Peer-to-Peer Recognition and It’s Effect on Employee Motivation – Part 2
In part one of our analysis of peer-to-peer recognition, we discussed how we use the concept of Merit Money to recognize team members at Happy Melly. Compared to traditional, management-based bonus systems, Merit Money encourages peer-to-peer recognition. Team members reward each other with points based on pre-defined company values. The Bonusly tool converts points into tangible rewards. When evaluating this system, four overarching themes surfaced repeatedly.
Employee Motivation Theme #1: Self-Learning
A general consensus was that the Merit Money system motivated us to take a look at our own behavior and actions.
As our Community Manager Patrick Verdonk put it:
Merit Money “is a tool of investigation. It helps you to look at yourself and ask the questions: What did I do to get something? What did I do that didn’t get anything?”
On a whole, points didn’t seem to relate to the outcome of an initiative, but rather to the behavior surrounding it. For example out of our company values, “committed” is by far the most recognized value. People are rewarded for their commitment to a project rather than the outcome. That’s not to say talented people aren’t acknowledged, however it does emphasize the importance of intent, which often trumps results. As an organization that greatly values experimenting, this doesn’t come as a shock.
“People aren’t giving points based on action but on communication and how they’re helping each other,” said our Marketing Manager Jennifer Riggins. “I give points for kindness and compassion or good ideas more than getting something done.”
Employee Motivation Theme #2: A Learning Stimulator
A spin-off from above, another area greatly influenced by Merit Money was the impetus for continuous improvement.
“It stimulates me to constantly seek out what other things I can do to be more present,” Verdonk said. “If you get points, why five and not ten? What can I do next time to change that? It becomes a game of learning where you’re constantly challenging yourself to do more.”
He thinks those who earn more Merit Money find a way to bring their strengths to the table. The challenge is to continuously look for those areas where your skill set can be of service.
“When I don’t have a lot of points, I learn something and I think about what I need to improve,” said our Outreach Coordinator to Brazil, Yoris Linhares. He says the system helps him learn about people and how they are –- what makes them tick and, in turn, what they appreciate.
Something interesting we uncovered was that when a new project or idea is rolled out our teammates tend to give more, while when colleagues repeat the same action, they stop receiving as many points. This seems to entice people always to be thinking about ‘what else’ they can do.
Employee Motivation Theme #3: Self-Acceptance
For our Remote Team Manager Lisette Sutherland, Bonusly was a bit of an acquired taste.
“I started out as a Merit Money hater,” she said. “I didn’t like that I was judging people.”
Ultimately Lisette realized that it had nothing to do with judgment and was more about what it was like to work with each other. The system encouraged her to embrace her role on our multinational team.
“Americans are generally considered overly — and fakely — enthusiastic by other cultures. I have a naturally enthusiastic personality and I try to be conscious of keeping it tamed because I know how it’s perceived. Through Bonusly I learned that my enthusiasm was something that the team appreciated and it made me more comfortable just to be me.”
Employee Motivation Theme #4: Connection Through Purpose
“Having that sense of purpose is a key driver to engagement,” says Raphael. The cofounder of our employee recognition tool explained one take-away he’s had from people who use the bonus system. It ties in a sense of purpose to what you’re doing.
Should Your Company Implement a Peer-to-peer Recognition System?
To each their own when it comes to whether an organization distributes rewards and recognition. However our findings indicate that it’s definitely worth an experiment. Not only does it affect motivation and the desire for increased learning, it’s also fun as it turns bonus giving into a game. And it proved that if you don’t have a reward built in, it won’t work at all.
In his article entitled, The Psychology of Gamification in the Workplace, author Tim Eisenhauer says “the reward system is the heart and soul of gamification,” because it taps into the brain’s natural wiring as they say that games contain the ‘natural reward compulsion loop’. By rewarding employees for performing tasks we create that loop in the workplace and a natural dopamine environment. With increased dopamine we’re more apt to be alert, motivated and feel better all around.
For companies debating whether to gamify their recognition system, a workforce that feels energized can be incredibly powerful. It’s also important for organizations to note that what makes the ‘game’ so successful is that it’s tied to a reward (bonus points turn into money etc…). If not, people won’t use it.
Peer-to-peer Recognition Changes How We Feel About Our Work
Raphael packages it up well by describing what the system really does: “Changing the way people feel about their work in a positive way.”
He goes on to explain that one subtle yet powerful aspect of most workplaces today is that communication is either neutral or negative and there’s no real incentive for positive communication. He maintains that the “overall tone of workplace communication changes pretty noticeably when Bonusly is rolled out.”
We’re inclined to agree. As with everything in our small company, this is an peer-to-peer recognition experiment. One that we’ll continue to play with, push the boundaries of and analyze as time goes on.