Make it Meaningful to Make It Count

Make it Meaningful to Make it Count

There’s work to be done to achieve objectives, and companies rely on systems, processes and technology to crank it out. It can be easy to neglect the individual that is required to execute and adapt plans and strategies. How does your company culture inspire its people to accomplish great things?

It’s all about strengthening connections with employees. One of the most powerful ways to do that is through consistent, meaningful recognition for making the people that matter most to your company feel like they matter. If you happen to already have such an initiative in place, is it meeting expectations? If your company handles recognition pretty much haphazardly, it’s time for a tune-up to ensure retention of high-quality employees.

Here are some recognition categories and considerations for creating your new recognition initiative or rejuvenate an existing one:


Recognition by peers may be the highest compliment an employee can receive. It’s important to set standards for recognizing colleagues, as well as a system for doing. There are a variety of methods that could work, such as the company intranet, over a cup of coffee or in a daily department huddle. In any case, recognition needs to be timely and focus on the individual’s attributes in addition to the specific business achievement or activity.

Personal milestones

Recognizing life events such as a loss, birth, or illness conveys that the company sees employees as people with feelings who have real lives beyond the workplace. To be effective, there must be a heartfelt message that is personalized. In other words, the gift or card needs to convey an authentic message.

Company/department milestones

Group celebrations can be meaningful for achieving exceptional company results or completing a key project ahead of schedule. Each department should be cited for its contribution to a result, or each person on a project team for their contribution. Public recognition (verbal or in print) is a powerful tool for conveying appreciation.


There are many ways to celebrate top sales achievers, but no matter what option is selected, it needs to tie to the company or division the company represents in some way. It takes a lot of thought to select and customize an award to ensure that it speaks to what it represents.

Awards should be personalized—in a small company with the addition of the person’s name and in a large company with the addition of a division’s logo. Additional ways to personalize the award and make it more authentic include a personal message from the CEO that could be attached to the back or underside.

Service anniversaries

An email with a URL to a gift selection site is a no-no; no personalization and no authenticity. When a manager truly knows their direct reports, they have a sense of what would be meaningful to their employee. Often that might not mean actually selecting it for them, but rather a one-on-one conversation led by the manager.

The most important part of this recognition is the manager’s presentation in which the employee’s work history, specific contributions, growth milestones, etc. is recounted—either in a department meeting or in a handwritten note. While this may sound logical, inexperienced managers often haven’t been given the tools for the softer side of managing people, so it is worth documenting a process.

Matrix for consistency

Creating an organized, systematic approach to recognition ensures that it is consistent and meaningful. As you develop an initiative, keep the following in mind:

  • Eligibility and standards may be altered to align with the company’s annual objectives; however, once they are established for the year, maintain them. Changing horses in mid-stream undermines authenticity and company credibility.
  • When identifying or creating awards, consider effectiveness in terms of how personal and meaningful they are. Gift certificates and money evaporate when spent. A physical representation offers longevity and emotional strength.

A matrix is an easy way to track recognition:

Step 1 – Identify a cross-functional team to create a robust initiative that supports departmental and corporate plans.

Step 2 – Establish recognition categories, and for each category include:

  • Eligibility requirements/standards for recognition (who)
  • Means of recognition and alignment with company’s mission/values and business objectives (what; physical representation; include community support
  • Person/position responsible for award presentation (where and how; i.e., venue,)
  • Time frame for presenting the award (when; i.e., within 30 days of the achievement)

Step 3 – Create a process for updating the matrix and assign maintenance to a specific position/person.

We are problem solvers and innovators when it comes to shaping recognition that comes from your head and heart. We’ll help you implement down-to-earth strategies that are aligned with your company objectives, brand, message and voice. Call us.

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