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Recognition in The Real World
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25 Creative Low-Cost or No -Cost Ways to Appreciate your Employees (…and Sometimes Yourself!)

Posted By Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, Tuesday, April 23, 2019

“People get just as excited about receiving a compliment as they do at the prospect of getting money!” ~ Journal Neuron

As you are thinking about applying some of these ideas in your own organization, first think about the people who have made a difference in your own life. List five teachers or mentors who believed in you and encouraged you, five friends or co-workers who have helped you through a difficult time, five people who have taught you something worthwhile, and five people who have made you feel appreciated and special. If YOU want to be remembered for making a difference in someone else’s life, make them feel appreciated. Remember, appreciation is a FREE gift!

  1. When you are forced to sit somewhere for a period of time (commuting, waiting for an appointment, even watching something boring on TV), get in the habit of writing short “thank you” notes. . Carry them in your purse or briefcase so they are easily accessible. Mention two or three specific things that make you glad that person is in your life.
  2. Draw an outline of your hand. Put it on the wall of your office, and when you’ve done something great that no one has noticed, walk back and give yourself a little “pat on the back!”
  3. Call someone’s parent, spouse or significant other at home to thank them for the good work that employee is doing.
  4. Go to the store and look at all the candy names: Skor, Extra, $100,000 Bar, Snickers, Payday, Lifesavers. Plan little surprises with notes tying into that theme to surprise and thank employees.
  5. Ask each of your direct reports or colleagues to list the letters of the alphabet and think of something they are thankful for that begins with each letter.
  6. Give an employee the day off to work with his or her favorite charity. Ask them to take pictures and write about it for the company newsletter.
  7. Give an employee a gift related to their favorite hobby or passion with a personal note. (First, you have to FIND OUT what their hobbies and passions are, however. That, in itself, is a form of recognition!)
  8. Take an employee someplace that would personally delight them – attend a baseball game, go for a walk together, go shopping, attend a class together, take time to discuss a good book, attend an event to see one of their children perform.
  9. Commit to finding someone doing something right each day and thank them for that on the spot.
  10. Send a positive, encouraging voice mail to someone and then send one to YOURSELF!
  11. Have an “Appreciation Board” posted in your breakroom where employees can publicly thank others who have gone the extra mile for them.
  12. Make a “Thanksgiving Tree” and keep it in your lobby all year long. Ask people to write things they are thankful for and hang them on the tree.
  13. As a special thank you to the whole team or company, host a half day event where employees pick an expert to come in and teach them a new life skill (photography, cooking, decorating, golf lessons).
  14. Learn the American Sign Language sign for “thank you” and teach everyone in your department to use it when things are hectic.
  15. Send a gift to the employee’s family to thank them for sharing that person, especially when an employee has been working hard on a project – a restaurant gift certificate with a letter, flowers, or movie tickets for the whole family.
  16. Put 5 pennies in your right hand pocket in the morning. Every time you thank someone, move a penny to your left hand pocket and do not go home until all 5 are all on the left side.
  17. Prepare a home-cooked meal for your employees. If possible, invite them to your home.
  18. Sponsor a Family Day at work so that family members can share in the mission of the company where their mother or father works. As a special perk, give them a logo gift of some kind.
  19. Place five silver dollars in your pocket each week and pass them out to someone who is doing a great job during the week.
  20. Give an employee the gift of time – permission to come in an extra hour later or leave an extra hour early or take an extra hour at lunchtime.
  21. Have everyone on your team create an AIG folder (Ain’t I Great!) and ask each person to fill it with things that encourage them or bring them joy.
  22. For one year, name a hallway, favorite dish in the cafeteria, or special room after an employee. Post their picture with the nameplate.
  23. Have your team brainstorm creative ways they would like to be recognized or appreciated.
  24. Invite an employee to lunch and ask him or her to share some ideas with you that could make a difference in your workplace. Be sure to take good notes and acknowledge any ideas that you implement.
  25. Think of practical needs your employees may have. For example, invite a laundry service to come in once a week to pick up clothes or provide a caterer who will prepare meals to be picked up as the employees leave for the evening.
  26. Place a large poster page next to everyone’s office or cubicle door for a week. Ask other employees during the week to stop by and write something they appreciate about that person.
  27. Keep a “crazy gift” closet (the Dollar Store is a great place to get them), and when employees have done something exceptional or are just having a bad day, let them choose something fun from the closet.

REMEMBER: It does not have to be something big and the more fun and surprising it is, the better. As Mark Twain said, “I can go two months on one good compliment!”

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RPI Member Dollar General Awarded Training Magazine’s Top 125 Training Organizations

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Congratulations to RPI Board member Kimberly Huffman, Dollar General for being recognized on the elite Training Magazine’s Top 125 Training Organizations. Standard 5 of RPI’s 7 RPI Best Practice Standards® is Recognition Training and is often cited as one of the more challenging organizational activities. Below is the Dollar General’s case study:

RPI Member Dollar General Awarded Training Magazine’s Top 125 Training Organizations – Training is Standard 5 in the RPI Best Practices® model

By Lorri Freifeld

Since its inception 80 years ago, the No. X company on the 2019 Training Top 125 list has continually been guided by its founding principle to serve others. In that spirit, Tennessee-based Dollar General Corporation continues to support more than 135,000 employees reach new career heights thanks to best-in-class training, career guidance and additional resources to support employees’ career development.  The Company’s continued achievement of training and development goals also landed the discount retailer on the Training list for the eighth consecutive year.

In 2018, Dollar General looked to add approximately 900 new stores to its store footprint and create approximately 7,000 net new career opportunities while remaining focused on one of its operating priorities of investing in its people as a competitive advantage. 

Armed with new employee feedback and an exceptional store manager training program, the Company’s training and development teams entered 2018 prepared to deliver another strong year of programming to meet the needs of Dollar General’s growing business.

“This year, our strategy remained focused on talent selection and employee development through great onboarding, training and open communication,” said Bob Ravener, Dollar General’s executive vice president and chief people officer. “Our team influences every level of the company with a practical and innovative approach to training. As a result, we deliver approximately 1.7 million training hours each year to our employees, and we help them further develop their talents and hone specific skills and experiences to grow their careers to new heights of success.” 

Putting Customers First

At Dollar General, employees are squarely focused on enhancing customers’ in-store experiences, which means their top priority is to keep the customer at the center of all they do. 

In that spirit, Dollar General’s training and development teams developed a year-long training program to support the Company’s DG Customer First initiative, which aims to enhance the customer experience by encouraging Dollar General employees to be highly engaged and empowering them with the knowledge they need to offer the Company’s customers best-in-class service. 

Developed from a cross-functional, comprehensive review of customer feedback surveys that analyzed market data and examined interactions between employees and customers, the Customer First training program was implemented in two phases.

First, participants completed a three-hour learning map activity in groups of six to eight to maximize small-group dynamics. Additionally, the first phase of training combined employees ranging from vice presidents and district managers to human resource directors to foster a positive exchange of ideas and perspectives to best support the training’s real-life applicability.  The first phase outlined three main takeaways for Dollar General employees including:

  • How to attract and retain leaders
  • How to create life-long Dollar General customers
  • How to remove barriers that might preclude their abilities to deliver the highest levels of customer service 

The second phase of the Customer First training was implemented at the Company’s annual leadership meeting. During this phase, Dollar General moderated a four-hour simulation activity aimed at putting learnings from the first phase into action.  Approximately 1,500 leaders engaged in a self-discovery journey designed to reinforce why the customer experience is increasingly important and the impact of their decisions to customers.

“Participants complete this training with the clarity and understanding that everyone at Dollar General is a champion for our customers and employees,” says Lori Bremer, Dollar General’s senior director of training and development. “Dollar General makes putting customers first a point of differentiation, and robust training focused on enhancing that sentiment is measured, studied and improved through our customer satisfaction surveys.”

In addition to the two-part Customer First training module, the training and development teams provided ongoing training, which included activities from the learning management system (LMS) focused on a different goal each quarter.  They also provided activities that cascaded this content to the Company’s more than 15,000 store teams, allowing them to also further focus on improving overall customer satisfaction. Finally, field management teams received a workbook to track store manager engagement, overall customer satisfaction and their progress toward meeting store standard goals.

“Our field teams reinforced their knowledge and engagement of the two-day training by teaching the content to their store teams,” Bremer said.  “Through the implementation of this training, the training and development team was thrilled to receive stories of recognition and excitement from our store team colleagues as the content resonated with both our employees and customers. We highlighted some of these success stories, and they served as motivation to keep the momentum of the program going strong.

Success of the Customer First program resonated with customers, which was reflected through a 15 percent increase in employee engagement and increased store standard metrics.  Additionally, results from customer satisfaction surveys increased with overall scores at their highest levels in the Company’s history.

Redesigned Store Manager Training

Understanding the pivotal role that store managers play within Dollar General’s corporate strategy, the team further enhanced the Company’s Store Manager Training (SMT) program in 2018.  Building upon the successes of its current store manager training program, which was created in partnership with Dollar General’s executive vice president of store operations, the team augmented its 12-month regimen to further engage leaders and address skills gaps. 

The result was a completely-redesigned onboarding program that included an initiative to evaluate, select and certify approximately 1,100 top-performing store managers to become Certified Store Training Managers (CSTMs).  These talented and motivated leaders completed a series of train-the-trainer modules to better prepare them for their elevated roles. The new program yielded 53 percent more leader-led training hours than the previous program and helped improve employee engagement and retention.

“Through a comprehensive review of our training programs, we identified additional training opportunities within the store manager population,” said Bremer.  “With more than 10,000 current store managers promoted from within, we wanted to supplement initial in-role training to best prepare them for success in their newly-elevated and more prominent roles.  Additionally, as we plan to add almost three new stores each day through the planned addition of approximately 975 new stores in our 2019 fiscal year, we want to ensure our employees integrate best-in-class training to help fuel our success.”

Bremer says innovation is also evident in the training design.

“SMT delivers interactive learning throughout the store manager’s first year with gradually deepening knowledge and skills, regular reinforcement and short, highly realistic modular courses to engage and equip them to strategically lead stores, drive sales and serve our customers.”

The 12-month program is designed in a way to teach foundational learnings and invoke thought leadership from training store managers that will help support their elevated roles.

Within the first eight weeks of the program, participants complete computer-based modules that allow practice in a simulated virtual store environment. The complementary learning activities in a top-performing store with a CSTM helps guide the new store manager to put new learnings into action within their own store.  Throughout the training, the CSTM also helps verify the new store manager’s learning while simultaneously holding weekly check-ins supported by regular training visits to build a strong working relationship and promote greater engagement.

Three months into the program, store managers attend Retail Excellence Every Day (REED), a three-day, instructor-led classroom session to explore leadership skills and discuss on-the-job experiences to further create a coaching mindset to optimize store performance.

Action planning occurs at two key milestones to help new store managers achieve and maintain operational excellence. Plans are built around goals that each store manager creates based on their individual store metrics and are executed in partnership with their district manager.

Continued learning and reinforcement are key for the remaining eight months of the program.  Participants complete bi-monthly, computer-based modules, which range in topics from succession planning to building customer relationships, all of which are aimed to further develop and prepare the new store manager for continued success.

Dollar General’s store manager training program continues to support business objectives as store manager turnover trends toward its all-time, best on record and time-to-fill positions are at an all-time best.  The program is also contributing to cost savings derived from store manager retention, reduced hiring costs and gained productivity.

In addition to business wins, the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) evaluated and recommended nine semester hours of college credit for the company’s store manager training.

“As an industry innovator, Dollar General is the first among its competitors to offer this benefit,” Bremer says. “Through this program, we are further supporting our store managers’ abilities to be great leaders while simultaneously enhancing their lives as they achieve both education and career goals.”

Heeding the DG Voice

In an effort to further Dollar General’s culture and employee-centric focus, the Company led a broad initiative to define, implement and measure the impact of an innovative employee feedback loop called DG Voice.

Initiated in 2017, DG Voice seeks to get a stronger understanding of the organization by continuing to communicate directly with employees.  Championed by executive leadership from across the organization, the survey results have helped provide real-time feedback to quickly identify and address engagement opportunities within the organization.  The DG Voice also provides actionable insights to positively impact meaningful change through companywide action planning alongside localized results.

“Since DG Voice is comprehensive, responses to employee input are as well,” Bremer stresses. “For example, we have incorporated survey feedback into all training and development programs focused on areas that our employees told us matter to them the most.”

The team implemented the following examples following feedback from DG Voice:

  • Growth and Development: A new core curriculum, which features on-demand, experiential and instructor-led learning captured through correlations and branching items. Within three months, 40 percent of employees either engaged in this content or participated in enhanced training.  For example, Dollar General piloted a fully-funded Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training to support the Company’s growing private fleet and an enhanced tuition program providing substantial savings to its entire workforce and their families.
  • Leadership Effectiveness: The creation of a new, formal cross-functional mentorship program was tailored to participants with content aimed at identifying core strengths and opportunities in a four-hour simulation; results were shared with both an external coach and their DG mentor.  Mentees ranging from assistant managers to executives take advantage of flexible, learning and customized leadership journeys. Connecting top leaders cross-functionally helps drive operational strength and instill a culture of inclusion.
  • Employee Experience: One example of Dollar General’s relentless focus on encouraging learning is embracing new technologies from leading-edge learning apps and virtual leadership programs to virtual classrooms and gamification.  Data collected from the DG Voice indicated this new, technology-based approach contributed to employees feeling more engaged.

“This program is far-reaching as it cultivates a continuous improvement mindset to deliver an employee experience that embodies our mission of Serving Others,” Bremer says. “Through learnings generated from DG Voice, we are able to proactively deploy communication and actions to best engage our employees.”

Looking Ahead

With continued desires to further enhance training through technology and support the business with frictionless customer experiences, Ravener looks for 2019 to contain more micro-learning and on-the-job experiential learning.

Through an increasingly robust virtual learning program for high-potential district managers and executive outreach with best leadership practices, the training program will also allow for digital journaling and open discussion commentary with other program participants.

“As we look to the future, we will strategically focus on attracting the best talent by leveraging technology to fuel the Company’s growth needs and providing an outstanding employee experience emphasizing digital connectivity,” Ravener says. “Furthermore, we will continually strive to deliver the right development tools to meet employees’ individual needs, build a deeper bench of talent complemented with the ability to receive ongoing feedback.  This will help ensure an ever-improving culture of Serving Others while meeting the needs of both our customers and growing workforce.”  

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Reporter on the Scene: What can Higher Education Teach Your Company about Recognition?

Posted By Rebecca Wegscheid, Thursday, April 18, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Reporter on the Scene: What can Higher Education Teach Your Company about Recognition?

At the 2019 RPI Annual Conference, Brenda Naegel of Yale University, Iryna Leonova of the University of Calgary, and Cori Champagne of MIT presented an insightful presentation to attendees focusing on what higher education can teach us about recognition. Throughout their presentation the team highlighted how to build, promote and measure a recognition program along with how to navigate any challenges along the way.

Key Session Takeaways

By taking attendees through the “recognition lifecycle” from building a program in house, to including a diverse workforce, measuring impact and evaluating results, the presenters provided some great insights into crafting a recognition strategy that fits your company or organization. Some key points that I will be utilizing in my work are:

  • A “one size fits all” strategy just will not work when it comes to recognition programs because for each program the audience varies.
  • Getting your leaders on board at the beginning is crucial. Once you have your leadership bought into the program, they can cascade the recognition message.
  • Measuring the success of your program is an on-going process. Maintaining clean reporting and analytics will help you communicate the value of the program and identify any potential areas for improvement.

Putting it into Practice/Aha-Moments

I really enjoyed this presentation by the team of Brenda Naegel, Iryna Leonova and Cori Champagne. I think my biggest takeaway was something all recognition professionals know, but should be reminded of from time to time, “Recognition is important to all businesses and organizations”. The key is to not utilize a recognition strategy just because it worked for someone else but make it unique and your own to meet your goals.


Reporter on the Scene

Vicki Hargrove

Hargrove Business Consulting 

Tags:  Higher Education  Recognition  Recognition Strategy  RPI conference 

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Excuse Busting: Top 4 "Reasons" Managers do not use recognition

Posted By Kathie Pugaczewski CRP, RPI, Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Excuse Busting: Top 4 "Reasons" Managers do not use recognition

“Not enough time.” “It’s meaningless to my team.” “It’s not appreciated so why try?”

We all know these managers, the ones who look at employee recognition and scoff. Employee Recognition Programs have been shown as key indicators of a company’s culture and a resource for employee retention. In a time when high employee retention is at the top of every organization’s wishlist, it is time to get buy in from your leaders and managers. Bust the most common excuses and engage your leadership to create and build a successful program that will leave your team motivated and committed.

Top Excuses from Managers and how to “bust” them

  1. It’s not a part of my job to provide recognition/it’s not important

    Yes it is.

    As mentioned above, almost all employees expect to receive recognition for their work, and they should. According to the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace, committed and engaged employees are 17% more productive, stay with their organization for 24-59% longer and have a 21% higher profitability than employees who are not engaged and report low commitment to their organizations.

    Recognition programs should not just be direct managers to employees. The not-so-new concept floating around many leadership and HR circles is peer-to-peer recognition. By having a recognition program that is multifaceted, not just peer-to-peer based or management recognition based, the responsibility for recognizing team members is spread around. Key recognitions should still come from company leaders and managers, but by building a program that includes shout-outs, day-today recognition from fellow employees, a company culture of support and appreciation can be developed and the weight of recognition does not just rest on one leaders shoulders.

  2. “We do not have the money to provide recognition to our team”

    Recognition does not have to be costly, it can be as simple as a thank you to a hardworking member of your team. That being said, it is widely agreed that the cost of retention of an employee is far less than replacing. A paper from the Center for American Progress determined that companies can expect to pay about one-fifth of a departing employees salary to replace them, depending on the employee’s skills and position, while Josh Bersin of Deloitte Consulting, LLP estimates the cost to be anywhere between “tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5-2X annual salary.” With these numbers, creating the time to start and actively participate in your organization’s recognition program is a no-brainer.

  3. I don’t know how to recognize my employees

    While this seems like the easiest excuse to refute, it can be the hardest to overcome. With more generations in the workplace than ever before, Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials), and Gen Z, navigating what works best for each employee and the nuances of generational divide can be difficult. The Wall Street Journal cautions against following a blanket stereotype, while Kimberly Abel-Lanier, vice president and general manager of Maritz Workforce Solutions, advises organizations to reinvent their recognition strategy by considering their general motivations. Whatever your organization’s hurdles may be to creating a recognition strategy, sometimes the easiest way to find out how your employees would like to be recognized, is to ask.

  4. Who has the time?

    If leadership at some of the top companies in the world can send thank you notes and take the time to recognize their teams, you have time to provide recognition to your team. As Kevin Kruse of puts it; “increasing engagement takes minutes, not hours”. The truth is, everyone is busy, not just the company leaders. Set an example as a manager that recognition is important to your organization. There is time in your day to say a simple thank you to an employee that handled a tough account, give a shout-out to a member of your team that offered their time to help on an additional project, fill out a recognition form for an employee who took time out of their weekend to finish a project on a tight deadline. Make the time and see the results.  

Manager Responsibility is a key pillar of the RPI Best Practice Standards®. Learn more about the Standards here.

Gain more insights into building your recognition program and become a certified recognition professional through RPI’s Certified Recognition Professional® (CRP) program – four courses designed to guide you through the latest information and research on building a successful recognition program.

Tags:  employee retention  recognition  recognition program 

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Recognize me! Why your organization needs a recognition program to stay ahead of the game.

Posted By Kathie Pugaczewski, RPI, Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Recognize me! Why your organization needs a recognition program to stay ahead of the game.

Recruitment and Retention. These two terms are at the top of the minds of most organizations these days. Workers of all skills levels and experience now have their pick of where they work, it is now up to prospective employers to set themselves apart from the competition and, not only recruit new employees but retain their current workforce. According to the research presented in the 2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report from AON, each of the three elements composing their engagement index improved across the globe: “Say,” which measures employee advocacy, went from 68 percent of employees a year ago to 70 percent this year. “Stay,” which measures the likelihood that employees will remain at their current employer, rose one point to 61 percent of employees. “Strive,” which assesses willingness to give extra effort, improved by two points to 64 percent.” It is clear that employees want to feel recognized for their contributions to the organization and seek out and stay at those organizations who provide this recognition.

With “Rewards & Recognition” topping the list of preferred engagement opportunities again this year, of which “recognition for contributions (beyond pay and benefits)” being a key factor in this ranking it is clear that recognition programs can make or break an organization’s workforce. The question then becomes, with such a larger number of employees reporting recognition being a high motivator for their work, how can your organization tap into this motivation and build a recognition program that not only lasts but impacts your culture.

As per RPI’s Certified Recognition Professionals program, there are 8 key steps to designing a program that is responsive and true to your organization culture.
  1. Create a centrally-managed and global program
    Make sure the program is a single program, not many small unrelated pieces. Make giving recognition quick and easy for all employees. It needs to be consistently branded across all platforms.

  1. Ensure accessibility of the program
    Empower your employees by creating a program that can be accessed by everyone, everywhere.

  1. Recognize most employees every year
    The best practice is to reach at least 80% of your employees annually (Gallup asks if each employee has been recognized in the past 7 days). It can be as simple as a thank-you email or shout-out in a meeting.

  1. Give consistent and ongoing feedback
    Frequency of recognition helps keep employees satisfied in their jobs. Be cautious though, recognition should not be a quota, instead should be authentic and based on employee performance.

  1. Be specific in your recognition
    On the topic of authenticity, most generations in the workforce now can route out inauthentic statements in half a second. While generalized statement may be easy for leadership to “plug and play”, they can cause more harm than good. Be as specific to the employee’s contribution as possible.

  1. Program should be accessible from all platforms
    95% of Americans own a mobile device of some sort, 77% of them are smartphones and it is estimated that by 2019 the total number of mobile users worldwide will surpass the 5 billion mark. Any recognition program you develop should be mobile friendly and accessible from any platform.

  1. Be proportional in local vs national/international awards
    Whether you are a local organization or international, any monetary awards should have equal value, regardless of location. Awards should be location appropriate and have the same lasting emotional impact regardless if the recipient is in Brazil or France.

  1. Make it social
    All of the awards should be visible to other employees to encourage peer-to-peer recognition and increase the impact of the award.

Well organized and thought out recognition programs not only help drive engagement, but can help your organization be up to 40% more profitable.

“Why Recognition? Organizations that give regular ‘thanks to their employees far outperform those that do not” Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte

Expand your knowledge, excel in your job and maximize your recognition program with RPI’s Certified Recognition Professional® (CRP) program.

Tags:  employee engagement  recognition strategy 

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Learn from the best, tips from MIT on building employee engagement

Posted By Kathie Pugaczewski CRP, RPI, Monday, October 29, 2018

Each year, companies are spending almost $750 million per year on engagement. Companies know that creating an engaged culture is important, but the problem is that the spend is not being returned with only 50% of the potential market has been tapped, with only half of the organizations stating an interest in engagement programs actually investing.

So the question needs to be asked, how can you increase employee engagement and create a recognition culture within your organization?

In 2016, RPI awarded Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT as it is better known as, the top award amongst recognition professionals, the RPI Best Practice Standards® Award. The institute began their award winning recognition program in 2001. Prior to this, the Institute was seen by staff as a “praise free zone”. So how in the span of 15 years did the Institute create a major internal cultural shift and build a recognition program that continues to grow? The answer lies within the seven RPI Best Practice Standards®.

Make it robust (Standard 1: Recognition Strategy)

By creating a robust recognition strategy, MIT was built a recognition program that has legs. A multi-tiered model approach, like the one used at the Institute, allows leaders and employees to provide rewards and recognition for all levels of behavior. As we know, recognition does not always have to mean a large ceremony every time an employee or coworker does something worthy of recognition. Instead, building daily “on the spot” awards into a program allows for flexibility and authenticity to the awards. Making the accomplishments measurable ends credibility to the program and removes questions of favoritism, a plague that we know can sink a recognition program in an instant.

Top Down Buy In (Standard 2: Management Responsibility)

To kick start their program, MIT tapped into their senior leaders and staff to be their program champions. From the start, they were included in the development and roll out of the program. Senior leaders and managers serve as key role models by encouraging attendance and presenting at the recognition events, and utilizing the program themselves. Often times, these leaders make up half or close to half all of the “on-the-spot” awards submitted and are frequent nominators for the larger awards.  

Train, Teach, and Train again (Standard 5: Recognition Training)

The MIT model does not only work because of it’s multi-tiered approach to recognition, but because at the start of their employment with MIT, staff are trained on the program. Throughout their careers, MIT provide staff with additional trainings on the program and ample opportunities to be involved in planning of the large year end event. There are articles and tools readily available to all staff and employees on the program and an intranet site dedicated solely to the program creating a single location for all program information.

The MIT Recognition program is a phenomenal example of a program that is built to last. These are only 3 of the key ways the MIT program has grown into an adaptable and award winning part of their culture.

Read more about MIT’s award

Learn more about the 7 best practices for building your recognition program and how you can become a certified recognition professional.

Tags:  employee engagement  employee recognition  employee retention  MIT  RPI 7 Best Practices 

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Quartet of RPI Members Honored by Incentive Magazine

Posted By Jess Myers, Thursday, October 4, 2018

Ferguson, Green, Stark and Stern cited among industry’s most influential people

ST. PAUL, Minn. (October 1, 2018) – Four active and respected members of Recognition Professionals International have been named among the 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry 2018 by Incentive Magazine. Tonda Ferguson, CRP, of Southwest Airlines, Ashlee Green, CRP, of Verizon Wireless, Kathy Stark, CRP, of RPI and Dan Stern of BAE Systems were all named to the magazine’s list of 25 individuals “who are shaping the rewards and recognition industry now.”

Ferguson, who has been with Southwest Airlines for 36 years, led the employee engagement team that created its company-wide recognition platform, and currently oversees Southwest’s employee engagement survey. She is the board secretary for RPI.

Green is an RPI board member and one of the planners of the 2019 RPI Conference which will be held in Atlanta in April. With Verizon she is moving to a new position overseeing employee incentives and recognition at the leading mobile service provider's customer service organization.

Stark, who leads the RPI board, has played a pivotal role in organization recently joining the Incentive Federation. She has been an important part of the reaccreditation of all of the RPI educational offerings, including the Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) designation.

Stern is the manager of Compensation Engagement Programs for BAE Systems, whose recognition program was a winner of RPI’s prestigious Best Practice Award®. The program, IMPACT, began in 2013 and has experienced at least 30 percent growth every year since then.

RPI congratulates all four on this well-deserved honor. Additional information is available at the RPI website:

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Building a Culture of Recognition

Posted By Amy Hurley CRP, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Wednesday, September 26, 2018

In study after study on recognition, retention and staff engagement, we have learned that people commonly leave jobs not because of pay or where they park or the food in the cafeteria. They leave because they don’t feel appreciated.

In this time of low unemployment and more competition than ever to hire and retain the best and brightest, it’s logical that more and more employers are looking for ways to build a culture of appreciation, and they need to know what a useful strategy that recognition can be.

Some of it is pretty straightforward:

  • Staff members appreciate face-to-face contact.
  • They appreciate someone acknowledging them in a group.
  • They like seeing comments on walls, posted in common areas or the break room.
  • They like that acknowledgment and reinforcement that they’re doing a good job.

From the beginning, we instill that culture of appreciation and recognition in our people. My staff gets in front of people on their very first day of orientation. We are among the first people that talk to new employees. When people take on leadership roles, we are on that agenda too, making sure that those messages about our culture of employee recognition are heard right at the beginning when people enter our system.

This notion of constant reinforcement makes me think of a recent visit that I made to the Homeland Security website, when I was looking into how you can block phone solicitations. On their site they had a big, amazing banner that I wanted to emulate. It said, “If You See Something, Say Something.” I recall thinking that slogan should be the theme for recognition, not just Homeland Security, because that is how effective recognition works. If you see something good, acknowledge it, and because the timing is important, so do it right then.

In my workplace at the Ohio State University, it starts with the medical center placing a value on recognition tools and having a strong statement about our values, wanting to live them and being dedicated to reinforcing them for consistency’s sake. The medical center supports us as a department and we are very active in using our tools, which is of high importance. If you put tools out there and managers don’t use them, it sends a message that people are not valued and it’s not a big part of the culture.

Since not every tool is going to work for every workplace, people have to pick tools that are going to make sense in their organization. You can’t just pick up a complete toolkit and expect it to work in every setting. For example, our medical center has over 20,000 people in different sites, so we do have a business partner provider who provides a place that people can go for consistency. This allows people to do e-cards across the system to communicate.

One thing we consistently communicate and coach is the need for people to take the time and reach out, either by rounding or writing personal notes. To that end we had hundreds of notecards printed and they’re available any time anyone needs more. It is one way we try to remove obstacles to the personal encounters.

We try to represent the Ohio State brand with all of our tools. So for example, some of our nomination-based awards are tied to our values. We have a lot of pride in OSU, so there are many things we can build from that way, and we’ve found that things branded with OSU are hugely popular among our people, so that works here. We talk about the Buckeye Spirit and living the values of our organization. There are many things we tie together this way.

I don’t use the term consistency lightly.  When a manager vows to get better at recognition, they also need to take a vow of consistency. If they work on recognition for one or two days or try it out for a week and then quit, the next time something amazing happens with no recognition, a person will be hurt that they weren’t recognized. Consistency is vital.

As a leader of an organization, I believe that you have to emulate the behavior that you want to see from others. To create and maintain a strong culture of recognition, you have to work directly with front-line managers and the people who are going to be the positive enforcers of this. They are the people who will get the tools, and the effort will live or die right there, depending on whether or not the tools are used effectively. You can’t just give them tools and say, “Go!” You have to constantly coach and reinforce how to use them as well. Through efforts like leadership academy and ‘lunch-n-learn’ events, we share useful strategies and talk to them about their needs.

One of my favorite examples of an effective recognition tool is our Bravo Emergency Box. We are a big operation with several inpatient hospital units and someone may call us on a Friday afternoon, after a rough day, and ask us to do something for staff morale. The manager needs something on the spot in their hands immediately. With this in mind, we created the Bravo Emergency Box, which is filled with tchotchkes like sunglasses, stress balls, lip balm and lots of candy. We wrapped them up in what looks like crime scene tape. Each manager has one of these boxes in their office and if something good or bad happens, they can pull this box out in an emergency. All they need to do is tell us why they used it and they will get another box. Instead of a manager having to buy pizza out of their own pocket or something, they have this in their hands and it is brand-supported. It is a simple and easy thing we do.

We have done significant organizational coaching of our leaders, making sure they visit the second and third shifts to do rounding and make people know they are important. We have leaders who do rounds on holidays to let employees know they’re appreciated. It takes all of us to make this work. We also work to ensure that every member of the team, from top to bottom, is recognized for good work. There is no segregation of celebrations here. An award could go to one of our neurosurgeons, or to the person who removes scuff marks from the floors. They could get the same honor based on what they do, not comparing each other’s skills. We feel that shows the spirit that we are all one, and that is important because it takes all of is to make this work.

In contrast to the need for consistency in recognition, I see great value in variety when telling recognition stories. It is important to look at all the different ways we can communicate, and learn which communication tool is the right one to use for a particular message. You can’t effectively communicate everything across all platforms, because people tend to start seeing it as white noise and delete it. So we try to be strategic about what form of communication makes the most sense, and then we monitor the open rates of those different communication tools to see what is working. It’s not just one things that works every time, it’s a constant balancing act and we’re always trying to see what we need to do to get better and what we need to try next.

Taken all together, we like to think of what we do as the Buckeye Way of creating that culture of recognition.

# # #

Amy Hurley is the Faculty and Staff Recognition Program Director at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. She is the RPI’s president-elect.

Tags:  culture  day to day recognition  health care employee engagement  peer to peer recognition  Recognition Strategy 

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10 Tips to Help Make Professional Training More Exciting

Posted By Rachel Niebeling CRP, Tuesday, September 18, 2018

By Rachel Niebeling, CRP, E Group, Inc.

Professional. Development. Training. The mere thought can strike boredom in even the most academic of hearts.

“61% of workers said their employers are providing upskilling opportunities in the technical and soft skills of the future, only 50% said their employers provide career development opportunities that meet their needs and chances for advancement. (Access Perks)

Companies who boast engaged workers outperform those without engaged workers by 202%, according to a Dale Carnegie study. Clearly, training and learning opportunities at work are a pretty important factor. So how do we help cure the workforce of the “snoozefest” stigma associated with training? How can we possibly make professional training more exciting?

Fear not, training managers! Below, we share with you our proven tips to make professional training more exciting, thus driving employee engagement.

  1. Provide Variety
    Personalities learn and engage differently. With modern technology, it’s easy and affordable to offer a variety of training and learning opportunities at work. For example, a webinar led by a subject matter expert (SME) can be offered live for groups and individuals, and then can be archived for a self-paced learning experience later.
  2. Offer Clarity
    Learners need clear learning objectives shared prior to registration. This helps individuals decide if the topic is truly interesting or useful, as well as focused on specific learning objectives. Clarity also keeps presenters on track.
  3. Have a Good Team
    In order to make professional training exciting, you must deploy a team effort. You also must have the right team. GovLoop, a resource for public sector professionals, has put on hundreds of online trainings. They suggest having a moderator, an SME and backend support. It’s important to have an SME that’s a good facilitator who keeps the topic interesting. Humor and plain language are great tools!
  4. Facilitate Engagement in Training
    It’s important to create an emotional connection with the learner. Storytelling is a great way to facilitate engagement in training. Case studies are a great way to tell a story and show impact.
  5. Gamification
    Gamification is a #buzzword. There’s a reason the Twitterverse is abuzz with gamification… It works! There are many strategies to implement gamification, and it’s proven to work. Ask your current platform provider about their capability for gamification.
  6. Make it Interactive
    If gamification isn’t in the cards, find other ways to make professional training exciting. In an online training, try weaving in poll questions and sharing the results immediately. In a live training, call on people from the crowd. Also, always make sure to leave time for Q&A. Finally, get rid of the text heavy slides and add some graphics.
  7. Reduce the Time
    No one wants to sit through a full day of training, especially online. If you need more than an hour, break it down into shorter sessions and offer breaks. Make sure to leave 10-15 minutes in between each section.
  8. Make the Connection
    Make a connection between each training and job performance. Provide context and relevancy by choosing the right content. Employees need to know what to do after the training and how to connect it with their role. It’s important to define and communicate expectations and objectives.
  9. Get Managers Onboard
    In order to make the connection, manager support and participation is critical. According to a BizLibrary infographic, 49% of disengaged employees are due to problems with direct supervisors. Managers can support learning by encouraging participation and setting a good example. Managers should also seek results from trainings and give recognition.
  10. Community and recognition
    Use social and collaboration tools to build company culture around training. Social tools can help with relationship building, enhance information flow and promote the sharing of ideas. They also provide a platform for recognition both peer-to-peer and manager-to-employee.

    Bonus: Follow up for learning effectiveness. The best training in the world will be wasted if there is no follow up. Follow up with tip #8, make a connection with employee objectives.

Keep up the good work, training managers! Now that you have a few additional tricks to increase engagement during trainings, you can decide which ones to try during your training sessions.

About The Author
Rachel Niebeling, CRP, is Sr. Director, Training, Rewards & Engagement with E Group. She is dedicated to building best practice engagement programs and has a passion for making your work day better.

Tags:  career development  employee engagement  employee training 

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Peer to Peer Recognition Leads to Changing Behaviors and Builds Engagement

Posted By Sue Yoemans, Tuesday, September 18, 2018

By Susan Hall, CRP, Corporate Engagement and Community Development, Gateway Mortgage Group LLC

Susan Hall

Showing appreciation in the work place isn’t just for management to their employees. It’s important to recognize fellow co-workers who you feel go out of their way to help you or even observe helping others in some way.  Recognizing your co-workers sets the scene for building a culture of appreciation in the work place. It allows others to see how work life can be at your company.  A thank you note can go a long way as we know and why not share great things! It can become infectious. It builds confidence and engagement. Peer to Peer Recognition is one way your company can tell its story when it comes to creating a positive environment and strengthening culture.

4 Ideas to Start Peer to Peer Recognition Today:

  1. Shout out boards
    Shout Out Board Shout Out Board Comment
    This is an informal program that we have created and we have one on every floor in our building. Once the boards are full, we do a random drawing and give away movie tickets. Although we do not promote the prize, it is fun to do a random drawing and the employees do not expect it. We created note cards with thank you phrases on card stock and change them out when we run out. We even created a fun video to announce the program, the winners and read the cards out loud. We want our employees to hear what we are saying about each other.

    Here is our latest shout out board (youtube)

  2. Spot Light Award
    This is a formal peer to peer nomination form. This could be an employee who changed the way we do business by improving innovation and efficiency.
  3. Kudo (Candy) Grams
    Remember these from middle or high school? We sell candy grams twice a year. We deliver these with a granola bar or healthier treat with notes from peers. The money we collect goes towards our adopt-a-school or a nonprofit the company has a relationship with.
  4. Get to know me scavenger hunt
    We like to celebrate Customer Service week with a “Get to Know Me Scavenger Hunt.” We ask questions that support our employees’ interests. They share their findings at our huddles. You think it’s not recognition, but when you read out loud that a fellow employee wrote a bestselling novel or speaks three languages, you’re recognizing not only their accomplishments but sharing their story. Why always make it work related? Have fun with this, it can open doors to skill sets, add value to your team and helps others appreciate what they can bring to a team. Employees want to share their interests.

When peer to peer recognition is acknowledged, it just gives me the chills thinking about how simple it can be. Peer to Peer recognition leads to changing behaviors and builds engagement in our company! Ultimately changing how we work and improving our culture.

Learn more about RPI’s 7 Best Practice

Tags:  Recognition Events and Celebrations  Recognition Program Communication Plan  Recognition Strategy 

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