Dale Carnegie once said, “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.” Any organization wants to get the most from their employees and handing out praise when it’s due is a great motivator. Digital signage systems offer a perfect opportunity to create employee profiles that highlight superior work.
Why Praise Matters
The need for recognition is so deeply ingrained in people that you almost can’t give too much. It’s a bit of a business cliché these days to invoke Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it’s still relevant. Basically, humans have essential needs that must be met for them to truly become themselves. Often illustrated with a pyramid, the bottom items (physical) must be met before the upper ones (psychological) can be worked on. In bottom-to-top order, the needs are:
- Survival (food, water, shelter, sleep)
- Safety (physical & economic security – in business, this corresponds to salary and benefits)
- Love & Belonging (family, team, social)
- Esteem (recognition, respect)
- Self-Actualization (creativity, challenges, learning, taking advantage of and creating opportunities)
Some years ago, there was a book called The Carrot Principle which looked at the findings of an in-depth, ten-year management study. The authors found that managers who are considered good at recognizing their employees had better departmental results and lower turnover, and were perceived to be more honest and trustworthy. So workers who are recognized are happy, and managers that show appreciation are themselves appreciated. There are many other studies out there that say essentially the same thing – people will work harder for a company they feel a valued part of, and this is even more important than money. In fact, the Japanese National Institute for Psychological Sciences has conducted experiments showing that the same part of the brain that responds to receiving cash is also activated when receiving a compliment. And it costs nothing to the organization.
Praise is also good for health. Some of the same Japanese scientists found that frequent positive social interactions, especially in the forms of praise or attention from others, actually activate the reward centers of the brain. They also found the converse – that lack of social connection leads to serious problems and should be considered a health risk similar in seriousness to smoking and obesity.
A group of American scientists found that what is probably activated by praise and attention is the hypothalamus, which controls bodily functions like eating and sleeping, as well as the release of the “reward neurotransmitter” dopamine, which could explain why something as simple as paying positive attention to someone can reduce their chances of depression. A report by Canada’s Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace says that “Depression will rank second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide by the year 2020, which can impact the workplace in areas such as bottom-line production and team work.” So, a little attention can not only have a positive effect now but also reduce problems in the future.
Giving praise for a job well done – meeting a deadline, landing a sale, achieving a target – belongs to number four on Maslow’s Hierarchy, giving employees a foundation to be their best, self-actualized selves. Digital signage is a great tool for giving recognition and kudos to teams and individuals. But let’s look at number three: Belonging. This is the foundation on which esteem-raising praise rests. Recognition doesn’t just have to be when certain things are achieved – it can be a constant, year-round thing that continues to feed the need everyone has to be a part of a community. And your digital signs can help here as well by showing employee profiles on a regular basis.
What is an Employee Profile?
A profile is a simple message that highlights a particular employee. You still want to follow best practices for digital signage design, so don’t cram everything you know about the person into a single message. Select one to three items to highlight. Employee of the month is certainly one way to single someone out for praise and positive attention. The same goes for welcome messages spotlighting new employees. But there’s a lot more possible with digital signage profiles – each employee is a complete person with their own history and achievements at the organization as well as a whole life and series of interests outside of work.
Even a small organization that uses digital signage has a reasonable number of people working for it, and larger ones can have literally thousands of employees. So, there’s plenty of raw material to use for creating profiles. And each person can probably have two or more profiles, each with different information. For example, let’s say a company of 30 employees gives each person two profiles. That’s 30 weeks of content if they put two new ones up each week. It’s probably a good idea to include at least two people in your playlist at a time, so there isn’t too much attention focused on one person. Plus, other people won’t have to wait too long before they see themselves up on the screens.
You should certainly make sure that everyone in the company gets their turn in a profile message – try to imagine how Joanna would feel if she were the only person in her department left out of the fun. And while the vast majority of people will happily participate, there might be a couple of truly shy people who really don’t want their picture and information up on the screens. Try to get them interested, but if they are adamant, respect their wishes. Otherwise, all the positive benefits digital signage profiles can bring to an employee will be reversed, creating feelings of anxiety instead of belonging.
You’ll need a picture of the person, some professional data and some personal data. Employees can supply their own pictures (people almost always choose flattering photos of themselves), or you can standardize the look by taking pictures in house. Try to make sure the person is recognizable in the picture – part of the point of profiles is to create a sense of community, where everybody knows everyone else, or can at least recognize them. If you want to have some fun by showing baby pictures or lifestyle shots, just make sure you follow up with a current pic.
Professional data can probably be gotten from HR or their manager – like when they started with the organization, which department they’re in and their job title. That’s a bit dry, though, so consider adding at least one fun or personal bit of info – like “Kamal is Project Manager for Development. He started working here April 14 seven years ago, and he loves frisbee golf.” Suddenly Kamal is more than just a face in the cafeteria, or the guy that sits in that one office, but a person with an interest in frisbee golf. Maybe there are other people who also like this sport, or who are interested in it or want to know more about it. Now people have more reason to chat with Kamal.
For personal information, you might go out to managers and ask them to gather it. You could also create a fun questionnaire with a few funny or unexpected questions for employees to fill out themselves. Things like what part of town they live in, where they grew up or went to school, some of their interests and hobbies, a short quote they try to live by, a ten-word bio they write themselves, the punchline to their favorite joke, etc. The more of the person’s personality that can come through, the better.
You can add these profiles to your blog or intranet, maybe giving more information than what’s in the digital signage message. This is a good way to drive traffic to these portals. You can even make profiles public- or customer-facing by adding them to your social media – a quick Facebook post, a tweet, a picture on Instagram. This helps integrate all your information dissemination efforts into a cohesive whole. Plus, it helps out the people and departments responsible for coming up with content for these other offerings.
You can color-code profile messages, so your audience knows it’s a profile on the screens before they even start reading the text. In fact, color-coding can be used to create different kinds of profiles. The most common way is what is outlined here – a picture and some brief info about a person. But maybe it turns out that a whole lot of people in your organization are into running, or come from the same city, or are interested in wine. In that case, you can have a series of profiles messages about the Wine Club, with a nice wine-red background, maybe an interesting fact about wine, and a list of people in your organization who say they’re connoisseurs. Joe in Accounting might be pleasantly surprised to find out that Harold in Operations also loves wine (or running or the Batman films, or whatever). Creating these sorts of bonds and connections is really the main point of doing employee profiles in the first place.
You don’t have to stick to profiles of people. Initiatives, projects, products and services can also get a spotlight message on your digital signage. Personalizing non-human elements of an organization can also create a bit of fun and a feeling of connectedness. “Meet our new widget” (or whatever it is) is a lot more effective than “We have a new widget”.
Any type of organization can use profiles – corporate offices and hubs, universities campuses and schools, healthcare facilities and places of worship, hotels and conference centers. Anyone who works or attends there, and anything the organization does or offers, is inherently interesting to an audience. But especially people.
So, technology can actually emphasize the humanity of a workplace. With not much effort, organizations can go the extra mile for their employees, giving them some positive attention and building community. Profiles on your digital signs remind your audience that the organization is made up of people – people who are as complex and varied as they are themselves. That’s a way to help turn people from co-workers into colleagues.