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6 Things We Wish We Knew about Rewards and Recognition Software before Buying

Read this advice before you guy employee recognition software

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
April 6, 2021
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HR teams are constantly striving to build stronger cultures for their organization.  A common solution for strengthening employee engagement is to implement an employee rewards and recognition software in order to supercharge the employee experience and employee satisfaction.

However, there are several things every human resources team needs to know before implementing employee recognition software.  Otherwise, you are most likely going to fail.

Below is the advice we wish we’d known before buying reward and recognition software, we hope it allows you to be successful when looking at recognition solutions.

In This Article


Viral loops drive adoption for employee recognition programs

In the past, there was so much manual work that HR had to do in order to make employee recognition programs successful.  Today, employee recognition and rewards tools do a lot to run themselves.

The modern employee recognition program looks like this: employee logs into system (via mobile, or an integration, more on that later), and recognizes a peer for anything from leading a meeting to closing a massive new deal.


That person who’s been recognized gets an alert, and goes into the system to check out their recognition.  They’re feeling pretty good, and recognize a few of their colleagues.  

Those team members then go into the system and recognize more employees to continue this loop. This viral mechanic repeats itself and ensures your team constantly uses this system.

A well run peer to peer recognition program sees around 90% of employees logging into the system each month to recognize their co-workers.  This viral loop is a powerful way to scale an effective recognition program.

Without this virtuous cycle of employees getting and then giving public recognition, HR teams are forced to continuously beg people to use the system - or risk this tool having little impact on company culture.

Employee recognition needs to be automated

Beyond the viral nature of peer to peer recognition, there should be automation built into your rewards program.  This means that work anniversaries, birthdays, employee of the month, and other key dates/awards are marked with rewards and kudos.

Using a legacy system, it’s either very hard to setup this automation, or it’s hard to scale it over time due to a lack of integrations with your core HR systems which house employee data.  Either way, it’s going to mean more work for human resources, and less effective employee experience programs. 

Make sure you have the right HR software integrations

Speaking of integrations, it’s key that your new recognition tool integrates with your HRIS.  As mentioned, this allows for work anniversaries and other key dates to be recognized.

An integration with your core HR system also allows for automated onboarding workflows for new employees.  And, assuming your HRIS is up to date with the latest data, your recognition program will also have this info. 

Another, maybe even more key, integration is with your employee’s software of choice: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, etc. 

The best recognition platforms are going to allow your employees to receive and give recognition natively in the tools they already use on a daily basis.  This drastically reduces the friction required to give recognition, which means higher employee engagement. 

Other key integrations include wellness programs (it's always great to give recognition for the hard work in a steps challenge), onboarding solutions, and other employee experience software (engagement, performance management, etc).

Don’t choose the wrong employee rewards and recognition ideas

When vetting employee recognition programs, it’s important to look at what rewards you can offer employees.  Some common fails are very narrow lists of potential rewards, or rewards that only relate to your company (branded coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc).

Employees want to actually use their rewards, so plugging into a system with a large network of gift cards is great.

Other pro tips here are to look for rewards that are experiential (people will remember a cocktail making class more than a cocktail kit), or that allow your employees to be charitable (either directly to a non profit, or to one of their colleagues).

Align employee appreciation with culture and values

It’s great to recognize employees.  This leads to higher engagement, retention, more employee referrals, etc.

However, if you can also align your recognition program with your company values, that is a huge win.  Look for platforms that can specifically allow employees to shoutout the why in a values context when recognizing a colleague (i.e. I’m nominating Judy who went above and beyond for customer XYZ which aligns with our customer first value).

Another important point here is for employees to see team members who've gone the extra mile in a feed similar to what they'd see on social media (Facebook or LinkedIn's feeds). This is familiar, and has been proven by social media companies to drive engagement!

Employee recognition software will not fix your culture

Lastly, it’s important to understand that no HR software tool is going to change fundamental issues with your work environment.  If you have a massive employee retention issue that is the result of toxic managers, under market compensation, poor onboarding, etc. - then you have more important priorities.

In fact, encouraging peer to peer recognition before fixing core culture issues will lead to employee resentment.  The feeling you’ll get will be more of “HR is pretending this company is great when it’s not.”

But, if your culture is in good shape, then partnering with a top employee rewards and recognition program to enhance your employee experience is a great way to increase employee performance, retention, and engagement. Good luck!

More on Employee Recognition:

Are Businesses Rethinking Their Employee Recognition Programs?

Fun Employee Recognition Award Ideas

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Phil Strazzulla

Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2022, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

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