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10 mobile apps for recognizing employees, but take care…

27 Feb, 2015 Employee recognition

This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.

When my wife Linda and I had a coffee with a neighbor recently, our neighbor complained about the lack of recognition in her company. She heads the business improvement area in a billion dollar company and is paid a salary of several hundred thousand dollars a year. Yet even at her senior level she was unhappy about the way top management failed to recognize her work – which improved the bottom line by many millions of dollars. What’s more, operational managers were trying to take the credit for some of her work. She was actually thinking of leaving the company due to the lack of recognition for her good achievements.

This story is a strong reminder that hunger for recognition is one of the strongest motivators for employees, ahead of money and various other factors.

I have written several articles and a Kindle book, Employee Recognition: The secret to Great Team Performance about employee recognition, having managed several such projects in-house and as a consultant for various organizations. Through all these experiences I’m still amazed how senior managers overlook such a simple concept so much.

Employee recognition is made easier now with the availability of several mobile apps to give that due praise and acknowledgement for work well done. Nevertheless, don’t overlook the fact that face-to-face expressions of recognition are more effective than digital versions. Below are 10 employee recognition apps:

1. iAppreciate

Released by O.C. Tanner, an 85-year-old company known for its employee rewards and recognition products, iAppreciate enables you to celebrate employee milestones, appreciate efforts, reward results, and more. What’s more, employees can send one another inspiring messages, too, and share their accolades on Twitter and Facebook.

2. Achievers

This app from San Francisco-based employee-engagement vendor Achievers enables workers to accumulate recognition points that they can apply toward merchandise, gift cards, and even trips. Or they can use their points to make a donation to their favorite charity. Employers may also designate points for employees to use to recognize peers.

3. GiveAWow

Through a Terryberry bulletin board platform, employers and employees can use the GiveAWow app to give virtual high-fives and sing one another’s praises on social networks. The bulletin board’s point system enables employees to earn credit toward Billboard digital music downloads.

4. Employee Appraisals

From software developer Seann Hicks comes a performance appraisal app designed to encourage continuous employee feedback. Employers can track goals, accomplishments, and performance, and share praise via email. Data can be exported, too.

5. Socialcast Thanks

Thanking employees for their hard work and accomplishments is easier through Socialcast’s VMware-backed network. Businesses already using Socialcast’s enterprise collaboration software can increase employee engagement through the Thanks premium add-on app. Employees can also give thanks and recognize others’ contributions in real time.

6. Sparcet

Accessed from a LinkedIn, Google, or Facebook account, Sparcet encourages employee-to-employee digital recognition. Co-workers can show their gratitude or recognize one another simply by filling out a quick form. A “sparcet” can also be printed and hand-delivered to the achiever. The software is also available as a desktop app.

7. Globoforce Mobile

Globoforce Mobile is a complete app for employee recognition from Globoforce Ltd. In real time, the app lets you nominate colleagues for awards, approve pending nominations, receive awards, redeem awards, view and congratulate colleagues for recognition they’ve received via a social newsfeed and more, all in a safe and secure environment. Globoforce Mobile is available to download at Apple’s App Store.

8. TapMyBack.com

Tap My Back is a platform for providing peer recognition across the whole company. Employees get recognition for their jobs well done, and managers get reports and analysis of how everyone is doing. Team leaders are able to define the actions that can be recognized and rewarded, which triggers behavioral change according to your values and goals. This product also integrates with Slack, making it an easy addition for companies that stay in touch that way. 

9. 360 Recognition

The 360 Recognition Platform by long-established recognition experts, Terryberry, encompasses a peer recognition program, service anniversary awards, achievement awards, and more. Modules work together to help build a culture of recognition in your organization. With 360 Recognition, add as many or as few modules as your needs require. The 360 Integrated Recognition Platform gives you a complete picture of your organization’s overall recognition culture, and helps you pinpoint your recognition strengths and opportunities.

10. Kudos

Kudos is a corporate social network and peer-to-peer recognition system designed to engage your teams with enhanced communication, collaboration, appreciation and recognition. Kudos is simple, scalable, flexible, effective and affordable.

Risks in using employee recognition software

It is tempting to ‘subcontract’ various aspects of employee recognition to software and apps. However, one of the key factors in employee recognition is the ‘people factor.’ Most workers want their recognition to be live and in person, not delivered via impersonal social media systems and gamification, etc.

In a Gallup workplace survey, employees were asked to recall who gave them their most meaningful and memorable recognition: “The data revealed the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee’s manager (28%), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%), the manager’s manager (12%), a customer (10%) and peers (9%).” Around 17% of employees cited “other” as the source of their most memorable recognition, which presumably included software and apps, a comparatively low proportion.

A review conducted by Gartner, Inc in 2015 (“Technology Overview for Employee Recognition and Rewards Software” – access by subscription) found the use of software systems including apps can be relevant to mid-size organizations of 500+ employees. The platforms “should be used to complement – not replace – the annual merit increase, incentive/bonus award and promotion management processes…” The Gartner report noted the drawbacks of using software systems:

  • Employees may “game” the system, working in conjunction with peers in a quid pro quo fashion to drive up mutual point values and/or recognition, which undermines the philosophy for having the system.
  • Leaderboards and badges can spur system utilization but may also encourage the wrong behaviors (such as too much focus on visibility attainment versus core job requirements).
  • Recognition results can be at odds with the formal performance review. Employees and employers need to understand that social recognition and rewards are one perspective on performance and are not mutually exclusive. (For example, in a retail environment, the measured goal may be to serve as many customers as possible, but an employee may receive a lot of praise for spending more time with a customer to solve a problem. So the employee gets praise for doing the right thing, but it may run counter to official measures.)
  • Recognition not based on a commonly understood benchmark or standard could lead to situations where the recognition becomes so frequent that it becomes meaningless and given for just “doing the job as expected,” rather than recognizing exceptional efforts or exceeding expectations.
  • There could be privacy concerns when individuals are uncomfortable with public recognition due to, for example, fear of resentment from co-workers.
  • For very “traditional” organizations, social recognition may appear alien if the organization is not culturally open; low engagement and program failure can result.
  • If recognition events are broadcast on external social media (such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), there are risks to confidential company information and personal privacy preferences. Additionally, organizations risk exposing top performers to recruiters outside the organization.

Not a suitable game plan

“Gamification” has become considered by some people as a form of recognition, but what most people call “gamification” is actually what experts call “pointsification” or “badgification” – the addition of things like leaderboards, badges and a competitive or acquisitive element into software. The key point is that there is no real substitute for direct human interaction in employee recognition. Employees understand that. Here are the responses from employees in the Globoforce “Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker” survey:

Globoforce also wrote in more detail about this in their article, “Why gamification and recognition don’t mix.”

This article was updated in 2020.

About the author Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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