Why recognition should sit with engagement


hi Jon. totally agree re this depends on the organisation and its evolution. our approach could be entirely wrong for some businesses. when you say social recognition, do you mean within our tool ...

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Sitting recognition with the engagement team ensures that schemes are truly embedded and align with wider engagement plans

An effective recognition programme can dramatically boost people engagement and, in turn, help individuals and the entire company perform better.

But for a recognition programme to be successful, it needs to be engaging in itself. That means giving colleagues what they want so everyone buys in. So not only is recognition a vital tool in boosting engagement more broadly but, to do it well, you need to take everyone with you and then keep them on the journey.

That’s why we think recognition should sit with the engagement team, rather than reward or any other part of the business. It does here at Shop Direct – and it works.

Knowing what colleagues want isn’t always easy of course, but a good place to start is by asking them. It was through our own Shop Direct engagement survey that we found out we weren’t great at recognising in a consistent way. There were pockets of great practice but for other colleagues, a lack of fairness and transparency was leaving them feeling undervalued.

As the experts in engaging the workforce around important initiatives, I’d say our team was the right choice to address these concerns, aligning closely with our colleagues in reward and our people forums across the business.

The result was Shine, which we launched four years ago to recognise everyone, while reinforcing our values and boosting engagement. Shine is an online, Facebook-style tool that allows colleagues at all levels and across all sites to celebrate each other’s values-led behaviour – that’s the great work done at Shop Direct every single day. It’s totally democratic, non-hierarchical, transparent and most of all fun, and it’s now used widely across all of our sites.

Each month, every colleague is allocated £5 worth of Shine points to award to anyone across the business for behaviour they think has delivered on our purpose – ‘making good things easily accessible to more people’.

The recognitions are seen in the public Shine feed online, and our people can collect points and exchange them for vouchers or experiences. Colleagues can also recognise each other for values-led behaviour or simply say thanks without allocating their points.

These recognitions are limitless and can also be seen by everyone on Shine – which leads to comments and even wider recognition, as well as huge awareness of how our values are playing out on a day to day basis.

And to keep the programme fresh and aligned with our wider engagement plans, we’ve consistently added new features including the ability to recognise colleague milestones like birthdays, weddings, promotions and multiple years’ service; wellbeing targets like taking the lift instead of the stairs, quitting smoking or running a marathon; and the great work our teams do for our charity partner Claire House Children’s Hospice or any other charities they support.

Our 4,700 colleagues share over 26,000 recognitions per month, 17,000 of these are to call out a colleague for living our values – together, ambitious, proud, innovative and trusted. A massive 98% of colleagues are live on the system and Shine has become a verb here at Shop Direct.

We’re smashing all best practice figures, with colleagues sharing an average of six shines a month, and the programme’s won multiple awards. It demonstrates how embedded recognition is and the thousands of colleagues it brings a smile to everyday.

The most compelling statistic, however, is in engagement. Prior to the launch of Shine in 2013, our engagement score was 74%. Today it’s 84%, which is world class, and much of that improvement is down to the impact of Shine.

We’ll continue to gather feedback to improve the programme, appoint even more Shine ambassadors across our business to promote it, celebrate the top recognisers and recognised with our annual awards, add even more new features and, above all, keep on shining.

We’ve learned through experience that recognition needs to be by the people, for the people. And the engagement team, working closely with wider colleagues and reward, are the people to deliver it.

Colin Watt is group director of employee relations, engagement & people services at Shop Direct


A nice example of social recognition. There's clearly a strong link between recognition and engagement, though I'd argue this will depend upon a particular firm and its business strategy. Eg recognition can be tied closely to social collaboration too (which I'm guessing you may not have statistics for Colin?). The fact that there are multiple links between HR processes and people outcomes may also mean that as well as functional structures firms will increasingly need networks or networking approaches to link different teams together in different ways.


hi Jon. totally agree re this depends on the organisation and its evolution. our approach could be entirely wrong for some businesses. when you say social recognition, do you mean within our tool "shine"? 86% of our recognition's are deemed social - as in, not linked to purpose (points £) but aligned to 1 of our 5 values or lets celebrate/well being/charity or just say thanks. again the social networks in organisations can certainly supercharge engagement - we use our people forums for example. drop me a line if i need to elaborate. cheers, c


Colin, your recognition programme sounds fantastic, and is a great example of what can be achieved with focus (and investment!). I'd query your premise of recognition needing to sit in the engagement team, though, as I've always felt engagement should sit in the reward team... I think we're saying the same thing, though, in essence, which is that any HR programme is more effective when the team take a broad perspective on design and implementation, stepping outside of traditional boundaries.

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