This is a little embarrassing, but, since it happened several years ago, I think I can claim a statute of limitations on it. It was during a holiday party, and we were at the point in the evening when our leadership was announcing our year-end award winners. I felt I was having a banner year, and was more than half expecting to be recognized for it. As the speaker described the contributions and achievements of the soon-to-be awardee, I became more confident that within moments I would be up there shaking hands and posing for photos. Maybe a speech? No, that would be too much. I was so sure, my butt was about two inches out of my chair in anticipation that I would need to stand. Any minute.
But, wait. What?! It wasn’t my name being announced. In fact, it was my arch nemesis’. I quietly lowered until I could feel the harsh reality of my chair on my glutei maximi. And then applauded heartily while privately shooting imaginary arrows at my target.
It’s true that very often award ceremonies have a motivating effect: they encourage the current awardees to live up to their winning status and others to strive to be the next one to be in the spotlight. But, sometimes they can be demotivating. I simply resigned myself to the idea that I just needed to keep being the best I could be, while also knowing that I would probably never be in that circle. But, others may give up and stop trying altogether. While this may be a character flaw, it is also what realistically happens. Sometimes.
What to do? We can’t all be winners, or it undermines the entire concept of winning. But, most of us do need to feel like we are important, that our work matters, and that we have the potential for greatness. And, that is why a varied and diverse recognition program is so important. The most successful programs feature:
Service Awards. Yes, I just said we can’t all be winners, but here is an example of when we all can. In these modern times, longevity is a big deal. All the more reason to make a big deal when an anniversary comes up. These are not a “thank you for showing up” awards, but sincere appreciation for loyalty and commitment. Turnover is costly. Giving service awards is one way you can make it appealing to stay—by offering tangible incentives and the honor of be acknowledged.
Day-to-Day Recognition. Your biggest opportunity to reach everyone on your team lies in these simple, frequent expressions of thanks, encouragement, and praise. These are not career-making moments, but the kinds of small feats that happen in the days in between. Taking time to give a card or note on these occasions sends a message that you noticed and you’re appreciative—and that small wins can eventually lead to big ones.
Achievement Awards. Annual or semi-annual awards are a way to highlight the best of the best: those who have consistently gone above and beyond, exceeded expectations, or demonstrated excellence. In conjunction with other efforts, these awards serve as a way to communicate your values and goals as an organization. And, of course, to give credit to those who are contributing so much to your success. As long as they are not your only employee recognition initiatives, there is no risk of alienating or discouraging the rest of your staff.
Special Celebrations. Whether it’s a company-wide event or an individual team activity, recognizing the contributions of many is a crucial element to any recognition program. No one person runs your business—it takes the skills, talent, and dedication of all. The more your employees receive gratitude and reinforcement for working as a team, the more they will.
What are your big takeaways? Celebrate the individual, the team, the big days, and the small days and you’ll have a well-rounded plan that spans the entire year. And leaves everyone feeling inspired in one way or another!
Allison is currently living out the elaborate fantasy she described to her now-former staff and colleagues in early 2001. With a hearty dose of courage and absolutely no plan of action, she abruptly left her middle-management job to become a writer—and today she is doing just that in her role as Baudville's Senior Content Writer. She's here to tell you everything she's learned in her 20-years+ professional life, plus a lot more. She's wordy like that!