Management Tips··6 min read

What is Peer-to-peer Recognition and How Does it Work?

What is Peer-to-peer Recognition and How Does it Work?

Peer to peer recognition is generally described as a way to boost employee engagement. It allows colleagues working on the same team or department to appreciate each other when doing a good job. However, as with most initiatives, peer-to-peer recognition programs have pros and cons.

When done right, this sign of social recognition can improve your company culture and show your company values in a good light. 

Pros of peer-to-peer recognition

Here are some top benefits of peer to peer recognition for employee engagement and other aspects of your operations and culture.

Boosts Confidence and Self-Esteem

Peer to peer recognition is about making employees feel confident about their performance by highlighting areas they excel in. This is crucial because it reduces errors while increasing productivity. Recognition is a way of showing an employee that what they are doing is correct and they are on the right track.

In some way, recognition from one's peers can have a more positive impact than recognition from a supervisor. For starters, supervisors don't always have the time to thank each employee personally for their hard work. The good news is, once you implement a peer recognition program, it can take on a life of its own.

That's because an employee who receives positive feedback will be motivated to give positive feedback if they notice a colleague performing particularly well. In the same vein, employees who receive feedback will continue working hard to keep getting noticed and appreciated.

In short, public recognition of your employees can benefit more than just one employee. It can create a culture of recognition where everyone shows appreciation for each other's contribution. This leads to a healthier workplace culture of appreciation.

Helps build high performing teams

Allowing colleagues to give each other recognition and positive feedback helps to improve overall performance in the workplace.

After all, being appreciated is a basic human need and helps improve your employees' emotional well-being. In top-down recognition, a manager calls an employee to their office to congratulate them on their performance.

However, the results can be way better when colleagues consistently give each other positive feedback.

To begin with, they are nurturing relationships and learning how to create a strong team spirit through collaboration and unity.

Also, since colleagues typically interact with each other more frequently, they can provide a unique and fresh perspective that helps you evaluate your team's professional performance more accurately.

Can be applied to remote teams

Building and maintaining solid employee relations in a remote working environment is challenging. However, in a standard office setup, employees have the chance to get to know each other as they interact over the course of the day and in between breaks.

In contrast, remote team members find it hard to bond with each other, especially if they don't often get the chance to meet in real life. In addition, remote workers also love to feel like they are valued and appreciated members of the organization, but they don't always get the chance.

Fortunately, there are many virtual peer to peer recognition ideas that can improve this situation. For instance, your organization can use social media "shoutouts" to publicly recognize deserving employees on the company's Facebook or Twitter page.

Other virtual peer to peer recognition ideas include surprise meal deliveries, gift cards, surprise day off, and digital celebration cards signed by other team members and which contain a positive message of recognition and appreciation.

Add a personal touch - it does not always have to be some form of monetary recognition.

Encourages a flexible work environment

In most instances, employees will take some time off work - even for a short while - to participate in a peer to peer program. Such programs can include work anniversary celebrations, team outings, and snack meetings in the break room.

As a result, co-workers will have the chance to relax and socialize, which helps to strengthen workplace relationships. Rewarding high-performing employees in this way keeps them motivated and ensures productivity will remain high.

Another thing is that celebrating employee achievements in this way does not feel forced. When a manager awards recognition, it may sometimes feel obligatory because it's scheduled and unceremonious.

On the other hand, employees are not always obligated to give praise, and when they do, it's usually spontaneous. Therefore, the praise will feel more genuine and meaningful to the recipient.

Cons of peer to peer recognition

While employee peer to peer recognition is mostly beneficial to a company's work culture, it can also come with the following disadvantages.

Can incite envy and jealousy

Envy and jealousy are normal human emotions that can surface when only a few people are repeatedly rewarded while others remain behind the scenes. Even when a particular employee with many accomplishments deserves the reward, they may be disliked by their fellow teammates.

Perhaps they will be seen as "goodie two shoes" that makes everyone look bad. So, instead of employees appreciating and encouraging each other to perform better, the envious and jealous employees will try to bring the high performers down.

Creating an employee recognition program requires proper training in order for employees to perceive its true value. Use it as a tool to reward great employee performance and to show a token of appreciation of their hard work.

If you don't explain the benefits of peer recognition to your entire team, the negative effects could lead to employee turnover and shake up organizational values.

Not always practical

Some peer to peer recognition ideas are not always practical. Take the idea of publicly acknowledging employee accomplishments. It's not always possible or practical to publicly recognize every single achievement done by every single employee. Otherwise, the praise will not feel as special.

That means you must use suitable criteria when deciding which accomplishments are more worthy than others. The risk here is that employees whose achievements are not celebrated will feel undervalued, which is the opposite of what peer to peer recognition aims to achieve.

Having regular recognition is the first and most important principle, so you can create a culture of recognition. Point out good examples of recognition and lead by example from the top down.

Note: the power of peer to peer recognition model can be even harder to demonstrate with remote employees. Make sure to give them verbal praise in meetings and across digital platforms such as Slack.

Employees may not be willing to participate

As the name suggests, employee peer to peer recognition only works if your team members are willing to participate. But typically, you find one or two members that don't want to play along.

For instance, they may not take the program seriously or use the opportunity to dole out as much criticism as they can instead of focusing on the positives. This kind of behavior means you will have to invest extra effort into supervising your team.

You can invest in an employee recognition platform that can do the heavy lifting for you and show the benefits of participation to your employees. These tools support every type of recognition and can help increase employee participation and engagement levels.

The bottom line

Your employees are an integral part of the organization. Implementing peer to peer recognition ideas is an excellent way to make them feel valued and maintain a high-performing team. However, it's important to remember that recognition can also have a negative impact. As such, you need to continuously monitor and adjust your peer recognition strategy to ensure it has the intended effect.

Traditional top-down recognition is a good starting point, but to improve your entire organizational culture, every employee should participate.

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