Peer to peer recognition and culture boost with hall of fame.

Bruno Bologna
Aug 27, 2018 · 7 min read

Recognition as a metric

Some time ago we were interested in looking at the company level of wellness and happiness. As an agile company, we use to run retrospective meetings in which everyone is encouraged to share thoughts and talk freely about unpleasant experiences with the purpose of improving. However, these retrospectives may not be the best source to measure happiness. So, to get better metrics on teammates happiness, we started using office vibe.

Officevibe is a survey platform and has demonstrated it’s ability to work well enough being anonymous, non-invasive and quite friendly with its questionnaire forms. Behind the scenes, the platform collects answers and provides indicators. Allowing directors and managers to have an impression of the overall engagement level in a timely fashion. Also, it is carried out by providing signals in areas since it’s broken down into ten different metrics.

After using it for a while, we rapidly understood that there were some areas that we had not take care. One of these metrics was Recognition.
Our company structure aims to be flat; this does not mean avoiding hierarchy, in fact, it allows that anyone can be involved in many of the company’s responsibilities and decisions. So, a traditional recognition system that depends on a boss does not fit well in our company culture.

After brainstorming a bit, I came up with a process in which we encourage peer to peer recognition and decided to call it “Hall of Fame” since the idea also involves keeping visual track of the recognitions that have occurred inside the company.

Personal Experience

Eight years ago, I started my career at a multinational software company. The first two weeks I was impacted by all the rules, certifications, bureaucracy, hierarchies and security standards it had. There were so many rules to follow that it required you to be trained, lectured and made to carry out multiple choice tests the first couple of weeks, eight hours a day. It was overwhelming.

In this company, they had recognition rules too. Each manager had the opportunity to nominate one of its subordinates once a month. They would be recognized among a fixed-size group of fellows of the company and prized with a pittance, their name on a broadcasted monthly email and a plaque. That was it.

The first time I saw someone receiving an award, was, I firmly believed well deserved. However, after sharing thoughts with more experienced colleagues who had many managers throughout many projects. Some managers opted for nominating a different candidate every month; it seemed fairer to them since it would avoid competition. While other managers nominated only when they considered it deserved.

So, it served a purpose, but, it was flawed. I’m sure it was better than nothing. Eight years later it helped me make a checklist of what to avoid and what to promote when brainstorming a recognition system.

  • Everyone perceives greatness in different ways.
  • Encourage people to serve their team rather than their managers.
  • Let awards happen right after it’s decided.
  • Don’t submit a recognition for approval to those who are less involved.
  • If you don’t want to restrict performances, there is no reason why you should limit awards.
  • Submit nominations to consensus, discuss what adds value with your peers.

These were the general principles which acted as the foundation of the hall of fame project.

Hall of fame

Three peers

In order to recognize, at least three persons are needed to purchase an award. This means that someone willing to award an outstanding performance will have to convince two other peers to become nominators. By doing this, we foster a consensus among three coworkers, in which they share a common understanding that nominee’s performance deserves a recognition.

The implementation of the award in our case it’s a framed certificate and a gift basket.

Frequency quota

The frequency for which a member should nominate someone to receive an award was quite a difficult question. We didn’t want to come up with a fixed number of recognitions per month, in fact we really wanted it to flow naturally, we envisioned recognition ceremonies happening at any time it is deserved, right after three teammates agree on nominating a candidate. So we came up with the ideas of credits.

Each member has a credit by default which can be used to nominate, however, after using it it will take a month to reload. This establishes the cost of nomination, once someone participates as one of the three members it will take a month for them to nominate a new candidate.

So, once a given circle of people have no credits left to expend, people willing to recognize will have to find peers to sum 3 credits integrating people outside of their teams. This will force teammates to look for outsiders who still have credit, who may not work actively on the same team. Some benefits: It challenges their comfort zone, and spreads the word out of their circles telling outsiders what remarkable experiences have happened in their teams. And naturally this will provide calibration across the company.

So many advantages might make you wonder; Should we require at least one outsider from scratch within the nominator group? The answer I came up with was just to make things easier at first, so it can gain acceptance as it is being used.

Recognition statement

After three peers agree on rewarding, they need to come up with a recognition statement, which reflects what actions, skills and characteristics are a nice example to follow. The statement usually follows this structure

The reason why we ask for a recognition statement it’s because it needs to be meaningful. This will represent a milestone in the company’s growing culture, allowing everyone else to understand what valuable contributions other peers have done, and what kind of actions are valuable within the company.

Hall of fame — Make it public.

The reason why recognitions are published is to promote and record the events, so that the resulting sum of these certificates will develop a composition of our values. The hall of fame is the result of this assembly.

Each certificate that is added to this composition will result in an enhanced set of values, refining our company’s culture.

Making it public, can be seen as the act of posting it on twitter or maybe your company blog, whatever works best. You just need to think of it as a way to materialize the recognition.

In our case, we created framed certificates and we placed them in an area we called the hall of fame. This approach isn’t tight to a platform, so you can unleash creativity to decorate and organize the space as you want. Although, we tweet and sometimes we write a blog post too, this adds visibility for those who don’t come to the office.

Steps

These are the set of steps that worked best for us, following a KISS approach.

Conclusions based on our experience.

First steps

It remained untouched for 2 months at least, we had some difficulties teaching everyone why and how to use it, furthermore it raised concerns of whether it was a good idea or destined to fail. However, it captured the attention of a few who couldn’t hold back their curiosity and asked many questions. That’s why I think it’s important to keep simple rules and to emphasize it’s purpose. The rules can be improved later, gaining people’s interest should be your main goal at first. After a couple of folks were awarded it got the ball rolling, motivating some colleague who were silent at first.

Effects of peer to peer recognition on company culture.

When doing peer to peer recognition it isn’t submitted for approval, once 3 members understand that someone is deserving of a reward, it’s given. We don’t limit anything, we promote it. At the end of the day, the culture of a company is not set in stone, employees and events affect the composition of norms and values. That being said, a recognition is a reinforcement of what we value most.

When you are part of a company and you are asked if someone deserves an award, it will trigger some automatic thoughts. What are our company values? What are our values within the team? Are these actions good examples to follow? Whether the recognition is given or not, generating these questions and possible discussions around this topic will force people to keep in mind what’s considered remarkable, in doing so individuals will be closer aligned with company values. Eventually, it will encourage them to find ways to achieve their goals within the company.

Peer to Peer Recognition vs Bonus vs Promotions

Promotions depend not only on the personnel performance but also on the company performance too. Bonus, depends on profit. If there is no healthy profit margin or vacant positions, Are we unable to recognize someone’s job?

As Laszlo Bock said on his book, performance management should be decoupled form salary reviews. We shouldn’t mix extrinsic with intrinsic motivators. A rise or bonus is an extrinsic motivator, a peer to peer recognition acts as a intrinsic motivator. People is awarded by their peers. It reinforces team culture where individual success it’s a consequence of serving the team.