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Recognition in The Real World
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Non-monetary rewards a staple of Founding Fathers’ success

Posted By By Jess Myers, RPI, Friday, March 17, 2017

The importance of finding non-monetary ways to inspire people isn’t a new concept. If George Washington was here today, even 200-plus years after his death, he could tell you as much.

During a brutal Revolutionary War battle in the wilds of New Jersey, stuck in a valley between Princeton and Trenton, Washington offered his rebel troops a fiscal incentive as he pleaded with them to join him in a dangerous advance against the British. No one took him up on the offer. He tried again, appealing to their love of country and family, asking the men before him to take up arms against their numerically superior foe one more time. The inspiration worked.

“You can’t motivate people. That comes from within,” said Kevin Ames in a recent webinar for RPI members. “But you can inspire them. You can’t drive engagement, you can only inspire it.”

Ames, the director of speaking and training for O.C. Tanner, has more than two decades of experience working with companies on how and why to inspire their employees to do great work. He stresses that relationships are more than the bank account -- the heart and soul are where you make true and lasting connections with people. In his hour-long talk, Ames listed six key influencers that lead to success in employee recognition and rewards.

  • Purpose – Identify and articulate a higher a purpose, then connect people to that purpose.
  • Opportunity – Make sure people have the opportunity to learn, grow, contribute and be recognized for their achievements.
  • Success – This comes in many forms, including financial, environmental and social, but above these, cultural success is the greatest.
  • Appreciation – For their psychological survival, people need to be understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated. Recognition of this is the most important factor in producing great work.
  • Well-Being – More than just a health concept, this encompasses all dimensions of body, mind and spirit.
  • Leadership – A successful leader is one with impact, influence and inspiration as their key strengths.

Ames engaging talk used not only Washington’s battlefield success, but simple examples like the work of shepherds leading their sheep from the front to higher elevation pastures where they are naturally reluctant to go on their own. Straying from the path helped the shepherds find abundant food – one of the key elements to their health and well-being.

The full webinar is available online, free to RPI members.

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Study: Employee Satisfaction Success Comes from Playing the Long Game

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It’s easy to get a quick burst from a strong cup of coffee or an energy drink. And then there’s the inevitable crash. The better, tougher, way to be a more energetic person is to work on it over time, with nutrition, exercise and rest, which lead to long-term energy and health.

According to a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, it works the same way with employee engagement. It’s easy, exciting, and mostly useless, to get a short burst in productivity and employee satisfaction through an incentive. But long-term success in employee engagement comes from taking the extended view in the recognition field and investing for the long term as well.

Why the Millions We Spend on Employee Engagement Buy Us So Little” is the provocative title of Jacob Morgan’s study, and he’s played the long game in doing extensive research, interviewing 150 psychologists, economists and business leaders throughout the globe. His hypothesis is that spending countless dollars on employee engagement efforts is not money well spent if you’re focused on the short term. When an employee perk is introduced, he writes, it has the same effect as an adrenaline shot. Employee satisfaction jumps up, briefly, then settles back down just as quickly, as employees subconsciously wait for the next incentive.

Taking a long look at the workplace is well-traveled territory for Morgan, who is the author of three books on organizations, employment and employees. He has an entire website ( dedicated to the topic.

In his data analysis, Morgan finds that companies focused on long-term employee engagement have the most long-term success. One example he cites is Adobe, which employs an executive vice president dedicated to customer and employee experience, and has made a significant investment in programs that facilitate real-time employee feedback. Other examples cited in Morgan’s study include offices with multiple workplace floor plans to accommodate differing work styles and preferences. One company, Airbnb, constantly experiments with differing office layouts and floor plans, and employees are given a budget to design and build their own conference spaces.

Short-term efforts are easy and enjoyable, but the companies with the most success in the employee engagement realm are playing the long game.

Tags:  recognition 

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Member spotlight: Recognition Means the Royal Treatment at RBC

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Monday, March 6, 2017

Employee appreciation is a big deal throughout the Royal Bank of Canada’s vast network that employs more than 80,000 people in 35-plus countries, but if you stop by their Toronto headquarters on Employee Appreciation Day, you won’t see any balloons or party favors. That’s by design.

“We do employee recognition every day of the year,” said Steve Richardson, who has led the recognition team at RBC for the past 25 years and is a past president of RPI.

The renowned recognition program at RBC has changed greatly over the past three decades or more. It was solely focused on incentives at one time – sell a set number of credit cards and you would get a new barbeque grill, for example. That changed for a number of reasons, not least of which was that non-sales staff deserved incentives and recognition as well.

“We still have the toasters and barbeques, but it’s evolved into a full recognition vehicle,” Richardson said, adding that informal recognition is as important in their corporate culture as material rewards. “It’s more important to get recognition right than to have someone receive something.”

Richardson’s work includes not only running the recognition program, which utilizes a well-developed peer-to-peer program, but training managers on correct and effective ways to use recognition. RBC has found that such training leads to positive results not only in terms of employee retention and satisfaction, but even in sales numbers.

What works and what can be improved in the employee appreciation realm has produced plenty of learn-on-the-job moments. For example, a practical way to deliver material rewards became a win-win for the company. If RBC employees were getting a toaster, for example, the company would have the item delivered to the office, knowing that the recipient would be there to sign for them. This practice came with an added bonus.

“It became a real recognition moment, as co-workers would see and acknowledge the person being recognized, congratulate them and add to the recognition,” Richardson said. From that fortunate circumstance, a company practice was born.

RBC also practices informal “instant thanks,” and has a system in place where managers and peers can acknowledge good works in a matter of seconds. There are up to 15,000 of those sent every month across the company, which leads to positive results.

The fiscal side of things never goes unnoticed, especially among one of Canada’s largest banks. Richardson admitted that a competitive ‎financial compensation program goes hand in hand with an effective employee recognition program to retain top talent.

“But recognition is what can take people higher,” he said.

Tags:  recognition 

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Employee Appreciation Days is This Week, and Every Week

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Monday, February 27, 2017
For more than 20 years now, there has been a designated day for making sure workers feel valued. Employee Appreciation Day began in 1995, and generally is celebrated on the first Friday of March. It’s a designated time to say thank you and offer a reward to valued employees.

It’s a relatively young holiday, and as such there are no real rules or accepted traditions for how to celebrate employee recognition. You don’t need to cook a turkey like on Thanksgiving. You don’t need to light off fireworks like Independence Day. You don’t need to wear green like St. Patrick’s Day.

This is designed as an open-ended opportunity for companies and organizations to recognize the people that make them great, and to get creative in doing so. One of the great things about Employee Appreciation Day is hearing the stories of inventive and fun things done in the name of employee recognition.

The ideas run the gamut from simple efforts like cookies, root beer floats or on-site massages, to more elaborate events like travel, time off and even an awards ceremony.

The overall idea, in times like these when unemployment is low and good workers are harder than ever to find, is to make sure your people know they’re valued. Studies show that a lack of feeling appreciated is the number one reason people seek a new employer. New people take time and money to train. Keeping the good people you have via employee recognition efforts is a much wiser use of your time and resources.

The secondary idea behind designating one day per year to recognize employees is to make it a much more than once-a-year event. Just as your relationship with your significant other may get rocky if Valentine’s Day is the only time of year you express your affection, your employee relationship is sure to suffer if recognition happens on just one out of 365 days. Creating a year-round culture of appreciation and recognition pays huge dividends in terms of retention and overall satisfaction.

So celebrate on Friday, be creative, and tell us your stories of the unique and special ways in which you recognized your employees on this day and how to make them feel appreciated every day. Email us with your best ideas and we will feature some of them in future editions of the RPI Blog.

Happy Employee Appreciation Day, on this day and on every day.

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Gallup poll shows employee engagement important in changing workplace

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Friday, February 17, 2017
To say that the American workplace is changing means little to most. Just in the past quarter-century, we have seen the workplace change dramatically, with the Internet moving in, and the truly global economy advancing.

But the recently-released Gallup poll on the “State of the American Workplace” shows just how quickly and dramatically those changes are happening, as a new generation of employees makes its mark. And the results of the 200-plus page report underscores the importance, in many cases, of employee engagement and recognition.

Among the findings in the report, available at the Gallup website, is: “an evolving employee attitude about what a job should and should not be. Most workers, many of whom are millennials, approach a role and a company with a highly defined set of expectations. They want their work to have meaning and purpose. They want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best every day. They want to learn and develop. They want their job to fit their life.”

Also revealed, partially as a result of the strong economy and the low unemployment rate, is an American workforce that has high expectations. As noted the report’s executive summary:

“The modern workforce knows what’s important to them and isn’t going to settle. Employees are willing to look and keep looking for a company that’s mission and culture reflect and reinforce their values. They have seemingly unlimited resources to help them conduct their job searches — far beyond classified ads and their immediate professional networks. And as the job market has been opening up, employees have been feeling increasingly optimistic about what they’re finding.”

These findings, and many others in the report, reflect the importance of employee engagement and recognition as keys to success in this changing world of work. Ensuring those employees, who have many options out there when it comes to where and how they work, feel valued and recognized is an increasingly important tactic to company and organization growth.

These findings come at a time when the race to find the best employees, and to reward and retain those employees, is increasing quickly. While plenty of the traditional “8-to-5, Monday-through-Friday” jobs are still out there, the new generation of workers is changing that dynamic quickly as well.

From the report: “employees are hyperconnected and can access information on any company just as quickly. Through the web and social media, they can see what an organization offers and what past and current employees are saying about it. They can read articles and headlines, see Facebook and LinkedIn posts and develop a clear idea about what makes an employer not just ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but ‘exceptional.’ And, if employees can’t find an exceptional job that complements other aspects of their life or, at a minimum, pays enough to make the 8-to-5 grind worthwhile, they can create their own job category. They might work 20 hours a week at a contracted office gig, 20 as a ride-hailing service driver and 10 as a freelancer.”

With Employee Appreciation Day coming on March 3, there are many great ideas for ensuring your workforce is valued and knows it available, including a recent webinar featuring experts in the field. All of RPI’s CRP courses are now available online, and there is a new recognition fundamentals online course available as well.

For more information on the State of the American Workplace, visit the Gallup website for access to the full report.

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RPI Certified Recognition Professional® Courses Now Available Online

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Friday, February 10, 2017

You don’t think of February as back to school time. But in the world of employee recognition, it’s that time to sharpen your pencils and meet your new teacher.

That’s our excited way of announcing that all of the Recognition Professionals International Certified Recognition Professional® (CRP) courses are now available online. The news went out via a world-wide press release.

“This is an exciting time for RPI and for the many world-wide employee recognition professionals seeking to become certified in the trade, with all of our valuable courses now available in both online formats as well as in-person at RPI’s annual conference,” said Rita Maehling, CRP, RPI board member and chair of RPI’s Learning Action Team. “We know all effective recognition programs involve assessment, strategy, implementation and review. The CRP program is designed to be a guide through this process, for the benefit of organizations and also business providers everywhere.”

The goals of the CRP program are straightforward, and include:

  • To raise the professional standards of those engaged in employee recognition.
  • To encourage continuing education for professional development.
  • To encourage self-development by offering guidelines for achievement in the employee recognition profession.
  • To identify and award special recognition to those persons who have demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of those principles and practices of employee recognition and also laws governing and affecting employee recognition.

It’s an extensive educational experience. CRP designation consists of four courses and exams that can either all be taken online, at the 2017 RPI Annual Conference (April 30-May 2 in Fort Lauderdale, FL), or a combination of both. All CRP candidates receive the comprehensive learning guide which includes valuable templates, worksheets and case studies that can be utilized to implement a recognition program based on RPI’s Seven Best Practices. Each course is $595 for practitioner premium/business partner members; $750 for basic RPI members and $795 for non-members.

The driving idea behind CRP designation is to demonstrate to leaders, peers and clients a commitment to continuing education and excellence in the discipline of workforce recognition. RPI’s program is renowned as the most comprehensive, authoritative resource for individuals seeking to develop and test their skills and knowledge within this field.

RPI offers a webinar featuring testimonials from several CRP graduates with plenty more information. And of course, details are available on the RPI web site.

So listen closely – the school bell is ringing in the world of employee recognition.

Tags:  CRP  recognition 

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Award Winner Profile: MIT

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the 2016 recipient of RPI’s Best Practice Award for a simple reason: MIT understands the value of recognition as a positive way to reinforce attitudes and behaviors that support a successful, dynamic organization.

As detailed in a white paper recently released by the well-respected school, MIT has identified seven best practice standards for their recognition program. Here is an overview of how it works, with significant additional detail available in the full report:

Standard 1: Recognition Strategy

MIT’s Rewards and Recognition (RR) program was designed to recognize exceptional work specifically from MIT staff. The program includes all levels of employment and all Departments, Labs, and Centers (DLCs).

Standard 2: Management Responsibility

To ensure that the recognition program would be adopted throughout all areas of MIT, the originating Committee worked collaboratively to build a program and consensus. With buy-in from senior leaders, the R+R Committee established a network of 24 RR Key Contacts across MIT.

Standard 3: Recognition Program Measurement

MIT measures the success of the RR program in multiple ways. One is by assessing outreach during key nomination periods to be sure that the programs are accessible to all staff. MIT’s dedicated web pages on the recognition program contain critical information on nominating for the Excellence Awards + Collier Medal, and also for the other tiers of the recognition program.

Standard 4: Communication Plan

Communication and outreach for the MIT Excellence Awards + Collier Medal are handled by the RR Program Administrator. Calls for nominations, information about the process and award criteria are branded with the award-specific logo and linked to the RR website for ease of use.

Standard 5: Recognition Training

From the start of their time at MIT, staff are acquainted with the recognition program. Staff at every level attend New Employee Orientation where the recognition program is explained. New staff are invited to attend department recognition events and/or participate in planning and implementation of those events.

Standard 6: Recognition Events and Celebrations

MIT believes that a critical component of recognition is a celebratory event where recipients are acknowledged formally with family, friends, and colleagues attending. The recognition program is structured to include the annual all-MIT Excellence awards ceremony, and the 24 department-centric Infinite Mile events.

Standard 7: Program Change and Flexibility

The RR Program Administrator is the point person for initiating changes, with input from senior leaders and RR Key Contacts. Award categories, the nomination, and selection process are under continuous review for the MIT Excellence Awards and the 24 Infinite Mile and Spot awards. As the administrators, RR Key Contacts act as change agents for their units, and an advisory board for the R&R program overall.

MIT is proud of the global diversity of its staff, and the recognition program is proud to honor that diversity. In 2012, with support from the Manager of Staff Diversity, a significant change was made to the Fostering Diversity Award to change to the Advancing Inclusion + Global Perspectives Excellence Award, better reflecting MIT’s distinct culture.

Tags:  best practice  recognition  recognition strategy 

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Recognition. Incentive. Reward.

Posted By Society for Incentive Travel Excellence , Monday, January 30, 2017

Recognition. Incentive. Reward. There’s a whole lot of confusion what to use when. The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Foundation recently took a look at the ways in which we drive behaviour and performance through a series of articles.

The results offered a few intriguing insights and thoughts, including:

Companies that invest more than 1% of payroll on recognition 79% more likely to see better financial results. 
(Read the full article — Incentive vs. Recognition – What to Use When – and Why)

You can’t always measure ROI — which is why VOI might be a better metric. 
(Apply for the white paper— Using Recognition and Incentives to Drive Results)

Do the terms “recognition” and “incentive” even matter to practitioners?
(Find out more from industry leaders Michelle Smith and Paul Hebert in — The View from Here)

You can’t always measure ROI — which is why VOI might be a better metric.
(Download the white paper by Jill Anonson of ITA Group— Using Recognition and Incentives to Drive Results)



Tags:  recognition 

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Creative Ideas Abound as Recognition Day 2017 Approaches

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Friday, January 27, 2017

It was a really simple idea at its conception in 1995. Bob Nelson, a renowned speaker on the importance of employee recognition developed the notion of Recognition Day offering a designated spot on the calendar to celebrate the individuals whose accomplishments benefit organizations and companies.

Scheduled for the first Friday in March, the 2017 version of Recognition Day is coming up on March 3. Recognition Professionals International experts recently held an informative webinar to discuss ideas for making sure employees feel valued, not just on the first Friday in March but all year.

Presenters Theresa Harkins and Barbara Ruddy noted that the goal of Recognition Day, and of employee recognition in general, is to create a culture of encouragement in the workplace. Done right, these efforts can not only improve the atmosphere in any organization, they can lead to measurable results in areas like retention and productivity.

Among the ideas Harkins and Ruddy presented for Recognition Day activities included:

Food – Everyone loves free food, be it a simple snack, a sweet treat, or a full meal, and there’s something special about an employee being served a meal by their supervisor that reinforces the notion of value and recognition. Everything from food truck appearances to ice cream socials are encouraged as a way to recognize employees through food.

Team activities – Getting out of the office is imperative to the mental health of employees; even if it’s just to the parking lot for a group stretch.  Team activities can be a valuable way to recognize employees and foster a team spirit among members of your organization. Make the office feel different for a day. Some workplaces practice theme days, where workers dress in the colors of their favorite sports team, or emulate their favorite superhero. Games like Jenga contests or a video game setup can bring a spirit of friendly competition to the workplace as well.

Wellness – Some workplaces provide healthy snacks or energy-boosting foods to give employees a needed jumpstart, especially in the afternoons. A popular wellness activity is to bring in massage professionals to provide back and neck rubs a day or two each year.

Other ideas

  • Create a workplace cookbook, with each employee contributing their favorite recipe, and each of them getting a “book” featuring all of the foods. 
  • Remember off-site and “virtual” employees and find ways to include them, so they feel as recognized and valued as on-site employees.
  • Whatever you do, start small and build gradually, with more activities and edibles as the employee recognition culture grows within your organization.

For other webinars and a wealth of information on Recognition Day, please visit the RPI website at

Tags:  recognition  recognition day 

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Building Your Recognition Muscles – How to Keep Recognition on Track Throughout the Year

Posted By C.A. Short, Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's that time of the year. Health clubs and gyms are busy with the onslaught of people who have decided the new year is when they will finally focus on fitness and health.

It happens year after year. Folks start out with enthusiasm, motivated to create a new reality for themselves, but over the course of the year that enthusiasm falls off - gradually for some, and quickly for others. The regular fitness buffs sometimes even avoid the gym for the first month or two of the year, until the resolution-based users begin to fade away once again.

Unfortunately, the same thing often happens with employee recognition.

When a new program kicks off, or an exciting, high-energy recognition-oriented event is held, the ensuing weeks are filled with a flurry of "thank you" and “you’re awesome!” notes. Managers give away points like candy, as well as little items of appreciation and a box of doughnuts on Friday. But before long, it’s less and less frequent, until few, if any, are participating anymore. So, just like in the gym, we begin to build our muscles but that progress goes out the window and we become flabby once again.

So, how do we build our recognition muscles, and how do we keep it constant, vibrant and top-of-mind throughout the year?  Just like in fitness, it’s important that recognition is regular and frequent with a lifetime of benefit.

Here are just a few tips for maintaining top recognition fitness:

  1. Again, make it frequent – For it to be truly effective, recognize employees on a regular basis. It’s been proven in a number of studies that the best response comes from receiving some simple form of recognition every seven days.
  2. Schedule it! – We all get busy, but don’t let recognition fall through the cracks. Whatever program or platform you use for scheduling, why not schedule days and times on your calendar for recognizing your team?
  3. Don’t Wait! – There’s no time like the present. Studies have shown that on-the-spot recognition is highly effective.
  4. Be unambiguous! – What is the specific action or behavior you are rewarding? Don’t just say you are rewarding someone for being productive. What was the exact thing the employee did to contribute to the success of a project or goal of the team?
  5. Make it heartfelt – When rewarding or recognizing someone, let them know how much it meant to you and how it helped you or the team and tell them immediately. This will let them know your appreciation is genuine.

Most of all, if you stay motivated about recognizing your team throughout the year, you will build a healthy recognition regimen, and in turn, keep your team motivated and strong. 

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