This effect isn’t limited to employees who work closely together.

Departmental silos often form, even if they’re not being drawn deliberately. Especially as organizations grow, it can be difficult for employees to gain insight into the actions and contributions of teammates working in a different department. One major benefit of peer recognition is its propensity to help break down those departmental silos and help the team focus individual efforts toward a cohesive goal.

It’s important for members of a team to understand the value their colleagues are bringing to the table. But some organizational structures obfuscate that view.

Each time someone recognizes a peer for their great work, they’re communicating to the receiver, and the rest of the team the value that work provided. That cross-channel communication can be priceless as an organization evolves and scales.

How to maximize it

Make sure your recognition system encourages participants to share context with the recognition they’re giving. It not only clarifies the reason recognition is being given, but it also helps to build stronger communication skills and interpersonal relationships.

Greater inclusion

One of the greatest challenges faced by any recognition system is the tendency for some members of the team to be left out. This can happen for several reasons.

Some employees are making significant contributions, but the nature of their job makes those contributions less visible than others. This is a problem. Although those contributions are less visible, they’re no less valuable than those made by the rest of the team

There might be someone in the engineering department who identified a major bug that would have impacted the entire organization. Under some programs, this huge contribution may never be recognized because it wasn’t as visible as a contribution that directly impacted revenue.

In many of these cases, there are at least some teammates who work closely enough with that person and have a grasp on how valuable their work is. The key is empowering and encouraging those people to show their appreciation for their colleague’s work.

Read the article “Applaud the roadies, not just the rock stars” for more inspiration and tips on how to encourage inclusive recognition.

How to maximize it

Include everyone in your recognition initiative – from the new hire to middle management all the way up to the top. Everyone can benefit from being a part of the program. Hence, it’s crucial to have buy-in and participation at every level.

Frequency, volume, and timeliness

Have you ever heard someone complain they’re recognized for their excellent work too often?

Management often shoulders the entire burden of recognition, and under these circumstances, it’s incredibly difficult to administer effectively. Managers aren’t omniscient. Even if they’d like to witness every great contribution made by their team, and then take the time to recognize those contributions individually, it’s often too great a task.

The key to an effective recognition system is taking a different approach. Instead of a burden, it should be a natural interaction, built into daily life at work. Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool, and recognition is a perfect application for it.

Why is that so important?

Recognition is most effective when it’s genuine, given frequently, and given in the moment. The easiest way to accomplish that is to bake recognition and appreciation into your organizational culture. The more people who are empowered and encouraged to give it, the easier it is to ensure that all great contributions get the acclaim they’re due.

How to maximize it

Adopt recognition and appreciation as a fundamental element of your organizational culture. Make it easy to give, but most of all, make it a natural part of daily life.

Behavioral/cultural insights

Peer recognition is an excellent opportunity, not only to reinforce organizational values and culture but also to identify cultural trends as they develop organically.

As new hires come onto the team, culture is constantly being developed. It can be a free-for-all, or it can be cultivated to align with the goals and aspirations of the organization.

A leader can also learn a great deal about the grassroots culture developing from the bottom up, based on the recognition given throughout the team.

Each piece of peer recognition given is a small window into the values a member of the team holds. Over time, visible trends across groups and subgroups often develop. Those trends can be incredibly valuable as you work to understand and develop organizational culture.

How to maximize it

Don’t just deploy a peer recognition initiative. Make sure you have a way to measure its effectiveness, identify trends, and gain insights.

In conclusion:

Building a recognition-rich culture is one of the most positive things you can do for your team and your organization. These are just a few ways an organization can benefit from it and some peer-to-peer strategies that make it easy to do.

George manages content and community at Bonusly, a software for peer-to-peer bonuses, rewards, and workplace recognition. Connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.