Recognizing Employee Achievement with Badges

Badges Recognize Accomplishment, Expertise, Authority

Badges are a well-known feature of gaming and social media, but they’re nothing new. The Boy Scouts have been using them to encourage youngsters to learn new skills and rack up achievements for a century.

And, of course, law enforcement has long used badges as a symbol of authentic authority. Badges have proven their worth in recognizing progress and conveying expertise. So why don’t more employers use them as part of their performance management programs?

In many performance management programs, you set goals at the beginning of the year and then get assessed on your achievement at the end of the year. If you’re lucky, you might get a checkpoint along the way.

Based on your final assessment, you get a score and maybe a raise. That’s it. No one else knows how you did or what you excelled at.

Badges could be a symbol of recognition just shy of a raise or promotion (or a supplement). They could serve as acknowledgment of progress. Your company could award a badge for enhancing a relevant skill, learning a new one or living up to a company value or competency.

The value of these badges is not only in recognizing the employee’s achievement but in identifying that employee to others as an expert or authority in a certain field or skill. Becoming known as the go-to person for “project management”, for example, would further reinforce the employee’s strengths and give your company its own resident expert.

A well-defined set of badges could help focus employees’ efforts while letting them pursue unique personal development paths. Where do you put these badges? You could place them on employees’ online profiles (check out what the FDA has done) or add them to email autosignatures. Physical badges, like ribbons or certificates, would also work, but would only be effective in organizations where employees share space. For one client, we recently created a series of removable/restickable laptop stickers; colors indicate what level of leader bestowed it.

Online publishers and game developers think badges will attract users. The Boy Scouts know a badge will encourage a young man to help an old lady cross the street. By giving us lasting, sharable recognition, badges can unlock the desire we all have to take on challenges, accrue achievements and be known for what we’re good at.

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