The other day I came across Julien Smith's blog posting about ways to build social networks. One of the key points he drove home is how new social tools only work if they are extensions of pre-existing human behavior. Sure the technology is new but the behaviors they help enhance are not. He uses social recommendation sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon as examples. They are newer web technologies that we didn't have five years ago to share cool sites. However, five years ago, we were still recommending cool websites to each other, just not in a one-click format like we have today. The tools will always change but - as Julien points out - as long as they are centered around human behaviors, they will most likely succeed.
Employee recognition programs, like social networks, should play out the same way. Even though some of the methods have changed, the basic human needs for recognition have remained. To improve performance, we've always wanted praise, recognition and incentives for the hard work that we do. These behaviors could be as small as getting taken out for dessert for completing a chore around the house when you were younger, to training in a sport hard for a long period of time to win a trophy, to now the more sophisticated incentive program for exceeding your company goals in your work.
Like a successful social network, successful recognition programs should be a natural extension of our normal human behavior. Whether it's an online points program or something a little more low-tech, always form your incentive programs around humans. This also involves not only recognition and incentives but clearly communicating the necessary action steps needed to earn those rewards.
What do you think? Are social media practices and recognition practices that closely paralleled?