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Recognition & Rewards

Fresh Ideas For Appreciating Employees All Year Long [Webinar Recap]

With Employee Appreciation Day having just passed, it may be tempting to put the idea of employee appreciation on the back burner. However, practicing acts of appreciation all-year long is essential to keeping your teams happy, engaged, and productive. We hosted a webinar with Lattice to share perspectives and fresh ideas around this topic. Our panelists included: 

  • Sara Piedmonte, Director of HR and Talent Experience at WillowTree
  • Annette Cardwell, Head Of Content at Lattice
  • Shannon Ferguson, our own Head of People at Blueboard

Our favorite part about this webinar was the active stream of program ideas that flooded our live chat! Check out some of our favorite program ideas in our full recap below. For more great HR Webinars, stay in touch via our Resources page.


Why employee appreciation is critical part of your talent strategy

So why is employee appreciation such a big deal? As you can see from the statistics below, it’s clear that appreciation has a direct impact on key performance metrics, such as employee retention, productivity, and engagement. It should be a natural activity to recognize employees for their contributions to your business - after all, people are every company’s greatest assets!


Understanding the difference between appreciation, recognition, and rewards

Appreciation, recognition, and rewards are frequently referred to interchangeably. However, there are key differences between all of these terms. It may help to visualize a pyramid while we review each term.

We’ll start with appreciation, which is at the bottom of the pyramid. Appreciation should be widely shared and received by every employee at your company for meeting the requirements of their role. It should be informal, easy, and signal that employees are seen and valued for their contributions.

One level up, in the middle of the pyramid, is recognition. Recognition is a bit more exclusive than appreciation and should be tied to specific behaviors or milestones that exceed our expectations. Examples might be above and beyond performance (closing a big deal, crushing a project deadline), or hitting your 2-year anniversary. Recognition is best delivered in a way that will personally resonate most with your employee. Some love public announcements, some prefer more intimate, 1:1 moments of attention. For more on how to decode your team’s Language of Appreciation in the Workplace, check out our webinar recap with Dr. Paul White.

And finally, we have rewards at the top of the pyramid. Rewards are typically saved for your top performers who go above and beyond what’s expected of them, and are used to create a ripple effect of continued behavior modeling and motivation. For more reward program inspiration and best practices from our favorite clients, head on over to our Products page.

While every company is different, there are a few key moments where managers or company leaders should utilize appreciation, recognition, and rewards. A few of those moments include:

  • Onboarding a new hire
  • During an anniversary/milestone at the company
  • When employees get promoted
  • When employees go out of their comfort zone
  • After a big launch that the employee has helmed
  • When employees go above and beyond expectations
  • When employees are trying something new and risky in front of a lot of people

You can see where best to practice appreciation, recognition, or give rewards against these common scenarios via the grid below:


Let’s go a bit deeper into the specifics of appreciation, recognition, and rewards - and what these things look like in action. 

Appreciation

As we mentioned before, appreciation should be shared and received by everyone at an organization. It can be used in almost any situation to acknowledge a job well done and can be done informally. This can take the shape of anything from writing a colleague a “thank you” note,  sending someone a nice message on Slack, or sharing words of gratitude in person.

Appreciation in action:

WillowTree uses Lattice’s Praise tool to make it easy to give quick shout outs and notes of appreciation from peer to peer. And the numbers say it all: in the past 90 days, WillowTree has shared over 500 pieces of public praise via the Praise tool (across a population of ~500 employees, that’s >1 per person). 

Some of our webinar attendees shared how they practice appreciation at their own organizations: 

  • Julie: “We use Hey Taco to send tacos to people in our general Slack channel as recognition and appreciation. Then people can redeem them for the rewards they want. Everyone loves it and since it’s in the general channel all employees can see.”
  • May: “Our appreciation board is a place where every employee can write a thank you note to each other and post it on the board.”

Recognition 

Recognition is a bit more formal because we want to signal above and beyond performance (not the small thank yous reserved for daily acts of appreciation)The most important part of recognition is making sure it’s personalized to the specific employee.

Recognition in action: 

At Blueboard, we have employees in multiple offices around the world. To make sure the type of recognition we share is personalized, we conduct culture surveys where employees can share their comfort level with public acknowledgment, helping set our managers up for success when presented with a recognition moment for their employee. 

Here are some of our favorite recognition programs from our live attendees: 

  • Jennifer: “Spirit of Pace Awards - given to employees that go above and beyond for our company, Pace. Announced in our company-wide meetings, winners get a day of vacation and a gift card to a local restaurant.  Nominations are done by coworkers, not managers.”
  • Judith: “We meet for quarterly pot-luck lunches with acknowledgments of anniversaries during that quarter and a small gift.”
  • Melanie: “Last year I revamped our R&R program and one of the awards I'm really proud of was an award around culture, our Culture Champion Award. We recognize those folks who embody everything we want in our culture and who make our company one of the best places we've ever worked. We've received an extremely positive response and increase in engagement.”
  • Jonathan:  “We host "Birthdays." Basically we acknowledge and celebrate employees who have been employed with our company each year. There's cakes and desserts for those celebrating each month.”

Rewards

Finally, rewards are paired with recognition moments to signal those who go above and beyond our expectations. These are the employees who are truly changing the way we think about their role, who are working above their current role level, and ultimately who make the business or company culture visibly better. 

Rewards in action: 

During the webinar we showcased one of our favorite recognition programs from our Clients at Livongo Health, their PROPEL awards program. PROPEL represents their six company values (People, Results, Originality, Passion, Excellence, and Learning), and comes to life as a peer-nominated spot recognition program. The reward program happens twice a year, with winners chosen based on their demonstration of the core company values.

A winner is selected for each value, the person who has most emulated the value over the past 6-month period. These six winners are rewarded with a custom bobblehead, a Blueboard Tiburon reward, plus a $200 donation to a charity of their choice (also orchestrated by Blueboard as part of their total experience package).

Beyond the six individual winners, an additional employee is chosen as the “Most Propelled Player (MPP)”, someone who emulates all six of the company values. This culture superstar receives a Blueboard Emerald reward (for a bucket list travel experience), as well as the bobblehead and $200 charitable donation.


The recognition program has made an incredible impact on Livongo’s community and their company culture, keeping values top of mind throughout the year, and creating a cadence for those critical moments of celebration. Some of our favorite Recognition Stories from the Livongo team are below:


Some additional great reward program ideas from our live webinar attendees included:

  • Melissa: “We have a Peer-to-Peer recognition program where teammates nominate each other and each month we have a drawing for prizes, based on peer nominations that were given/received that month.”
  • Erin: “We have a program that allows peer to peer recognition for small acts of gratitude, with larger rewards for managers to give out for above and beyond achievements and actions.”
  • Sandra: “We use the "Cheers for Peers" feature through TINYpulse (employee engagement platform). These shoutouts are visible to the whole company, then we shout out the top 10 during our monthly All Hands meeting...”
  • Erika: “We have Cheers for Peers as well (using 15Five to give high-fives to peers, it summarizes the top high-fivers & the top appreciated and they are recognized in a post shared with the company every Monday morning). We also have an all-star trip (all stars are voted on by employees and 10 are taken on a special trip, all expenses paid with the CEO) and we have an MVP that goes on the trip as well and is also voted on by the company.” 

We hope these ideas help you feel inspired to appreciate your employees all year long! To learn more about how Blueboard can help you launch a personalized recognition and rewards program, drop us a note and get in touch with our team for an in-person demo.

Stay tuned for more valuable webinars and upcoming events here on our Resources page - we can’t wait to see you again online.

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