What Our Employee Engagement Recognition Program Taught Us About the Value of Appreciation

Topics: Tools, Miscellaneous, Management

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

I worry all the time about people’s happiness. Whether they feel included, heard, rewarded, or appreciated

“Do they like where they work? Am I a good boss? Am I providing the kind of feedback they need? Do they feel appreciated?”

I mean, sometimes I can be a true crabass, but even on my worst of days I’m constantly thinking of ways to foster growth, provide encouragement, and mitigate challenges for the people I work with. Sure, it’s important to stay on task, complete projects, and do so creatively and under high standards of quality. But I’ve always been of the mindset that people perform their best when they are encouraged to do so.

In the past four years, our agency went from a consistent 5-6 person staff to doubling, and in the past 12-18 months, tripling. We founded multiple departments in new disciplines, and diversified our staff more than ever before. Navigating the waters of rapid change while not losing sight of what made us special to begin with has not been without its challenges. However, I attribute much of the camaraderie and team spirit during the scale to a software platform that we just can’t get enough of.

Full disclosure: Yes, they are our client. Yes, they are a client I work with. No, I am not biased. This product’s impact on our operations and staff cannot be understated, and the company’s philosophy is one that I as a people-first kind of person am completely in awe of.

We work for a software platform in the HR technology space called YouEarnedIt. They specialize in building programs for companies with hundreds and thousands of employees (we were an exception because of our working relationship) to practice what they call ‘total employee engagement’. You can find out plenty more about them on their website, and I’m not writing this to pitch them. Instead, I want to share the impacts that a system of positive reciprocity open to all employees had on our company during its biggest period of growth yet.

  1. When managers and owners are the sole distributors of recognition and rewards, companies put themselves at a disadvantage.
    When we were smaller, it was fairly straightforward for the owners to own recognition- there wasn’t much they didn’t see. Now we’ve got an office full of heroes, and all for various reasons. Some of us wow prospective clients and audiences during presentations, and deserve kudos for that. But what about the team who consistently goes above and beyond to put together these presentations? Or the person that makes sure we have beautiful printed and bound packets to bring? Or the employee that despite the stress and pressure of putting together that presentation never came to work or left the building without offering positive encouragement despite the chaotic environment? As you grow, executives simply cannot catch all of these individual efforts. Because we’re able to freely and publicly use our YouEarnedIt platform to share appreciation for the little and big things, it reaches everyone, and assures no effort goes unnoticed.
  2. Silo walls are torn down.
    It’s very easy during growth and diversification for the rise of departments to come with big walls, and understandably so. Adding designers, developers, coders, Quickbooks pros, senior staff and recent graduates, an array of genders, backgrounds, and personalities makes it difficult to be highly engaged with everyone. Connecting new hires to our company culture and ethos can also prove to be more difficult. By giving everyone equal access to a platform where we are free to use our communication styles, discretion on rewarding peers (in YouEarnedIt’s model, rewards are given in the form of points), and are required to tie the recognition back to one of our agency’s core values, we’ve eliminated those boundaries. So when the design team makes a killer logo for a client, myself in the PR department can cruise into our platform and recognize all or any of the team that worked on it. By freely doing this, we are not limited to appreciating the work of a select few. It’s reinforced the notion that even as we grow, the work of individuals is valued and appreciated because it all contributes to the greater good of the agency.
  3. We’ve seen toxicity stems from the under appreciated.
     Feeling valued, wanted, appreciated, etc., at one’s job is not some new age, entitled generational issue. It is valid across the board. We do our best when we feel fulfilled, and part of feeling fulfilled is knowing that your efforts are seen as essential to the company. It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in… when you feel like you don’t matter and are at most another line item replaceable at any time, then eventually you’re bound to adopt that mindset and perform as such. Offering ways to receive consistent recognition from peers, managers, and executives almost completely offsets that mindset, and sends the message that we value every kind of effort.
  1. Praise or constructive, feedback no longer takes a backseat. 
    Waiting until the end of the year to look at the so-called ‘big picture’ and dishing out bonus checks is not conducive to a motivated and invested workforce. This is 2016, people. We crave the instantaneous. We’re highly adaptable. We want to champion improvement and innovation, especially in ourselves. The fact that our recognition and reward system is real-time allows us to see right away what’s working and what made significant impact. Real-time feedback, which can extend beyond recognition and be used for constructive feedback as well, gives everyone an opportunity to modify or adopt behaviors and processes that improve the quality of the workplace and the work product. Waiting only gives time to foster resentment, let memory fade, and offers nothing for the employee to build on in relation to both their contributions and mistakes.

At the end of the day, I cannot describe how awesome it is to scroll through and read the feed of my colleagued dishing out love and appreciation to each other. It serves as a constant reminder that we are a team, and that our investment in each other makes the grind completely worth it. While it may seem like an investment you can put off, prioritizing engagement and removing communication limitations in any way possible will pay off for the company, and most importantly, the people that make the company work.

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