As workforces come together to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19, the case for peer-to-peer recognition schemes has never been stronger. We caught up with Jamie Mackenzie, Director, Sodexo Engage to get his view. 

 “On March 23, 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the citizens of the UK to stay at home, turning our personal and working lives on their heads in an instant. High streets became ghost towns, offices quickly vacated, and all of a sudden, the workforce was remote.

Although they’ve been extremely difficult in many ways, the past 18 months have also shown how resilient businesses can be, with employers and staff often banding together to overcome the hardships presented by the pandemic. As we begin to emerge to some level of ‘normality’, companies should be thinking about how they can retain – and encourage – this kind of comradery. One simple way of achieving this goal is through peer-to-peer recognition schemes.


The power of peer-to-peer

Even before the pandemic, managers often struggled to keep up with recognising every single employee they were responsible for. Creating a culture of recognition across the entire business can help to fill these gaps.

Peer-to-peer recognition enables team members who do not manage or report to one another to show their appreciation, ensuring good work does not go unnoticed/unpraised. This type of recognition is especially powerful, as co-workers often have a better idea of what their peers are contributing. It’s not as simple as just praising and thanking them, though. To gain the greatest benefits, peer-to-peer recognition needs to be genuine and fully embedded into the company’s culture.

To achieve this goal, employers first need to make the scheme tangible. That means establishing and formalising a system whereby employees can easily nominate each other for rewards and other forms of recognition. The key here is to make sure that any feedback is very clear and specific. For example, a colleague could be singled out for praise for going the extra mile for a particular customer, or for leading the way on sustainable office practices, such as recycling.

Another key pre-requisite for launching a successful peer-to-peer recognition scheme is to involve employees from the outset. Every worker should have a say when it comes to what behaviours should be recognised, how recognition is given, and what rewards are in place. This will ensure that both the recognition and reward are meaningful for all involved.


Making it personal

Beyond simply giving compliments and thanks, employees should also be prepared to explain why they have decided to nominate a particular colleague, as this will make the experience far more engaging for the participant and rewarding for the recipient. Plus, the reward should be something that the recipient actually wants, even if that means coming up with different rewards for different team members.

Every employee should be given the same opportunity to give and receive recognition, as well. If the scheme is open to just a select number of staff, it could quickly alienate other members of the workforce and damage employee morale and productivity.

The process also needs to be immediate. People often lose interest if nominating others requires them to jump through too many hoops. Likewise, any recognition or rewards should be passed on within hours, rather than days or weeks, as this is more likely to reinforce the positive behaviour that triggered the nomination in the first place.

Finally, the scheme must be promoted from the top, with senior management making regular nominations and communicating about the programme, so it doesn’t just fade away over time. And people should also be encouraged to nominate anybody in their organisation, not just those with equal seniority.


Benefits will follow

By following these simple steps, businesses will find that deploying a successful peer-to-peer recognition programme doesn’t need to be difficult. And better still, those that do take the leap will benefit in several ways.

Some of the pros include boosting employee and customer satisfaction ratings, increasing trust levels between workers and reducing turnover rates. The latter is particularly significant and can have a large impact on an organisation’s bottom line.

External statistics back this up. A recent Harvard Business School study suggests that peer-to-peer recognition can go a long way to boosting motivation and the overall performance of employees – indeed, the study found that positive recognition from peers can improve an employee’s output by 7%.

There is no doubt that authentic recognition teamed up with incentives and perks can help create a dedicated, supportive, and resilient team. Just imagine, if this level of performance increase can be replicated across the board, with positive behaviours reinforced and normalised as a result, the business – and its employees – will reap significant rewards.