Program Best Practices

The Trade Desk: Best practices for adapting your employee recognition efforts during the pandemic

Now that most of us are remote, employees have changed the way they balance work and life responsibilities. But what hasn’t changed is their desire to be seen and valued—which can be challenging for companies to acknowledge when everyone is physically apart. This means that employee recognition not only needs to evolve to align with our new world of work but also be given more intentionally during these times of separation.

To understand how organizations are adapting their recognition efforts, we sat down with Jess Wagner, who is on the Global People Engagement and Strategy team at The Trade Desk. She shared how the global advertising technology company shifted gears to make sure its workforce is still being appreciated in meaningful ways. You can find a recap and recording of our conversation below.

"Blueboard’s in-home experience rewards have allowed our employees to enjoy and connect over new shared experiences during a time when our options are limited. Blueboard was able to masterfully pivot their experience offerings and create opportunities for our employees to enjoy new activities with their families, develop new skills, invest in their health, and find balance during a difficult year. So many TTDers have taken advantage of the Peloton Experience for their 5th anniversary and it’s neat to visit our Peloton Slack channel and see the community that has grown because employees have been able to redeem an experience they might have otherwise not purchased themselves."
Jess Wagner, Global People and Strategy at The Trade Desk

The role of employee recognition at The Trade Desk

Meaningful recognition has always been an important part of The Trade Desk’s culture. According to Jess, the company’s CEO Jeff Green believes that the most valuable commodity human beings have is their time. So when an employee chooses to spend years of their life working at The Trade Desk, that’s something to be celebrated—which is why recognition is part of the company’s DNA.

But after COVID-19 forced all employees to go remote, the company had to shift its thinking around which behaviors matter the most and look for ways to build on its existing employee recognition programs to celebrate those redefined accomplishments.

How The Trade Desk adapted its recognition efforts during COVID-19

Jess explained how her company has adapted its employee recognition efforts and offers tips on how other organizations can do the same. 

Spot recognition during a pandemic

1. Tie rewards to company values

The Trade Desk formally rolled out its company values in 2019—and the timing couldn’t have been better. In 2020, with employees working remotely, it can be hard for individuals to stay aligned with corporate priorities. But having a value system serve as their North Star helped everyone to stay focused, globally aligned, and determined to overcome challenges.

Vision: Illustration by Ana Duje, Hong Kong
Grit: Illustration James Gulliver Hancock, New York
Agility: Illustration by Neil Stevens, London
Generosity: Illustration by Asuka Watanabe, Tokyo
Openness: Illustration by MaryKate McDevitt, Los Angeles
Full-Hearted: Illustration by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn, Chicago

The Trade Desk’s new values also served as a great anchor for its spot recognition program. It gave employees the opportunity to step up to the plate and truly demonstrate the company’s values during these challenging times. 

For example, The Trade Desk typically hosted local, in-person panels, and celebrations across their 25 offices. But since that wasn’t possible with COVID-19, they created a completely virtual "bring your whole self to work" series to celebrate Pride Month in June. Employees from EMEA, APAC, and North America all volunteered to be on the panel and brought their company values of openness, full-heartedness, and generosity to life. The company used this as an opportunity to recognize and show appreciation for their “culture champions” with a Blueboard reward.  

2. Recognize new and different behaviors during the pandemic

The team at The Trade Desk also quickly realized that the same criteria for recognition may no longer apply today as many teams have had to adjust their success metrics this year. This made it necessary to reset expectations and change the way remote employees are recognized during COVID-19.

For instance, in addition to focusing on revenue goals and marketing metrics, The Trade Desk also wanted to incentivize behaviors that increase wellbeing. So the company decided to roll out a series of virtual, employee-led activities where they could share their special talents - whether that’s leading a yoga class, guiding a meditation session, or showing people how to cut their own hair.  

This program was a huge success because it gave employees a chance to shine and showcase talents that they otherwise might never have been able to—given the growing size of the organization. It also presented an opportunity to reward those who were serving as wellbeing ambassadors for the company. These individuals’ contributions were publicly thanked and amplified in the company’s work from home Slack channel.

Employee anniversary awards

The Trade Desk’s employee anniversary award program is the cornerstone of their recognition efforts and is hugely successful because it captures the essence of the company’s culture and values. While The Trade Desk’s employees are still celebrating anniversaries virtually, there were a few ways that the company shifted its approach. 

1. Use rewards that encourage wellbeing

With the help of Blueboard, The Trade Desk can recognize employees in a way that supports their wellbeing. Our experiential employee gifts offer people the chance to tap into whatever gives them energy—whether that’s stoking their creative passion with a watercolor class or taking a socially distanced golf trip with their friend. The Trade Desk’s anniversary awards enable its employees to live well—with experiences that are more meaningful today than ever before. 

2. Increase communication

The Trade Desk has also been intentional about increasing its communication efforts to socialize its anniversary program. To accomplish this, the team uses its monthly newsletter as an opportunity to spotlight anniversaries, encourages managers to give more public and private shoutouts, and finds ways to highlight recognition stories from Blueboard reward recipients (like the one featured below).

Editor's Note: Names redacted and photos changed to protect privacy.

Even though our expectations around work have shifted significantly in the past few months, your remote employees still want to be recognized for their contributions during COVID-19. Take inspiration from the team at The Trade Desk and adapt your own recognition efforts to align with the needs of our “new normal” world of work. If you’re curious to learn how Blueboard experiential rewards can amplify your existing recognition program, request a personalized demo online here.

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