Brooks Mitchell

Here’s a heartwarming story about the human spirit that you may find hard to believe. I promise you it is true!

I have seen many management fads come and go in my 40-year career as a human resource manager for PepsiCo and Texas Instruments and as a professor of management at Southern Methodist University and the University of Wyoming.  My corporate experience has always led me to question whether or not this or that “flavor of the month” can actually have a meaningful application in the real world, while my academic background has trained me to be skeptical of everything. Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the newer management trends I have been hearing about, and I admit to a dash of dubiousness.  Then something happened that rocked my world.

Recently, I asked one of my colleagues to compile a list of employee survey comments from a 200-seat call center regarding the Snowfly incentive program they have been using.  She put everything into an Excel format for me and I selected and cut the written comments and pasted them in Microsoft Word.  I waited a few seconds for the process to be completed but my computer was in some loop and the process was aborted.  I hit escape and tried the process again to no avail!

The phone rang and I became involved in a long conversation which distracted me from my malfunctioning computer. When the conversation was over, I sat in front of my computer. To my pleasant surprise, in my absence the “pasting” had worked and the employee survey comments were on my screen and I began examining them to glean some pithy remarks to share with interested Snowfly customers and colleagues.

After reading the first five comments on page one, I realized that these comments were not reactions to the Snowfly program, but rather they were peer-to-peer messages the customer service agents had written to each other during the past year. This was facilitated by a feature of the Snowfly program which enabled them to distribute game tokens (worth $0.10 each) to co-workers as tangible appreciation for job assistance or any other reason deemed appropriate. The tokens could then be played in an online company game room which yielded reward points which could in turn were redeemed on a special Visa debit card.

These peer-to-peer comments were not exactly what I was looking for, but I quickly became intrigued by them as they are expressions of genuine, deeply felt moments of appreciation for fellow agents.

Many of the messages recounted major sacrifices which had been made to help co-workers. For example: “I would like to thank Tracey for taking care of my desk while I was out for my Dad’s funeral. She is always there for me when I am out, even my flex days. Thanks Tracey.”

I couldn’t quit reading them. I was addicted. When I noticed the word count, I was stunned and thought there must be a mistake. The document was 1,174 pages long and included 368,510 words and 23,423 comments. Unbelievable!

Now it was clear why my computer had taken so long to cut and paste this small novel. Think about it! Given an opportunity and a conduit, these barely minimum-wage, front-line customer service agents, when given the opportunity to recognize the people they worked with, put forth an average of 117 “thank you notes” per year.

I was surprised, but as a trained behavioral scientist, I shouldn’t have been. I recall my formative years at Texas Instruments and my close work with my mentor, the great industrial psychologist, Dr. Scott Meyers. He always told me that people, when given the opportunity to be empowered, will never disappoint you. His classic research and subsequent book, Every Employee a Manager, is still a must-read for all managers who genuinely believe in the value of human resources.  Scott, even though the term had not yet been coined, described peer-to-peer recognition over 45 years ago.

Now think about this 200-seat call center and the overall feeling of morale and feeling of inclusion within their workforce.  What do you think their attrition rate is?  And what do you think is their level of commitment to their customers?  I think I know!  If you read the following representative, unedited samples of these 23,423 comments, I think you will know also.

A Small Unedited Sample of 23,423 Peer-to-Peer Recognition Comments in a 200-Seat Call Center

Thank you for working my mail on 11/16/10 when I had to leave to get my sick son from school :-) I really appreciate it!
I would just like to Thank Stacy for her speed and assistance in helping with my wip again 07/08/10…thanks for helping me stay afloat while the phones were busy.
Since Linda S left our office for Fargo I have Nicole G help me when I have computer questions in order for me to do my job or how to access into programs.  Without her I don’t know what I would do.  Thanks Nicole.
I would like to thank Tracey for taking care of my desk while I was out for my Dad’s funeral.  She is always there for me when I am out, even my flex days.  Thanks Tracey
Michelle- Thanks so much for recognizing when a process is not working and taking the time to have suggestions on how to fix it!  I always know when you contact me that you will have an alternative solution available or will try to be creative and think of a new way to do things to help improve the process!  Thanks again!
I want to thank you for always taking the time to answer my questions I really really appreciate it — you are always so kind!
Amy, thank you for working extra hours keying mail on Saturday November 21st!  I really appreciate that you were willing to take time away from your family to help!
Thank you for volunteering to help out with benefit inquiries on 12.23.09!
Thank you for always being willing and volunteering to help me learn something new!  I appreciate your enthusiasm!  :)
Tanya, thank you for catching the mistake with Restaurant technologies vision claims deleting incorrectly and providing the information for the team.
Thank you for volunteering to help out with benefit inquiries on 12.23.09!
Thank you for catching that mistake in the routing structure for institutional therapy claims!
Thank you for taking time to help with a messy claim, I appreciate your willingness to take extra time to walk through and re-explain things so I understand and get it :)
Michelle, thank you for staying late on Wednesday to decorate the department for Halloween!  I really appreciate the amount of time an energy you put into creating fun activities for the department!  Thank you!
Thank you for staying late on 11.19.09 and helping to key mail!
Thank you for calling the provider on that no med review letter.  I appreciate your help.  :o)
Thanks for helping me with that prior approval that was sent as a non form… Brenda
Pat – thanks so much for organizing the Bellucks claims for me from your correspondence on moving claims from her FEP number to his FEP #.  It really saved me a lot of research into this.  Very much appreciated- thanks again.  Deb
Thank you so much for taking care of my COB task while i was out on Monday!!!!!
Thanks Cyndie for doing the extra vision tasks when I was on PTO July 1!
Georgia really helped me out the other day.  I needed to create some mocks calls for a presentation I was working on.  She took the time out of her busy schedule to go over the script and do the recordings with me.  We even had to do the recordings twice because they didn’t record the first time.  She is an awesome team player!!  Thanks Georgia!
I would like to recognize Susan.  I think she did a really great job at the extra work load that having the Valley City team in the office posed.  From things like making sure we knew where to go in the building, doing our letters, and keeping on top of getting the rooms booked at the hotel!  I just wanted Susan to know that all her extra work was greatly appreciated and does not go unrecognized!  Thanks Susan!
I would like to recognize Ruth for her great team effort.  I had been gone one day and when I came back the next day I was scheduled to be on 4009.  My buddy was out, and Ruth stepped in and worked my buddies Wip.  Even though I had not even asked her to.  Thanks, Ruth.  Your team effort is appreciated.

Snowfly is the leading provider of Internet based employee incentives, recognition and loyalty programs and has extensive expertise with home based agents. Snowfly-facilitated employee incentives and recognition programs utilize the enormous motivational power of immediate positive reinforcement to focus employee behavior on company objectives.  Compared with home-grown programs, Snowfly significantly improves KPI’s almost immediately, reduces a huge administrative burden and reduces costs.  The results are easily seen within weeks and there is no long term contractual obligation.  Customers include multiple Blue Cross/Blue Shield providers, Hyatt Hotels, Time Warner Cable, financial institutions, utility companies, cable/satellite providers, various BPO companies (business process outsourcers), and collection departments/agencies.  Snowfly’s web site:  For more information, contact Snowfly at 1-877-SNOWFLY (766-9359).

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