honey badger

MeritShare has figured out a new way to give employees recognition through game-like incentives. The Seattle-based startup is one more company that is offering “gamification” services, or making non-game applications more engaging with game-like rewards.

honey badger 2In contrast to other rivals such as Bunchball or Badgeville, MeritShare offers both online and offline rewards, with social elements and public appreciation aimed at helping companies motivate their employees. Most other employee recognition programs are relegated to internal networks, but MeritShare believes that transparent awards are better. The company allows an option for businesses to create public profiles for award winners. That helps the employee build a professional reputation online. The rewards even come up in search results about that person.

MeritShare has web-based software that can be used to set up awards for companies. The service includes a free tier for any individual or team to get started. MeritShare creates recognition communities based by corporate email domains. When a user registers and confirms a matching email, they are then able to access and give awards for that company. By creating a unique reward, the company can differentiate itself from others.

Based on one trial, more than 40 percent of employees at one company have given a thanks or an award to somebody else. Notification email open rates are above 50 percent. Employees can be given awards, shout-outs, comments, and points. Managers can share the awards via email weekly. The premium service starts at $99 a month.

Companies spend more than $46 billion per year on recognition programs, and $2 billion of that is for trophies and awards. They do that because recognition motivates employees and drives results. It becomes a part of a company’s culture. But surveys show that over 50 percent of people don’t feel appreciated at work and only 17 percent of employees surveyed think their companies do a good job of recognition.

It makes sense to reward employees in an environment where there’s a war for talent. Oracle recently estimated that the cost of replacing an employee is $104,000. And if that is correct, the cost for turnover in the U.S. is $2.1 trillion a year. The Society of Human Resource Managers lists employee engagement as one of the most important challenges for managers.

The company tested its system with San Francisco-based startup Vungle. The employees can nominate each other for the “Honey Badger” award, given for persistence and tenacity. Vungle maintains an online “award wall” where each nominee is posted. The founders (pictured at top: Zain Jaffer and Jack Smith of Vungle) pick the winner and the winner’s name is added to the physical trophy.

“MeritShare makes it easy to provide internal recognition and the social features help ensure more people know about key accomplishments across our growing organization,” says Ken Willner, CEO of Zumobi, a leading mobile media company and one of the top places to work in Seattle. “Our team partnered with MeritShare to develop a ‘ThankZ’ award that encourages peer recognition and we’ve seen tremendous involvement from our employees at levels.”

Nakao formed the MeritShare with Travis Pearl in July. The company has no other employees and it is self-funded. Rivals include OC Tanner, Bunchball, Achievers, and Badgeville. Nakao and Pearl met at WhitePages, a web and mobile publisher, where they launched a variety of web and mobile apps. Nakao was chief operating officer and president of the company, and prior to that he was vice president of music for RealNetworks. Pearl founded the domain monetization service Avidify and has worked as an engineer at Tippr, Active Voice, and Microsoft.

[Image credits: MeritShare]