Using Activity Streams to Give Badges Instead of Performance Reviews


It seems like every day we see new ways to turn industrial age management tactics into ones more suited for the digital economy. Take the activity stream, for example. It is becoming the modern  equivalent of the “memo,” or “report” from the boss. Today, it’s the stream, not a report or standardized form that is more relevant to the modern workforce.

Socialcast and Yammer understand this new way of communicating more than most companies I follow. Last week, Socialcast launched a service called “Thanks.” It further extends the concept of the activity stream as a way to reward people for their good work. It gives out real-time feedback with badges that an employee and all her colleagues can see right in the activity stream itself. In May, Yammer launched a similar service in its activity stream called “Praise.” It also allows people to give out badges to colleagues.

Activity streams naturally align with badges in a modern work setting where so much of our work is online.

Traditional performance reviews can help keep the business and its processes on track by reviewing individual performance. But they are also limiting. They often don’t reflect how an employee is doing on a day-to-day basis. The reviews judge people by the goals that have been set. The result is often a poor reflection of the individual. The employee can go for months without getting any feedback on they are doing in their work.  It can lead to frustration and a feeling that their work does not matter.

A number of startups are reaching into the performance review spaceto provide more comprehensive and immediate feedback. Most notably are companies such as Rypple, Achievers, Small-Improvements, Engage and Sonar 6. More established services include Success Factors and Halogen.

With “Thanks,” the reward is for the work you do. Finish a big support project under deadline for a client and you may get a “customer satisfaction,” badge.  Direct a team to a sales victory and earn a badge for “leadership.”

The service includes:

  • Ability to create and upload custom badges.
  • Ability to set the frequency and allotment of badges per community.
  • Ability to activate or deactivate Thanks feature.
  • Analytics and trends of badges.
  • Customize default badges.
  • Views Thanks badges in mobile and API clients.
  • A Thanks dashboards to give insight into top receivers and senders to highlight employees inside the community.

We’ve explored this concept of rewards before. The activity stream becomes compelling for we always are curious to see what comes next. Badges add to our curiosity. Companies like FourSquare pioneered this concept. The key is simplicity. On FourSquare you get a badge for checking in. Thanks is a rewards system for real-time performance in the workplace. In some respects, this is the kind of service that serves a far more clear purpose than one in a consumer setting.

The underlying value for the Socialcast service is in the analytics. A service like Thanks can become another social media tool without any meaning. Through Socialcast tracking and data analysis, managers can get a gauge on who is getting rewardsor who is not. It can show who is giving out awards and why.

This has to be a service that is simple to use. Otherwise it only adds another feature to an activity stream that is increasingly becoming cluttered with features that do nothing but fulfill the requirements of a customer check list.