Latest developments in online recognition platforms

The significant advances in technology over the past decade are now being translated into the recognition programmes that employers provide to employees.


If you read nothing else, read this…

  • Technological advances are paving the way for the evolution of online recognition programmes and tools.
  • Peer-to-peer, or social, recognition, can be accessed via web-based applications (apps), smartphones and social networking sites.
  • This broader use of workplace recognition also helps to gather data about employees and could be translated into other areas of HR and reward, such as performance reviews.

Today, recognition is online, social and interactive, a far cry from the traditional paper-based recognition once handed out by managers to employees. BJ Shannon, head of customer happiness at employee recognition specialist TinyPulse, says: “The old avenue of recognition was coming from the top down. Technology now allows recognition to go from the top down, sideways and upwards. It is so much easier to share recognition.”

Employee Benefits has compiled a list of the top trends and developments in online recognition platforms.

1. Social recognition

Recognition has become much more social, allowing employees’ colleagues to not just nominate and praise each other, but follow each other’s achievements in a format similar to social networking.

Derek Irvine, vice-president, client strategy and consulting at Globoforce, says: “Manager-based recognition still has a role to play, but instead of having one set of eyes, we now potentially have hundreds of sets of eyes.

“Social recognition tools allow employees to go in and nominate colleagues for awards, to add their congratulations, a bit like a newsfeed on Facebook. It is having a fundamental change on how organisations can communicate to employees about the strategies and values of the organisation.”

Colin Hodgson, sales director at Edenred, adds: “Every employee has access to the system, and can search for their colleagues, make nominations, send thank-you cards and e-messages.”

2. Instant recognition

This trend is driven by the millennial generation, which has grown up with SMS texts and Instagram updates, both of which are immediate ways to interact with people. Adrian Duncan, motivation and engagement specialist at P&MM, says: “Recognition is more in the style of Facebook or LinkedIn, rather than a formal piece of recognition where someone submits something, it gets approved and that person gets recognised. It is now ‘quick messaging’, where an individual can select a person’s profile, click a button and it will send out a preset message.”

3. 24/7 recognition

Many employers stream their workplace recognition moments around the office, whether through the organisation’s intranet site or on television screens in the lobby and breakout areas. Shannon says: “We have [employer] clients that are putting it on the screen in their lobby, which helps with recruiting efforts because interviewees come in and see a real recognition-based culture.”

4. Mobile recognition

The increased functionality of mobile phones is also driving development in online recognition programmes. Globoforce’s Irvine says: “Our social recognition programme, end to end, works on mobile phones. It allows employees to nominate colleagues and to redeem the awards, and allows managers to approve the awards and to run reports. Employees can also add congratulations via their phones.”

P&MM’s Duncan adds: “There is traditional mobile, which is a text relay system, as well as fully enabled websites or applications (apps) within the smartphone itself. You can recognise someone by texting a certain line, then a relay text comes back to you to ask for certain information, and it is submitted via the online system and added to a profile. A card is sent back to the person, who receives a text to say they have been recognised.”

5. Innovation of recognition awards

Mobile-enabled apps also allow employees to receive and redeem rewards via their smartphones. Irvine says: “Many of our reward options allow the employee to go into their phone while they are shopping and instantly redeem the award.”

TinyPulse’s Shannon adds: “There are ways to send and receive recognition where you are able to send over virtual money. One of our [employer] clients has a programme where each employee is given $100 of virtual money to send to anyone. At the end of the month, employees can gather the virtual money they have received or exchange it for a gift card or a day off.”

6. Recognition via gamification

Gamification, which is the use of game-like features in non-gaming situations to motivate a change in behaviour, also has a place in online recognition programmes. Duncan says: “It could be an infographic that represents the values of the organisation, which then grows and shrinks based on the proportion of recognition an employee receives.”

7. Use of big data in recognition

As social recognition continues to gain prominence, the nature of the information used means this can be a rich data source for employers, which can be useful in other areas of reward. Irvine says: “We have been innovating using those data points so that recognition data can contribute horizontally across all the HR topics. For instance, we could cross-analyse who receives a lot of recognition versus the traditional performance review. It can offer a brand new perspective for HR directors. We call it a crowd-sourced performance review.”

Edenred’s Hodgson is also seeing a change in how a recognition programme can contribute to an employee performance review. “I don’t think it’s too far away that we’ll start to see technology evolve to where performance management software is integrated with recognition software,” he says.

8. Globalisation of recognition

The growing ability to share recognition online, via a social network or via a mobile phone, is also expanding the geographical footprint of online recognition programmes. Hodgson says: “Multi-lingual capacity and capability is enabling recognition programmes to become global.”

Technological developments will continue, so employers should embrace these changes, using them for online recognition schemes, whether through social networking sites, smartphone access or web-enabled programmes.

Ruth Patel: Recognition strategy needs to create a positive feeling


Really forward-thinking employers understand where recognition sits in their overall people strategy. They think through the purpose of recognition and under what circumstances it will be most effective before determining the manner in which it will be delivered.

Understanding how employees turn their intentions into behaviour is essential to putting in place the best conditions for success. Firstly, employers should consider the employee’s attitude towards the recognition programme. What is in it for them? How the employer communicates the purpose, criteria and benefits is key to ensuring a positive attitude to the programme.

Secondly, consider the impact the work group has on influencing employees’ attitudes. Are values espoused at senior management level throughout the organisation? This will be a reflection of organisational culture. If the recognition programme is seen as ’just another management idea that will lead to nothing’, the chances are that employees will not take it seriously.

Lastly, consider how easy it is for employees to take part in the programme. Do they fully understand the system, how it works and what their part is in it?

Our research shows that employees who have been recognised are 2.29 times more likely to recognise colleagues, so ongoing training and support is needed to encourage maximum take-up and repeated use.

A recognition programme that employees feel positively about, believe will lead to outcomes that are of benefit to them, is supported by the work group, reflects organisational culture, and is easy to administer and participate in, will have the best chance of success.

Forward-thinking employers will use recognition programmes as part of a well-defined people strategy. These are a very effective way to show that the organisation lives by its values and will improve engagement.

Ruth Patel is business psychologist at Unlocking People Potential

Case study: Telefonica


Telefonica launched a new online recognition programme for its UK staff in October 2013. The plan, Recognise_D, is a web app that employees can access via smartphones, tablets and laptops.

The organisation, known under the brand O2 in the UK, previously had an online recognition programme, but this was a static, computer-based site that did not work across all devices.

Natasha Rice, deputy global reward director at Telefonica, says: “You couldn’t use it easily on your phone and it didn’t work on tablets.

”Now it works on every device and it works much more like a social network. You can ‘like’ and comment on posts just like you can on Facebook or Twitter. The app is very interactive, fun and accessible.”

The recognition app works with the interactive chat platform Yammer, so employees can automatically search for, and recognise colleagues in the global Telefonica network.

Rice adds: “Employees have their own page so they can see what recognition they have received; managers can see a page for their team; there is a general feed showing all posts in real time; and there is also another page where you can see what is trending.”

The scheme also builds on the organisation’s three Ds: Discover, Disrupt and Deliver, three behaviours that were launched in 2013 as part of a global cultural change programme.

Employees can send out a ‘D’ to their colleagues, tailoring the recognition to individuals or to groups.

Employees have handed out nearly 7,000 Ds since the programme was launched.

“We are evolving into a digital services organisation,” says Rice. “We want all our employees to deliver great digital products to our customers, so it’s important that it feels like we are digital on the inside too.

“The more we can link our internal HR processes to technology, the better in my view. It’s fun and it’s easy. Technology should not be something that people are afraid of. Plus, if you’re trying to do something in a global way, you can’t do it without technology.”