6 ways to evaluate recognition platforms

Successful approach requires mix of measurement, action, and more
By Vanessa Brangwyn
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/28/2016

Employee recognition is key to fostering an engaged and motivated workforce, but the technology used can help — or hinder — those efforts.

As more companies acknowledge the need for a more holistic approach to employee engagement, the market has become flooded with solutions providers claiming they can deliver the goods. However, delivering on the promise of employee engagement requires more than just flipping a switch.

A successful approach requires a mix of measurement and action, planning and execution, and should integrate health and wellness, performance management, learning management, alongside recognition and rewards to be considered fully baked.

Above all, an effective employee engagement solution must actually be used by employees to have the desired effects. Without widespread adoption, even the most expensive, attractive, whiz-bang platform will end up as unused “shelfware,” and serve only as a reminder of a failed effort.

Choosing the right recognition platform, along with a provider that can help assure widespread program adoption, can mean the difference between success — in the form of a positive workplace where people are eager to perform at their best and receive accolades for their accomplishments — and failure — when the program doesn’t take hold, and employees remain disengaged and uninspired.

Six questions to ask

Given the choices available when it comes to adopting a recognition system, employers must perform due diligence to ensure they adopt one that can truly deliver on the needs of their entire organization. The following are six important questions companies should ask recognition platform providers to help select the best option for employees:

How does the system integrate with existing HR processes and solutions?

The average company today manages several different HR systems, as well as a growing collection of job-specific software and communications platforms, so any recognition system should be able to communicate easily with the human resources information system (HRIS) and other existing employee applications to ensure a seamless flow of data. This will facilitate administrative use, such as employee benefit reporting and payroll, and performance evaluation, succession planning and workforce analytics.

Is it mobile app- and platform-based?

It may seem smart and economical to adopt a simple mobile recognition app rather than an enterprise-level platform, but doing so can introduce several problems down the line. For one, most single-purpose mobile applications struggle to drive behaviour and engage employees over the long term — initial interest tends to cool off and companies miss out on the most impactful synergies delivered by a full-fledged software platform. Moreover, in the age of the bring-your-own-device workplace, employees must be able to access the platform seamlessly on any device, rather than being limited to smartphones or tablets.

How does the platform impact reporting and budgets?

A complete financial picture of the recognition program should include real-time access to reporting on all program financial activity. However, programs can often go over budget or be under-utilized, leaving the investment languishing rather than making a difference in employee recognition and engagement. The right platform should offer full reporting on financial activity, including points liability, utilization and spend, as well as filters to analyze spend by program groups such as organizational unit, location, department, people leaders and recognition modules.

Such platforms allow the organization to define recognition spend budgets for every employee level, and enable managers to cascade budget to team leaders, and reassign budget when necessary. In essence, the organization should be able to optimize the expected distribution of its recognition and rewards program budget across the entire company, from the start.

What does it offer in terms of configuration flexibility?

Every company is unique and a one-size-fits-all recognition platform won’t work well for most. An effective recognition program should be tailored to the specific needs of the company, supporting and reinforcing overarching values and goals, and connecting them to the employee attributes and workflows that deliver the desired business outcomes.

Tailoring a recognition program to best meet a company’s unique needs and corporate culture requires an enterprise-level solution, offering a flexible service model with deep, ongoing consultation to ensure the program meets the company’s needs now and going forward.

How will data be protected?

As recognition programs are closely linked to and informed by employee and company data, security should be a top concern. The right platform should leverage ISO 27001, the highest security standard for software providers, requiring an annual three-stage audit. Working with an ISO-certified recognition platform provider will help get buy-in from IT security stakeholders, while keeping data completely safe.

Will employees like the platform?

Research suggests an effective recognition program is one in which each employee receives at least one recognition per week. But to achieve this success, the platform must be intuitive and easy to use, and most leading recognition platforms base the user experience on the familiar social media “newsfeed” model for this reason.

What’s more, having the ability to share recognition beyond internal platforms onto the employee’s broader social networks can help extend the reach and impact of these efforts and work to demonstrate the employer’s commitment to a culture of recognition publicly.

In essence, vendors should be able to show that their solutions result in high levels of employee adoption, with at least an 80 per cent average across all programs. With strong adoption, it’s a given that recognition frequency will follow.

Making recognition part of company culture

With a robust employee recognition program in place, organizations should see a number of positive results, from increased engagement and productivity, to an enhanced employer brand. But rather than merely automating a process through online forms, the best recognition and awards platforms are those that reinvent the end-to-end experience, making recognition part of the daily fabric of employees’ lives and something they enjoy doing.

By evaluating different providers and their offerings, companies can better determine which solution can best help to reinforce a culture of recognition that drives real business outcomes.

Vanessa Brangwyn is vice-president of customer success at Achievers in Toronto.

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