Executive Coaching Articles

Achievement Awards – Celebrating & Honoring Valuable Employees

When Karl E. Wiegers was manager of the Kodak software group, he started handing out bags of M&M’s with a message of thanks or appreciation.

He said the candy disappeared quickly, but “that some people kept the message tags visible around their desks. To them, the important thing was not the bag of candy, but the words indicating that their manager noticed and valued the progress being made.”

When leaders give awards honoring individual excellence, it raises morale. It also lets your workers know the kinds of things you value.

Achievement awards offer a motivation to do better.

While some people prefer private recognition, most prefer public celebration of excellence and value. You might honor valuable employees in weekly team meetings—even if it’s something small.

When you see an accomplishment, research to be sure who actually did it. Rewarding the wrong person for a job well done may create resentment and back-lash.

While your corporate culture may think, we hired you, that’s good enough, you can create a reward system on your own level. A few dollars spent praising and honoring your achieving workers is money well spent over the cost of new hires.

When to reward

“Praise for a job well done should be timely, direct, personal, and specific,” Wiegers says. As a leader, don’t put off your praise until the annual review. Give credit right away.

Look for praiseworthy milestones, goals, or events and honor them immediately. Be specific. Share exactly what the employee did well and why you appreciate it.

If you delay, you may reduce the impact while the worker thinks, oh, so he finally noticed.

Who to recognize

Of course you will recognize individual excellence in valuable employees. But don’t stop there. Consider team recognition and groups who perform excellently.

Balance your rewards. If workers see the same people recognized time and again, they may feel their efforts are not appreciated. Sure, you can have lesser rewards for smaller results, but spread the wealth.

Thank and recognize people outside your group who have helped. This is an excellent way to build good relationships with other departments.

How to recognize

Ask your people what kinds of recognition they want: public pronouncement or private, from a manager or from someone higher up. What does it take to make it significant?

When people achieve award-worthy status, here are some ways  to celebrate or honor them.

  • Ask for “Atta-boys” or recognition of good things by peers at weekly meetings.
  • Create a traveling trophy. Move it every few weeks from project to project to keep it fresh and active.
  • Food and entertainment. Honor your valuable employees with tickets to a movie, gift certificates, or take the team to lunch.
  • Certificates can honor individual excellence.
  • Mugs, pens, medallions, cuff links, or jewelry offer a public and useful way to tell employees they are important.
  • Challenging and exciting work — the new fun stuff — can be a reward as well.

Everyone enjoys receiving compliments, especially when they come from people we respect. Motivate your employees with honors and awards for a more interactive, engaged workplace.

Looking for innovative ways to honor and reward your valuable employees? Contact Joel for effective methods of praise and motivation.