Acknowledge Shining Moments to Engage Employees

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOrganize corporate bragging sessions. Provide an up-beat forum for employees at all levels to share war stories and brag about how successful their units (departments, divisions, field operations, cross-functional teams) were in meeting and/or exceeding defined objectives.

There is a compelling body of team development research (Ash and Gerrand, 2004) and findings from positive psychology which support this type of activity. Sustained loyalty, commitment, and heightened interest in the job occur when feedback about performance and achievement is consistent and timely. The literature on motivation suggests that people tend to repeat the behavior they are rewarded for! (Okay, that last sentence may not be grammatically correct — but it definitely hits the mark when it comes to employee engagement!)

Make no mistake about it, people will repeat behavior they see as personally and professionally profitable — behavior that is recognized and rewarded by leadership.

Re-read that last statement. One more time. It makes good business sense, doesn’t it? Reward commitment and superior job performance and you’ll get honest to goodness commitment and superior job per­formance. Fail to appreciate or acknowledge heroic actions and mediocrity results.

Here are some ideas to organize these snapshots of success:

  • Advertise these bragging sessions (department-wide, company-wide) and hold them quarterly. (Held less frequently, continuity and momentum are lost; more fre­quently, they become too time-consuming and routine-like to keep their novelty status.)
  • Designate a theme for each session (i.e., ways we served our customers heroically, intradepartmental cooperation, new service/product innovations, cost reductions, revenue enhancement, sales and manufacturing partnerships, quality improvements, etc.).
  • Offer fun rewards for the best-judged success story. Have team members vote. Then select a team to compile the best of these shin­ing moments into a company album, history of excellence, small-wins portfolio, or a monthly newsletter designed specifically to praise excellence in productivity improvement, service distinc­tion, quality enhancement, and relationship development.
  • Organize an Annual Shining Moments Banquet. Invite key people from other departments as guests. Include the chief executive and other senior staff. Challenge other divisions to follow suit. Sell reluctant dragons and other hold-outs on the idea.

Recognition-RewardsThere are many ways to reward people for the quality of the work they do in the workplace (McRae and Mauss , 2010), in the form of money, benefits, time off from work, acknowledgement for superior work performance, affiliation with other high performers in high visibility special assignments, or a sense of accomplishment from completing a major task.

Here are a few things rewards should have in common:

  1. Rewards should support performance directly aligned with strategic objectives that positively affect the bottom line.
  2. Recognition should occur as close to the performance as possible, so the reward reinforces the behavior the company wants repeated. Otherwise, the relationship between performance and reward will lose its intrinsic value.
  3. Rewards must be tied to commitment and purpose, not to implied threats or job security issues.
  4. Avoid processes that single out an individual employee, such as “Employee of the Month,” because they are usually seen as favoritism and are rarely effective.

We speak from personal experience when we report that with each of these small win-induced transformations, every incremental toast of performance, each shining moment (reported proudly and often) there will begin to emerge the glimmerings of an evolving mecha­nism for sustained employee involvement and long-term profitability.

Research support:

Ash, E., and R. Gerrand, Rewrite Your Relationships, Penguin Books, New York, 2004).
Kateri McRae and Iris Mauss, Using Positive Reappraisal to Counter Negative Emotion: Its Neural Mechanisms and Role in Resilience, Positive Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, 2010). 

About Cher & Bil Holton

Since 1984, Cher & Bil Holton have been co-owners of The Holton Consulting Group, Inc., helping corporate and association clients enhance bottom-line results using cutting edge employee engagement. Their keynote speeches, turbo-training, and coaching sessions are practical, grounded in research, and lots of fun to boot! They are prolific authors, and take "Indiana Jones" vacations to continually stretch their limits!
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2 Responses to Acknowledge Shining Moments to Engage Employees

  1. Jim Cox says:

    Fantastic points, Cher! I continually have to remind myself of the need to praise the well-done. Without these reminders, my tendency is to comment when things aren’t working, rather than when they are. I can relate a story of the effectiveness of the “bragging” sessions you mention. I am a manager within a department whose members are split between Cambridge and Cary. Two months ago, my boss asked if I would coordinate the “holiday” luncheon for the Cary half as the senior manager here. Before the luncheon, i went to a dollar store, and bought a 12-pack of Thank-you cards. I wrote a personal message to each individual that would be at the luncheon thanking each one for their specific accomplishments, showing that I recognized their individual value. At the luncheon, I asked that we go around the table and have each person relate what accomplishment they were most proud of for the year. It worked as a great team-building exercise, based on the smiles around the table as people related what they personally were proud of. After we had gone around the table, I gave each individual his or her card. Even though I never mentioned this to my boss, he found out about it from others and remarked in glowing terms about it on my annual review. Two months later, the cohesiveness of the Cary group continues to grow. The cost to me for all this? One dollar. The effect? Priceless.

    • Thanks for sharing such a great example of this principle in action, Jim! What a great idea — to save your notes until after employees had the opportunity to share with each other. And the fact that you had the notes, already written, demonstrated the effort you had made to thoughtfully reflect on each employee’s work. This truly builds employee engagement on a grad scale! We love the fact that this kind of action pays dividends way beyond the actual event — like ripples in a pond! Keep up the great work — and keep sharing what you do that works!!

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