Playfully Shaping an Employee-Focused Culture

When I read about how a manufacturing firm with around 150 employees started a unique recognition tradition called “Passing the Shoe”, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. It’s such a perfect example of how an unusual employee experience can be used to shape a backbone of company culture—meaningful recognition.

Then I started thinking about a couple of other examples closer to home—for a client and for Hillary’s. Because these employee-driven events are unique to the company, they truly reflect a culture focused on the company’s employees. Read on, and you’ll see how darn simple it can be. All you really need to do is take cues from employees. Keep your eyes and ears open. And you’ll see from the examples that follow that this kind of culture-building is unlimited within an organization. There’s room at every level for recognizing acts that go above and beyond daily requirements.

“Pass the Shoe”

One day an employee got a phone call from a woman who had lost her shoes the previous evening at a concert, which she attended at a city park next to the company. She wondered if anyone had found them and possibly dropped them off at the company. The employee went over to the park, looked for the shoes, found them, and returned them to the grateful concert-goer. This act of going above and beyond had nothing to do with her job, yet she took it upon herself to help this stranger.

The company’s finance department (not HR as I would have expected) recognized this extremely kind act by presenting the employee with an actual pair of shoes dubbed “Above and Beyond Award”. It has grown to legendary status, with each person who receives the award selecting the following week’s recipient whose work exceeds expectations. The winner is featured in the weekly newsletter is entitled “Follow the Shoes”, which is always one of the most widely read articles.

“Hot rock”

A national chain wanted to create a friendly competition among senior leaders and their teams and recognize the top performer among those nine people at each quarterly company-wide meeting. Hillary’s developed a simple traveling award that was voted by their peers and more senior leaders. What could be simpler than a huge rock painted with the company’s logo?

After receiving the award at the quarterly meeting, the winner has the privilege of displaying it in their office until the next meeting. It has been a badge of honor that represents the combined efforts of the winner’s team, who is motivated to continue collaborating to keep the award. In addition to generating team camaraderie, the “rock” has increased work quality that’s resulted in positive bottom line financial results for the company.

“Two points”

Closer to home, “two points” has become part of the language of Hillary’s culture. The catch phrase recognizes a solid suggestion, solution or an action that in some way feels above and beyond (done faster, less expensively, more creatively, more closely aligned with our values). When one individual seems to be getting too many “two points”, they are lovingly referred to as a “point sucker”.
The only reward for points is verbal recognition among peers. Yet “two points” is highly valued, which speaks to the people on my team who all thrive on contributing. And while most contributions would seem trivial to outsiders, they typically change an important dynamic in our world.

Nurturing seeds

Here are some ways to nurture those recognition seeds from employees, so they take root in your culture:

  • Make them visible and fun with a bit of suspense and respect.
  • Include them in regular employee communications, like a newsletter, intranet or company meetings.
  • A “travelling” award builds community as it goes, and is based on the most powerful form of recognition—peer-to-peer.
  • Allow the winner to name the next recipient empowers employees.
  • Include this in orientation so new employees understand the language and feel more closely aligned to the group.

I hope these examples are inspiring. I’d love to hear how you and your employees are shaping the language of your culture and having fun. If you’re looking to be intensional about shaping the culture in your workplace, we have creative ideas. Let us help you implement down-to-earth strategies that are aligned with your company objectives, brand, message and voice. Call us.
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