Recognition Done Right: 9 Points of Light
(Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to share this excerpt from the book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish – Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Drive Engagement and Reinforce Culture” by Stan Phelps. For more information about Stan and his “Goldfish” series of business management books, see the end of this post.)
On the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees, the 4th INCH involves RECOGNITION.
“You matter. These two words can change your mood, change your mind, and have the power to change lives and the world if we understand and leverage them in the right way.” –Angela Maiers, TED Talk, June 2011
Recognition fuels a sense of worth and belonging in individuals. No rocket science here. As humans we crave acceptance. Dale Carnegie spoke of the importance of recognition nearly 80 years ago, in his landmark guidebook, “How to Win Friends and Influence People:”
“Be lavish in your praise and hearty in your approbation. A drop of honey gathers more bees than a gallon of vinegar.”
In a recent survey, 35% of workers and 30% of chief financial officers said frequent recognition of accomplishments is the most effective non-monetary reward. Thanking people for their hard work and commitment is key to making them feel appreciated.
Shifting a Mindset
Most managers take an, “if, then” approach to recognition. Positive psychology expert, Shawn Achor believes this paradigm needs to change, “…from thinking that encouragement and recognition should be used as rewards for high performance as opposed to thinking that encouragement and recognition are drivers of high performance.”
9 Examples: Recognition Done Right
Let’s look at 9 companies who give a little extra when it comes to employee recognition:
Kudos and Shout-Outs
Every week The Nerdery agency compiles a video of shout-outs, with employees publicly praising their fellow nerds for going above-and-beyond. Five shout-out recipients are chosen for free lunches the following week. The weekly shout-out video is played for all at the Friday afternoon Bottlecap Talk, where the agency celebrates the successful launch of a recent project with a show-and-tell demo led by the rockstar developers who made it happen.
Rackspace created a special award for employees who are fanatical about serving customers. It’s simply called The Jacket. It signifies fanaticism and hence is a straightjacket. Only one employee wins the jacket at a time.
Decision Lens awards top-performing salespeople with custom-made action figures designed to resemble the employee. According to Co-Founder John Saaty:
“It’s a humorous way to acknowledge the great efforts of our sales team, and something that’s more memorable than the usual plaque or something like that.”
Executives at Zappos pick a monthly “hero” and award them with a parade, covered parking spot for a month, a $150 Zappos gift card, and a cape.
American Express has a Prize Patrol. A group of four or five leaders get together and surprise their coworkers with flowers or a gift in front of their colleagues to celebrate their accomplishments.
Take Note: The Best Things In Life Are Free
A recent study confirmed that the cost of recognition awards has only minimal impact on employee perception of appreciation. 57% reported that the most meaningful recognition is free. Just look at some of these quotes to judge the impact:
Former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant, is a big proponent of the power of handwritten notes. In Doug’s words,
“Look for opportunities to celebrate. My executive assistants and I would spend a good 30 to 60 minutes a day scanning my mail and our internal website looking for news of people who have made a difference at Campbell’s. Get out your pen. Believe it or not, I have sent roughly 30,000 handwritten notes to employees over the last decade, from maintenance people to senior executives. I let them know that I am personally paying attention and celebrating their accomplishments. (I send handwritten notes too because well over half of our associates don’t use a computer). I also jump on any opportunities to write to people who partner with our company any time I meet with them. It’s the least you can do for people who do things to help your company and industry. On the face of it, writing handwritten notes may seem like a waste of time. But in my experience, they build goodwill and lead to higher productivity.”
Long before he became CEO of iProspect, back as an analyst at Bain Capital and KPMG, Robert J. Murray had an idea on how you should run a services business.
“One thing that always surprised me in prior work experiences is when your assets walk out the door each day, why aren’t companies doing more to value the people doing the business?”
Mr. Murray thinks he’s found the answer to that, and many of his employees agree. His formula: hire competitive people, promote early and often, and give constant feedback — including notes of encouragement he calls “iProps.”
The tenure program at Sweetgreen called Shades of Green has blown up into a competition and become a status symbol among employees. Every teammate gets a free shirt — the longer you’re with Sweetgreen, the darker your shirt. Who knew a free t-shirt could help shape company culture? After you’ve been with Sweetgreen for a year, you also get a pair of green high-top Converse sneakers. At two years, you get a t-shirt and a neon green iPod Nano Touch. After three years, you get a lime-green Sweetgreen bike.
The diamond program Brady, Chapman, Holland encourages generosity in daily work life. When a BCH employee does something exceptionally well for a client, a fellow employee or the community, an acrylic diamond is tossed in a jar. When the jar is full, they celebrate by playing a game or going to a sports bar.
Do these ideas inspire you to think creatively about recognition in your organization? How could recognition be more meaningful where you work?
(Author Profile: Stan Phelps is the Founder of 9 INCH Marketing, an organization that inspires leaders to think differently about business — challenging them to value customer experience as a competitive differentiator and the importance of employee engagement in building a strong corporate culture. Stan helps brands explore new opportunities, showing them how to be more successful in tomorrow’s changing world, and working with clients to create experiences that are memorable, meaningful and on-brand. Driven by client objectives and inspired by bold vision, Stan and his team get results through programs that win big. Visit Amazon.com to learn more about his books “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” (employee engagement insights) and “What’s Your Purple Goldfish?” (customer engagement insights).