by Jennifer Lumba | August 27, 2012
New research from a Bersin & Associates study finds that workers and their superiors disagree about how their contributions are recognized and rewarded. And if that weren’t bad enough, further evidence from a University of Heidelberg study suggests that when the right conditions are in place, managers frequently exploit subordinates.
According to that same Bersin & Associates study, 80 percent of senior leaders surveyed believe that their employees receive due recognition at least monthly. Of that group, 43 percent said workers received praise weekly or more often.
Not surprisingly, rank-and-file employees were more sanguine. Only 40 percent of day-to-day managers and 22 percent of individual contributors told Bersin that they receive any sort of recognition monthly. Yet these may be the lucky ones.
In an experiment involving some 2,500 volunteers, three economists at the University of Heidelberg found that executives were more likely to exploit the work of junior-level employees. Abuse was most pronounced in cases where subordinates were unaware of how managers were profiting from their work. And we wonder why Gallup says two-thirds of employees in an average organization rank themselves as “disengaged”?
A problem of this magnitude isn’t solved quickly or with a single change. But a good start might be to foster open communication between workers and their superiors. Here are 10 tips for using popular and homegrown social networks to get executives and staff working together more closely:
1. Create a shared site. Don’t hide. Give all employees central access to key documents and materials that are relevant to their work and the business at large. Use syncing tools and online file sharing systems such as Dropbox.
2. Make a schedule and stick to it. Communication works best when it is delivered at regular intervals. Set a schedule for publishing corporate news, including information on new projects, customers, services, and other initiatives. Use in-house social feeds that allow employees to spread the word to colleagues.
3. Host private groups. Sharing corporate data with employees doesn’t have to mean forgoing privacy. Set up an invite-only Facebook page or online chat room where employees, managers, and company leaders can check in and discuss ideas.
4. Communicate proactively. Don’t wait for the grapevine. Use public and private social networks as newsfeeds so that workers have daily access to corporate information. Include context with tweets and posts. If an initiative is important, say so.
5. Align rewards. Make sure your employee recognition programs allow for tangible recognition for achieving goals. That way, when workers learn about the details of a new project or initiative, they’ll also have an incentive for helping the company move forward.
6. Make it a contest. Don’t just reward; publish. Use social media to highlight workers who’ve taken steps to help achieve corporate goals in the hopes that peers will rise to challenge and grab their own shot at glory.
7. Get online and engage. Social media knows no strata or borders. Use this to your advantage. Encourage executives and front-line managers to take to the Web to converse with everyday employees about their work, their problems, and their ideas.
8. Don’t assign. Enlist. Forget job boards and recruiting posters. Use social media to advertise new initiatives and openings. Suggest that only a limited number may enlist and may only do so through the company social media feeds.
9. Get executives on the record. While the occasional trip to the social media feeds is good for executives, it’s just as good to get them on record talking about strategy, direction, and where help is needed.
10. Ask questions and solicit feedback. Finally, remember that social media isn’t a broadcast tool but a listening tool. Read. Find out what rank-and-file employees say about company strategy. Does it match up with management’s hopes? Measuring the gulf is often the first step to bridging it.
Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions ( Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau’s employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at