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Employee recognition software aims for emotional ties to job

Cisco credited Globoforce for boosting participation in its employee recognition effort, but said awards need closer links to innovation, and some managers are more frugal than others.

Cisco is using Globoforce software to dramatically boost participation in a program for recognizing employees whose work best represents the company's values.

Under a recognition program on the software, 73% of Cisco's 72,000 employees received an award valued from $25 to $2,000, Claire Gray, senior director of compensation and performance management at Cisco, told attendees at the HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas. Overall, Cisco spends $58 million a year on the awards, she said.

A total of 185,000 awards have been provided to employees, Gray said. An employee nominates another employee for an award, and a manager approves it, said a spokeswoman for Globoforce, which is based in Southborough, Mass. A manager only rarely rejects an award, the spokeswoman said. The Globoforce employee recognition software increased the percentage of employees who received an award, Gray said. It replaced a more traditional program, which provided awards to 39% of employees, Gray said.

The employee recognition software is mostly used to build an emotional connection between workers and their jobs, and help employees fulfill their potential, she said.

A Cisco survey found that employees who received $250 award, for example, basically were just as satisfied as employees who received $1,000.

"I received a gift card, and I took my girlfriends out to dinner one night," Gray said. "That made me feel good to share with them. It's not about the actual money. It is much more about that actual experience."

Awards more than $1,000 are cash, while those less than $1,000 are gift cards.

Increased visibility of award nominees

The software is easy to use and provides a "cool, intuitive platform," said Gray, who led the HR Tech session with Eric Mosley, co-founder and CEO at Globoforce.

I received a gift card, and I took my girlfriends out to dinner one night.
Claire Graysenior director of compensation and performance management, Cisco

She said Cisco chose Globoforce partly because it is a global company like Cisco.

"Together, we are making our companies better," she said. "We push each other. It is not always easy. We don't always adopt every idea on the first go, but we're committed to make sure that we are continuing to innovate. If we stand still, it will die on the vine."

She said the goals of the program include increasing participation in employee recognition programs, reinforcing company values, boosting employee satisfaction scores and promoting teamwork. The program is also aimed at increasing productivity, but the company still is working on ways to measure that aspect, she said.

There is a lot of flexibility with the employee recognition software, she said. When using the software, employees can recognize another employee or they can redeem an award. There is a feed of people who are getting recognized, and employees can leave comments.

"It is very visible," Gray said. "That is a huge change with this program."

Under the old program, no one knew who was being recognized unless a manager sent out an email, she said.

In making nominations, employees must say that the award is being given for a co-worker's representation of certain Cisco values, such as teamwork, focusing on customers or innovation.

Cisco hopes to inspire innovation with awards

Cisco went live globally with Globoforce in January 2014, after a small pilot and a larger pilot the two prior years, Gray said.

The program still is evolving and is only in its early stages, she said. Right now, the awards tend to be unevenly distributed, since some teams use it more than others and some managers are more frugal, she said.

Cisco employee recognition program gives up to $2,000

Cisco's voluntary employee appreciation program is called "Connected Recognition," and it gives workers the power to give awards to other employees.

During the fiscal year, 85% of employees took part by either giving or receiving an award, said Claire Gray, senior director of compensation and performance management at Cisco. Some people gave and did not receive anything, while many gave and received, she said. Connected Recognition supplanted a program that essentially involved managers giving small bonuses after reaching a milestone or finishing a big project.

There are different award levels, ranging from $25 to $2,000, she said.

A manager can provide an award as much as $2,000 to an employee or another manager. Generally, a regular employee can award a peer or a manager up to $250. The vast majority of awards are $50 to $500, she said.

The awards also need to be tied more closely to sparking innovation, because that is a main emphasis at the company, she said.

Also, the awards should be provided more regularly through a fiscal year, she said. Right now, too many are given toward the end of the fiscal year because of a "use it or lose it" feeling among managers, she said.

Cisco wants to find ways to increase participation among low users, but as an incentive, it also might give more money to high users, she said.

Overall, she said, the program is enjoying wide adoption and is great for employees.

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What employee recognition software does your company use?
Different departments have different implementations, but most of them use a custom SharePoint solution. I do not think that we have an enterprise-wide system for employee recognition at this time.
mcorum -- Thanks for the comment and the information. It seems like pretty simple technology. What are your thoughts on how the program is working?
Social recognition platform like Globoforce create higher impact since the connect employees across geographical business areas, not to mention that they emphasize recognition that's linked to organisational values and desired behaviours
Honestly, I think it has minimal success, and I think that is attributable to the fact that these solutions are segregated and lack a good social networking-type implementation to help with adoption. Recognition is limited in scope because it often doesn’t propagate out of the solution of origin, so others may not know that recognition has been received or that they can give recognition to someone from another department.
It is important to understand your own business requirements applicable to your business context before choosing an employee recognition software, criteria for recognizing
Faith123 -- Thanks for the comment and the link. The link references Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is simple but fascinating. Abraham Maslow in the 1940s came up with 5 essential truths for achieving contentment: I like No. 3, which is social needs, kind of no man can be an island. No. 1 is self-actualization, or becoming the person we want to be. As Eric Mosley pointed out at the HR Tech session, virtually all pay is for the lower order of needs, or shelter and food, and then security.
Mcorum - Thanks for the followup comment. It sounds like you do need a single platform for employee recognition programs. That is probably one big reason it seems to be working at Cisco.
That sounds like a good program, and I think that everyone would agree that it feels great to be rewarded. Those 73% must feel pretty good - but since that's a large percentage of employees, imagine how bummed the other 27% must be. It's entirely possible that there are some excellent employees in there, who just did not happen to be nominated by anyone.

My team is like that - there just isn't a lot of open recognition. There is a company reward program  but no one from my group has ever been nominated, whereas other groups seem to be nominating each other all the time.