Nobody Likes a Tattletale

20 Jul

A Positive Alerts SystemI had an interesting conversation last week with a customer who is using an alerts system. They were really pleased at all the notifications they had configured – many of which took the form of daily reminders about tasks that needed to be completed, contracts that needed to be renewed, and the like. And then this customer said the following: 

“You know, Alerts & Workflow is kind of like a vitamin for our employees. If left on their own, they’d probably forget to take it; now they get it automatically and they understand that it’s good for them.”

Hmmmmmm . . .

 There was something about that phrase that I didn’t like; a little later it came to me:

 Nobody likes taking their vitamins.

 Oh sure, we all understand that vitamins are good for us in the long-term, but on a day-to-day basis they’re more of an annoyance than a pleasure. And then I realized that it was all-too-easy for an Alerts system to take on these same qualities. Deep down we know that being reminded about tasks and other items that require our attention is a good thing, but that “daily ding” (or two, or three . . . ) that points out what we should be doing is about as enjoyable as getting poked with a stick.

Now no one is going to argue that we don’t all need the occasional reminder, nor would we argue that it’s better to let something be forgotten than to address it. But those facts don’t make the receipt of the reminder any more palatable. And — viewed in this light — an Alerts system can very easily be seen as a “tattletale” system; one in which its main purpose is to point out those things that we are doing wrong or – in many cases – not doing at all.

 And nobody likes a tattletale, no matter how well-intentioned they may be.

 That’s why, when implementing an alerts system within your organization, you need to look long and hard for positive, reinforcing uses of that technology. In the HR world, those uses can include:

  •  Celebrating employee birthdays and term-of-work anniversaries
  • Acknowledging training certifications completed
  • Congratulations on job position advancements
  • Communicating salary increases
  • Confirming an employee’s passing of mandatory drug tests
  • Thanking employees for completing certain tasks
  • Recognizing benchmark achievements (e.g., projects completed on-time and/or under budget)
  • Acknowledging that “Nothing Bad = Something Good” (e.g., commending employees with no overdue tasks)

The importance of positive, reinforcing alerts cannot be overstated. Without them, every automated notification that an employee receives will be viewed with a combination of dread and depression – a reminder of “what’s wrong” with their work habits. And interestingly enough, it doesn’t take an equal number of positive alerts to offset the “tattletale” ones. Even just one positive, reinforcing alert per day can offset the weight of countless reminders.

Ultimately, these positive alerts do far more than just make your employees feel good about themselves. An alerts solution that is solely designed as a tattletale system stands a strong chance of failing over the long term because users will eventually ignore the alerts they receive from it. But if you show your employees that an alerts system can also be used to recognize achievements, milestones, and above average performance, your alerts system will almost assuredly be a success.

After all — although almost no one likes a tattletale, pretty much everyone likes to be recognized for a job well-done.

 

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