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On IBF 24 in 2011, one of my favourite items was the demonstration from Love Machine, one of a set of new technology start-ups involving Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, and Ryan Downe, who walked us through the functionality.   Their other projects include “Coffee & Power” and the “Worklist”, both also very interesting in their own right.

Love Machine describes itself as “cool new employee recognition system” which allows users to “send a little bit of love” through the enterprise via short thank you messages between co-workers.

Basically short messages and positive feedback from one employee to another are sent into the “love machine” – a hosted service (currently not integrated with anything else) – and are transparent for everybody to see.  At the end of a regular period, for example every quarter, employees with the most feedback  get gift vouchers based on the proportion of messages they have received.  Love Machine is simple, fun and feel-good. And whilst it might not be culturally appropriate for everybody, with the right context and spirit, I can see it working well in many organisations.

Whilst Love Machine is a specific application, there are a variety of ways to send praise and appreciation through using similar social tools already deployed in the enterprise. This can include anything from rating content to “gamification” features such as awarding badges to co-workers.

For example there is a “Praise” function on Yammer which allows an open message plus accompanying ‘happy icon’ to be directed from one person to another.  Of course praise and thanks can also be directed via Yammer in other ways. For example on our heavily-used internal IBF Team Yammer group we tend not to use the “Praise” function, but instead say thank you in a message or use the “Like” option to show approval for an action.

As giving praise between co-workers via social tools becomes normalized, an interesting development is how organisations are starting to use the capture of informal and usually transparent feedback in more structured HR processes.

Outside the enterprise, for example on service marketplaces for freelancers such as oDesk (another participant on IBF 24) this is already standard practice. Feedback and ratings are given by employers on contractors after each completed job, and sometimes after each project milestone.  This feedback is often the key criteria used by other employers to assess whether they should hire somebody. In fact many people starting out on oDesk have to lower their fees in order to build up a good online reputation through feedback so they can win subsequent work.

A prominent example of this happening inside the enterprise is how Facebook have used a product from  Rypple called “Loops” with their young workforce.  This offers the ability for employees to receive mainly transparent feedback in an aggregated activity stream from four different sources:

–          Fellow employees

–          Feedback from supervisors

–          Thank you messages from any source

–          Structured progress towards work goals

Because feedback is continuous, carried out closer to a relevant event, done in a similar way to interacting via a social network and is generally very easy to do, it means that it is more naturalistic. Facebook use the data from the feedback loops to feed into more structured HR processes such as appraisal reviews. Some departments also use it as the basis for discussion for regular supervisor – employee check-ins.

Informal systems like Rypple will be different from the sort of feedback which is given during a 360 feedback appraisal.  Appraisal feedback is likely to be more detailed and potentially may involve a negative (but constructive) element.  Most people I know find giving appraisal feedback quite a chore, often because it is incredibly time-consuming.  Ongoing and informal feedback may be a preferred option.

Significantly last month Rypple was acquired by Salesforce, and will shortly be re-branded as Successforce.  This is a significant buy and a real signal that “sending love” around the enterprise using online tools is about to become big business.  Meanwhile some HR-related vendors such as Taleo have been in this space already for a while (and delivered a rather stinging assessment of Rypple) whilst others are bound to be sharpening their offerings for 2012.

With things starting to happen in the space, intranet managers may need to keep an eye on developments.  Questions and Issues which come to mind are:

–          Does your intranet or ‘social platform’ already capture praise either formally and informally and how can or might this intersect with more formal processes?

–          Is your firm acquiring an employee recognition system like Rypple which should be integrated with your intranet?

–          Does your intranet or social software platform already have functionality relating to this which is currently not being used?

–          Will you need to integrate any feedback submitted to these systems with your employee directory or profile?

–          Can you lead the thinking with your HR department on this?

As we’ve already established in our “Intranet Love Affairs” campaign, the intranet certainly has a role to play in spreading love and praise around any organization.

About the author

This is a guest post by Steve Bynghall. Steve was the content producer for IBF 24 2011 and helped research Paul Miller’s forthcoming book on the “Digital Workplace.”  He has written two research reports for IBF, and regularly blogs for DWF and IBF. Steve is the founder of Two Hives Ltd, a consultancy specialising in KM, collaboration and web-based projects. Steve previously worked at accountancy firm BDO in a variety of knowledge roles, including managing their global extranet programme. He has just co-written a book on crowdsourcing with Ross Dawson titled “Getting Results from Crowds.”

About the author

Steve-BynghallSteve Bynghall is a research associate, benchmark evaluator and knowledge manager for DWG. He is also a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in knowledge management, collaboration, intranet and social business. Steve previously worked at accountancy firm BDO in a variety of knowledge roles, including managing its global extranet programme. He recently co-wrote a book on crowdsourcing with Ross Dawson.

Steve is passionate about being able to work from anywhere, and is occasionally seen in local coffee shops with his trusty laptop. When not working, Steve can be found exploring London with his family.

Connect with Steve on Twitter: @bynghall or on Google +.

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