Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the major components of any recognition strategy. Looking at the current social media trends, it can be inferred that most of us look for the approval of our peers, and giving and receiving compliments is thoroughly enjoyed. However, when it comes to a fully fledged recognition strategy, is the exchange of compliments enough?
The answer is, No!
In a recognition system, you should offer your employees a formal system to recognize their colleagues for good work. When an employee knows he/she is formally recognized for his/her work, the culture of recognition will be sustained for years, leading to behaviour change, satisfaction and engagement.
Though recognition is a powerful tool, it is often misinterpreted. It is important to understand that recognition is no rocket science. Let’s take a look at recognition from the perspective of Neurobiological Science to understand why peer-to-peer recognition works.
Whenever we succeed at something, or achieve something, our nerve cells release a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine stimulates the reward centre of our brain.
Rodd Wagner, New York Times bestselling author, mentioned in his book Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People, that, “Dopamine not only surges when someone succeeds but also when his leaders and colleagues acknowledge his success. Because our ancestors survived better working together than fending for themselves, we are social creatures eager to be applauded for our work, whether by chants at the campfire or likes on Facebook. Recognition can release as much or more dopamine as the act that earned it.”
Therefore, when an employee is recognized by a peer, there is a high chance that he or she will repeat
the behaviour that earned the recognition. Now, do you understand why? Because this produces a double-dopamine rush! Repeating the behaviour that earned recognition feels great — and being recognized for it feels greater.
“Those who anticipate recognition for their future successes feel a greater obligation to work hard, give a higher proportion of their full effort, look for ways to improve the way they do their work and deliver more of their best ideas to the company,” says Wagner.
When you deploy a company-wide peer-to-peer program, it increases your employees’ anticipation of recognition. A well-planned program leads to frequent recognition. In our research, we have found that the anticipation of being recognized, paired with the action of being recognized itself, can drive repetition of the desired behaviour and consequently lead to highly engaged employees.