How to Sustain Peer-to-Peer Recognition

By Dave Zielinski Oct 1, 2012
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1012cover.gifPeer-to-peer recognition programs have defining characteristics, whether they employ social media tools or not. Most:

  • Keep the nomination process simple and user-friendly.
  • Introduce new features or award categories regularly.

  • Keep organizational expectations in check regarding long-term participation levels.

At the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., staff employees are nominated by peers in categories such as “going above and beyond” and “unsung hero” through completion of a form housed on the school’s website. Nominees receive a certificate and a custom magnet, and see their names published in the law school newsletter.

Marie Bowen, assistant dean and chief human resources officer, says the program’s simplicity is one reason three-year participation rates have been high among the 500 employees. “People just access the form online, complete it and e-mail it to us, and the next thing that happens is someone shows up at the recipient’s office with an award,” Bowen says. “We didn’t want to have to create a new part-time job for someone to maintain a peer-to-peer recognition website or to administer the program.”

Managing expectations is key, she says. “You won’t be able to maintain the high level of participation you’ll see in the first few months after the recognition program is introduced,” Bowen explains. “You can feel like you’ve failed if you’re not prepared for the drop-off that will inevitably come in following months.” If you expect a leveling off but still have a steady stream of nominations over time, and communicate that to your boss and others, you’ll be fine, she advises.

The author is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis.

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