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The Power of Praise

10/19/15 10:00 AM

Never underestimate the power of praising your employees or co-workers. While some may consider the practice of recognizing others, publicly or privately, as a nicety and simply a matter of management style, creating a culture where managers and employees alike actively engage in identifying and rewarding positive behaviors can have a dramatic effect on employee engagement and job satisfaction. Data around leadership and organizational effectiveness point to recognition as a key ingredient to organizational success.

The best productivity tools help people to easily share their knowledge and ideas, make their work discoverable inside their organization, and enable colleagues to show their appreciation and recognize each other’s work. --Mark Kashman, Office 365 Product Manager, Microsoft

How serious in the problem of disengagement within the modern workplace? According to a recent Gallup survey:

Less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. The average is up nearly two percentage points from 29.6% in 2013 and represents the highest reading since 2000, when Gallup first began tracking the engagement levels of the U.S. working population. However, a majority of employees, 51%, were still "not engaged" and 17.5% were "actively disengaged" in 2014.

Within enterprise social networks (ESNs), praise is an essential gamification technique used to inspire and motivate, keeping employees actively engaged. In a recent Beezy blog post, Office 365 MVP and guest author Jussi Mori (@jussimori) shared a number of ways that organizations can do more to "humanize" their collaboration platforms, but four of his points specifically highlight the benefits derived from active recognition practices:

  • They are a way to provide instant and constant feedback
    Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing what’s going on within a project. In certain situations, it is best to give too much feedback as opposed to not enough, or none at all. While many organizations perform annual staff performance evaluations, these practices fail to create the kind of change they hope to achieve. By regularly providing positive feedback, it encourages the development of certain behaviors and performance, leading to the improved delivery of business milestones/objectives.
  • They are a method of embracing positivity
    Creating an active and positive work environment for your teams to operate in is not something that will happen by chance. Nothing is more demotivating than negative feedback, which often ignores what may have gone right on a project. When something is learned together with positive (or with negative) emotions, it can become hardwired into our brains. Some examples of activities that trigger positive emotions: Join, share, gift, exchange, collect, complete, choose, accomplish, and help.
  • They encourage people to be more social
    Humans are very social beings, and not being part of social groups or circles makes most people unhappy. Try as much as possible to involve individuals through active, rather than passive, engagement. As more people become engaged and actively participate, the quality of collaboration increases. Collective intelligence is always more capable and effective than the work of an individual.
  • They are focused on reward instead of punishment
    Operant conditioning has taught us that educated and motivated employees perform better with the prospect of receiving a reward, rather than the threat of receiving a punishment. We all have fundamental desires for status, achievement, self-expression, competition and altruism. Using these desires as rewards will help you to motivate your teams and create a positive working environment.

In an announcement from the Office 365 product team earlier this month, new Praise features have been added to Office 365 as part of the Delve "people experiences" which also includes the new "authoring canvas" for blogging. While offering only simple functionality, each praise is added to the recipient's personal site, and the artifact can then be found through search and through social interactions surfaced through the Office Graph, where people can "like" and further increase the recognition. One feature is that each praise you send to a peer or employee sends an email notification to the recipient, as well as to their manager. Given that Office 365 customers tend to be very email-centric organizations, these additional notifications are likely a minor issue.

Of course, different teams and organizations are motivated in different ways. Praise, like any gamification technique or tool, should be customized or adapted to fit the organizational culture. In addition, our experience has shown that recognition tools are most effective when in context to how you collaborate. For example, if your primary collaboration is around a Team Site in SharePoint, you may want to surface this recognition as part of that community conversation or newsfeed, not hide it away on a user profile. Managers may also want to easily find and review praise given to their employees in a single profile view or snapshot, without having to search or filter the view to find the right information.

Praise and recognition are an important part of any social collaboration platform, and have been an important feature set within the Beezy solution since our founding. Our capability goes well beyond simple badges and likes, and can be customized to meet the specific requirements of each of our customers. We'd love to show you more. Contact us today to schedule your demo and find out why Beezy is quickly becoming the leading social collaboration for Office 365 and SharePoint.

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