Essential Piece Inspires Staff Recognition Program for University

When Alex Henn began his tenure as Director of Human Resources at American Intercontinental University (AIU) in Los Angeles, California, the university lacked a recognition program. Alex hoped to implement a regular employee appreciation award, but he wanted to stay away from the typical ‘employee of the month’ title. “I didn’t believe in typical employee of the month recognition, but when I saw Baudville’s catalog and the puzzle piece, I really liked the theme.” The university President loved Alex’s recognition program proposal, and the Essential Piece of the Puzzle recognition program “took off like gangbusters.”  

The recognition program is open to all university employees, from maintenance personnel to the President, a total of 175 ‘puzzle pieces’ are eligible to be nominated. Anyone can nominate a staff member, including university students, by completing the custom AIU nomination ballot. The ballot features clip art of the puzzle piece and asks the nominator to explain what actions motivated him/her to recognize the peer or mentor. Each month, a committee reviews the ballots and selects one or multiple individuals to receive the Essential Piece of the Puzzle award for demonstrating outstanding service. Winners receive a certificateEssential Piece lapel pin, and a small gift, like a travel mug or t-shirt.

An active communication plan accompanies the monthly award; a bulletin board displays the names of each month’s recipients. Alongside the individual names, a picture puzzle is displayed. Each year, the recognition program leaders divide a 4’x3’ picture into individual puzzle pieces. On a monthly basis, an additional piece of the puzzle is added to the bulletin board. The 2007 puzzle picture was the graduating class of 2006. Employees are encouraged to guess the identity of the picture for a prize, which maintains interest and engagement in the recognition program.  

In addition to the bulletin board, a public celebration is held monthly to honor Essential Piece of the Puzzle winners. Hosted by the campus Fun Committee, the event includes cake and coffee, and invites everyone to attend through email and posters. The President of the university attends and makes announcements at the event.  

Alex’s monthly employee recognition program has achieved successful results, and he’s looking forward to future recognition expansions – although everything will remain Essential Piece. “It will all be incorporated and consistent,” he says. “We’re looking to use some more of Baudville’s Essential Piece products.”  

The next recognition program initiative on Alex’s agenda is a lapel pin collection program where employees will be encouraged to collect a variety of Essential Piece lapel pins and exhibit them on desktop displays and ID badge lanyards. “Employees can win multiple times, there is no limit, and each time they can get a different lapel pin,” Alex explained. He compared the recognition program to Disneyland’s Pin Trading where park guests can collect pins and trade with characters.  

Alex’s creative use of the Essential Piece product line has energized and engaged employees at AIU. Unlike formal, online recognition programs and nomination systems, Alex has the ability to adjust his program whenever the need arises. Employees are encouraged to be active in every part of the recognition process, from the nomination ballot to the celebration announcement, increasing engagement on campus and in the office. As Baudville’s thematic products encourage recognition program practitioners to make recognition their own, innovative programs, awards, and thinking result in the workplace.

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