Employee Recognition

The science behind social recognition and why it matters

social recognitionThe selfie. Odd place to start, we agree. Yet, if our new found digital age has taught us anything, it’s that human beings will go to just about any length to receive some form of social recognition and validation from one another.

It wasn’t that long ago that selfies were considered the symbol of self-obsession and pure narcissism. Yet here we are, in 2018, where even the most self-conscious amongst us would find it hard not to admit taking one and sharing it across social media or at least with loved ones in the hope of a few precious likes or positive comments in return.

The truth is, we’re social beings. We always have been. Be it sitting around a campsite hundreds of years ago sharing war stories, or posting that last selfie on Instagram in the hope of 100 likes, we’re biologically programmed to seek chances to bond with those around us.

How we express recognition to one another may have evolved over the years, but the need to do so hasn’t.

What we can learn from social media.

In 2014, the University of California decided to take a deeper look into how individuals posted on their Facebook timelines. They studied how both positive and negative updates actually affected their Facebook friends’ moods and behaviours.

Taking into account over 1 billion anonymised status updates from more than 100 million American based Facebook users, their study remarkably found ‘a large scale synchrony’ between emotional sentiments. 

Essentially positive Facebook status updates attracted more positive status updates in return and vice versa.

Professor of social sciences at the University of California and lead author of the study, James Fowler, went on to say:

“Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends’ emotional expressions to change. We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative.”

What’s most encouraging from the study’s findings is that social recognition is not as complex as we often make it out to be.

Encouraging employees publicly, or acknowledging just one employee’s success can have a meaningful impact on our working environments by encouraging others to emulate the success.

Why it matters so much in the workplace.

Social recognition programs can have a significant impact on our working environments. You don’t have to take just our word on this. There really is a lot of research on the topic! social recognition

In 2015, the Harvard Business School invited participants to their campus to solve a series of problems. A little over half of the participants were told to ask friends and family members to send a short email describing when they believed the participant was at his/her best, prior to taking part.

51% of those who received positive emails were able to solve the problems at hand, whilst only 19% of those who didn't get an email were able to complete the challenge.

Notably, the participants who received positive emails were significantly less stressed by solving the problem than those that didn’t receive anything.

It’s clear. Social recognition in the workplace, be it peer-to-peer or from management has a significant impact on business results.

In fact, Gallup found that companies boasting 9 engaged employees for every disengaged employee enjoyed 147% higher earnings per share compared to their competition.

With returns that high, are you wondering how to implement a successful employee recognition program? Don’t worry, we have a guide that will show you how! Download it here.


Why social recognition works.

The simple answer to why social recognition is so effective is because all of us enjoy being recognised. Remember how many likes your last selfie got on Facebook?

Aside from creating a healthy company culture, social recognition creates trust and transparency in the workplace.

The ability to see what your peers are being recognised for encourages others to achieve in a similar fashion. This often increases employee engagement, developing meaningful relationships between employees and creating an alignment with the company’s values along the way.

By 2025, it’s thought that millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. As new generations enter the workplace, it’s key for businesses to keep up with recognition and engagement trends.

The case for a healthy social recognition culture is overwhelming. Aside from boosting morale and productivity, it significantly increases employee loyalty in an age where employee retention is a significant challenge.

Not sure how to launch a social recognition program that your employees will love? Click on the image below and download a FREE copy of our latest ebook to find out how!

employee recognition