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Program Best Practices

How We Built This: Spot Recognition Programs [Webinar Recap]

Inspired by the NPR program that we know and love, we launched a new series of webinars called "How We Built This." This is an intimate showcase of the work our top clients have done to bring their recognition programs to life.

In the first webinar of this series, we heard from Carrie Theisen, VP Global Total Rewards at Medidata Solutions Worldwide, and Tyler Cahill, Manager of Organizational Development at Addison Group, on how they crafted their successful spot recognition programs.

We share the full recap and recording below. For more great HR webinars, continue to stay in touch via our Resources page.


Why spot recognition? 

Spot recognition is intended to reward specific behaviors, contributions or milestones when they occur. It’s easy to see why this type of recognition is so impactful - especially with most teams working remotely in response to COVID-19. When we’re separated, it’s even more important to signal what great work looks like across your organization to inspire repeat behavior.

While acts of recognition go a long way, managers don’t always have the time or personal insight to find the perfect reward for their employees. As a result, they often give the quickest (and most impersonal) options available - cash or gift cards. 

That’s why our clients choose to invest in building their spot recognition programs with Blueboard. We take the guesswork out of spot awards programs, enabling your managers to send meaningful, personalized rewards in seconds.

Let’s explore how Medidata and Addison Group worked with us to build their respective programs. 

How Medidata built its spot recognition program 

Medidata is a healthcare software company with over 2,000 employees globally. As the company grew and diversified, they realized that all employees need more personalized reward options - and this insight inspired a revamp of their recognition efforts. 

Instituting change in large organizations can take some time, and Medidata wanted to create a program that was built to last and had the ability to adapt to the needs of its employees. So they began by looking inward, exploring internal and external engagement data and survey insights, and ultimately created a program that puts their employees first. Here are the steps Medidata took: 

1. Get to know your workforce 

The first thing Medidata did was gather data about its employee population. Beyond baseline demographics like age, gender, and role in the company, the company also leveraged employee engagement surveys to identify the most important value propositions for their employees. This research shaped what became their employees’ “Core Values.”


This information helped Medidata surface the most valuable workforce engagement drivers, with the ability to split the data and identify trends by department, role and region. Ultimately, the findings revealed the two places with the highest potential for moving the engagement needle: excellent compensation and benefits and good work-life balance (flexibility).

2. Set the foundation

Medidata wanted to make sure these baseline needs were met before rolling out a recognition program. Because in the context of Maslow’s hierarchy, it’s critical for basic needs (compensation) to be met before moving up to the higher tiers (recognition). Medidata wanted to be a workforce known for its excellent and competitive compensation and benefits, so the company introduced several key changes: 

  • Compensation is reviewed and adjusted more than once per year
  • Focused on Fair Pay Practices including Gender and Diversity
  • Align bonus and incentive plans to a “Pay for Performance” culture
  • Flexible programs providing the ability to deliver real time recognition
  • Long-term compensation opportunities in the form of stock awards

Medidata also made adjustments to offer more flexibility to its employees - inspired by the insight that a flexible work schedule has shown to boost mental well-being, decrease workplace stress and encourage productivity amongst employees. These included: 

  • Unlimited PTO for U.S. employees 
  • Flexible work schedules supported, including non-standard business hours, part-time and work from home (WFH)
  • Progressive parental and paid leave policies
  • Remote work environment supported

3. Build a flexible and personalized recognition program 

Once these compensation fundamentals were in place, Medidata shifted its focus towards employee recognition and rolled out a three-part spot recognition program. Carrie’s vision for the program was built around three tenets that met the unique needs and interests of its workforce:

  • Social. Medidata wanted a program that empowered peers to recognize each other and use it as a tool for encouraging and inspiring their fellow colleagues.
  • Financial. Medidata wanted the option to offer monetary rewards for situations when employees were in financial need.
  • Experiential. They also wanted to offer the choice of a Blueboard experience, to inspire employees to challenge their comfort zones, indulge in their passions, or try something new, leveraging the ease of our Concierge service.

With this program, employees are able to choose the reward that’s most meaningful to them - giving them the flexibility they desire. 

Medidata went on to envision which behaviors, action and milestones were most worthy of recognition. The team produced a recognition strategy that aligned with the company’s mission and values, ultimately recognizing Medidatians who advance the pursuit of smarter treatments and healthier people.


This strategy included:

  • Daily recognition: To encourage regular, year-round appreciation for all employees. 
  • Quarterly achievement awards: To highlight outstanding individual or team performance that’s aligned with one of the four company pillars.
  • Annual rewards: To recognize the top individual or team performer in a truly meaningful way. 

4. Bring the program to life with branding and communication 

A recognition program is only effective if utilized, so Medidata took a strategic approach to brand and socialize the program. The team leveraged a variety of communications tactics to spread the word - from publishing internal blog posts to rolling out branding initiatives to utilizing shared communication channels (primarily on Slack and the company’s intranet, Medex).  


5. Measure metrics

Finally, the team at Medidata regularly collects feedback and data to make sure the spot recognition program is exceeding internal goals and KPIs. The metrics they measure include:   

  • Annual engagement survey data
  • Utilization (leveraging Blueboard platform data)
  • Employee feedback (leveraging Blueboard’s Post-experience Engagement Survey feature and hosting internal focus groups)

A peek at Medidata’s Post-experience Engagement Survey data and real employee recognition stories.


How Addison Group built its spot recognition program

Addison Group is a national staffing and consulting firm with 1,600 employees across the U.S. For many years, the company’s only recognition program was its President’s Club, which was targeted at a small percentage of the team. This meant that the contribution of other employees went unnoticed and, as a result, led to under appreciation. So in 2019, the team set out to revamp their recognition efforts entirely. 

Here are the steps Addison Group recommends for other organizations that want to build a spot recognition program: 

1. Identify what needs to change

The data from Addison Group’s annual engagement survey data and exit survey revealed that its employees - in particular, those in Corporate Shared Services - weren’t feeling recognized. They also felt left out since the majority of rewards went to recruiters as motivators to hit their goals. 

The company saw an opportunity to introduce a more universal, mid-level recognition program that would impact a bigger percentage of their staff. This program would focus less on hitting certain metrics - which isn’t an accurate measure of success for all employees - and instead, emphasize the intangible behaviors that make the company successful (such as living out the company values, going above and beyond to support the team).


2. Build a tiered recognition strategy

Addison Group decided to build a tiered recognition strategy that featured a mix of manager-nominated and peer-nominated programs to pair with their existing President’s Club. The company branded the program as “HIRE Performance.” 

The team rolled out a diverse selection of rewards, including Blueboard experiences, non-monetary gifts like paid time off, and preserved the existing group trip to Cabo as the focus of their President’s Club incentive. Here’s a breakdown of each program:

  • Instant HIRE: Addison Group’s manager-driven spot recognition program gives employees the opportunity to win Blueboard’s White Gold, Indigo, and Tiburon rewards. Budgets are allocated by the manager’s total headcount, and aim to recognize 60% of their workforce.
  • HIRE Achievers: Addison Group’s peer-nominated program that aims to recognize 20% of their staff. Winners are selected monthly and earn non-monetary rewards like paid time off. These winners then go into a quarterly raffle to win a Blueboard Indigo reward. 
  • President’s Club: This is the most exclusive recognition program tier, focused on rewarding the top 5% to10% of their staff. Annual winners earn the incentive trip to Cabo. 


3. Socialize your program

 Addison Group actively involved its leadership team to rollout and socialize their program, knowing that frequent and relevant touch points would help their program be successful. They also wanted to consolidate knowledge and resources leveraging channels where employees already gathered. Here are the tactics the company used to introduce HIRE Performance:

  • A company-wide email campaign starting with the CEO, followed up by other leaders (sending personalized emails to their individual departments)
  • An Intranet page with all necessary resources
  • Live training webinars + recordings
  • A podcast from their CEO on the importance of recognition - showing that recognition was truly supported from the top
  • Announcement of HIRE Performance winners across multiple social and communications channels


4. Measure metrics 

Similar to Medidata, Addison Group will focus on a variety of surveys and insights to ensure their program rollout is a success. Here’s what the company is prioritizing: 

  1. Employee feedback (captured through Blueboard’s Post-experience Engagement Survey form, and ad hoc from rewarded employee interviews)
  2. Utilization data (reported through Blueboard’s Admin Tools application)
  3. Annual engagement survey results, with intent to measure the shift in perception against past rankings (as noted on the image above)


We’ve loved helping our clients bring their spot recognition programs to life! And while we’re working with home, providing managers with the tools to see, value and recognize their top performers is more important now than ever before.  If you’d like to explore how Blueboard can help you design the perfect recognition program for your organization, connect with our team here.

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

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