Recognition Tips & Ideas

Tips and Ideas

  • Improved Appearance

“We wanted to improve the appearance of our security guards so we started giving those who were dressed appropriately in full uniform their choice of work schedule as an incentive. We were surprised to find that peer pressure is making the biggest difference. At the beginning of each shift, the shift commander has everyone stand up who is in the correct uniform and the staff call each other on any slipups.”—Shannon Kearns, RN, Quality Management, Jackson Health Systems,
Miami, FL.

  • The Gold Star

“It’s really true that anything can be a significant form of recognition. Over three years ago I drew a star on a piece of scrap paper, colored it, and gave it to someone for helping me out that day. They in turn gave it to someone who gave it to someone else. It took on special significance with each use. Now we have it on a magnetic backing and people pass it on to recognize those who have helped or those who are having a rough day. People love it!”—Markeeta Graban, Associate Director, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan Health System.

  • Fishy Stuff

“The New England Aquarium allows employees to recognize co-workers with a ‘thank you cod’ (a card shaped like a cod fish)—a play on New England accents. Half of the card goes to the employee and the other half into a quarterly lottery for gift certificates for paid time off, the company store, and local restaurants.”—Linda Hower, Learning Technologist, Gilbane University, Providence, RI.

  • He had a promise to keep

As an incentive to staff at the Newark, CA, branch of Pro Staff Personnel Services, Josh Parker, Northern California regional manager, promised to disco dance on the desktop if they met specific quarterly goals. Polyester pants, gold chain, and all, Parker hustled his way into Pro Staff’s manager hall of fame. Since Parker’s disco debut, the employees at the Newark office anxiously await his next challenge. Now who says work is no fun?

  • Spark plugs that last

Some very simple awards can make an impression that lasts a lifetime. Beverly Cronin, book manager for Hastings Books, Music, and Entertainment in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, recalls receiving such an award in the mid-sixties from a department store manager in Akron, OH, who said, “This is for you because you add such a spark to our workplace.” The award was a spark plug painted gold and hung on ribbon as a necklace. She still keeps the award in her jewelry box to commemorate the first time she was recognized on the job and realized that she did make a difference.

  • Rewarding daredevils

Ziff Davis of La Jolla, CA has “daredevil awards”—they are given to employees who do something above and beyond the call of duty, innovative, moving at breakneck speed. It’s kind of like ‘catch them in the act.’ Award recipients are regularly announced to the entire company via email. That way people know that the rewards are available and that there is something to strive for.

  • The People “To Do” List

One task-oriented top manager for a high-technology company reports that he reminds himself to recognize others by listing his employees’ names on his “to do” list each week. Then, one-by-one, he crosses each person off the list when he has had a chance to acknowledge that person for some aspect of his or her performance or behavior, e.g., reaching a project milestone or delivering exceptional customer service. He says it’s his way to “turn the people aspect of my job into manageable tasks I can focus on each week.”

  • Name a day in an employee’s honor

A division of Hewlett Packard in San Diego, CA named a day of appreciation for an exceptional employee. Any employee in the division was able to reserve a time slot to visit the individual on her day, present her with a flower, and thank her for something she had done to help them at work.

  • Joint appreciation

Colin Service Systems in White Plains, NY, has recognized employees with awards such as Most Helpful Employee and Nicest Employee. Co-workers, vote for the employees they think should win the titles, and executives make the presentation.

  • Praise Directly, Face-to-Face

Telling someone directly that he or she did a great job is an effective way to make the person feel valued for the work done, as well as a demonstration of what you would like more of from him or her. If the praising is immediate, sincere, and specific, it will have the most impact. Tie the person’s achievement to a larger context, for example, the department’s goals, the company’s values, etc., and—for maximum impact—add a personal touch. For example, “Gary, I really appreciate the way you pitched in to help others today; that’s exactly the type of teamwork we’ve been striving for.”

  • Double duty

A Schaumburg. IL, Motorola manager on the Iridium satellite phone project rewards star performers for a job well done with special attention. For example, she may pull from a broad spectrum of engineers, MBAs, salespeople, and customer service to brainstorm for an hour at lunch about their most intriguing business problems and solutions. People love the recognition, and business problems are solved too.

  • On the spot

Hugh Fleming of the Spotsylvania Mall Chick-fil-A restaurant in Fredricksburg, VA, makes it a point to catch people doing something right every day and praise them on the spot.

  • The Exalted Order of the Extended Neck

Richard Zimmerman, Chairman and CEO of Hershey Foods, in Hershey, PA, wanted to reward people who were willing to buck the system, practice a little entrepreneurship, who were willing to stand the heat for an idea they really believe in so he gives out a special award he called ‘The Exalted Order of the Extended Neck’ for people who really find ways to go ‘outside the box.’

  • Use the intranet

Have supervisors list individual employee accomplishments on the company network for others to see. Print a hard copy of the public praise for the employee to keep—and send a copy to his or her manager.

  • The Praising Board

Connie Maxwell of West Des Moines Community Schools posts notes from other department that have had something positive to say about any of us; this way, people who work with me are more inclined to rite one to some-one else, so there’s a mutual sharing of thanks. It has become a point of pride to have a note that one wrote posted!