June 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm #134136
What is the awesome-est reward you’ve ever received, given, or known someone else to receive?
Money is cool, but sometimes financial rewards are just not satisfying. One of the reward programs I’ve seen was a program called the “XO’s Choice Award.” The executive officer made it a point to walk around his command and catch people doing something cool. He started by putting yellow stickies on people’s monitors or keyboards with a little note that said specifically what they had done, had a “thank you” on it, and the XO’s signature.
He noticed that people started collecting these stickies. They’d pile up in their drawers because no one wanted to throw them away. After all – a signed “Thank you” from the XO was special.
Later, he morphed his yellow stickies into buttons with the command logo and the words ‘XO’s Choice” on it. He passed out there “XO’s Choice” buttons whenever and wherever he could. People started collecting them and pinning them up on their bulletin boards. I had five.
What cool rewards have you received, given or seen someone else receive?
June 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm #134214
Thanks for the post! That is an “awesome” idea that I may just have to steal 🙂 I cannot think of anything outstanding right now. I agree that while money is great it tends to come and then go without much lingering thought. I did see an agency that left it to their patrons to point out the positive. There were comment boxes placed in key locations around the agency with little check list and room for comment so it could be done quickly. One was in the elevator, clever. I am not sure what the outcome was.
I am looking forward to seeing where this conversation goes. Thanks!
June 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm #134212
Jill – you don’t have to steal it. You can have it for free. 😉
Credit for the original idea goes back to my old XO from Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico – Navy Captain Jesus Fajardo. I repeated that XO’s program myself a few years back when I was running the Defense Business Transformation Program for the Military Health System. I had buttons made with a cool image in the middle and the words “I Helped Transform the Military Health System” printed around the image. Every day, I stuffed a few of those buttons in my pockets and wandered around. When I caught someone talking about Transformation or demonstrating Transformational behaviors, I would either present a button right then and there or I would ask for their supervisor’s name, trace back to their next staff meeting, and show up to make the presentation there. It’s a fun program.
June 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm #134210
It sounds really fun. I have actually passed it on to our Executive Director already and he wants to try it. We will see how it works in this world of public health 🙂 Thanks!
June 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm #134208
Time off awards were cool at my 1st job.
We gave out gift cards at last job. Although I have to say it became kind of bureaucratic at a certain point as had to ask all managers who they wanted to give to and people didn’t want to leave folks out, etc.
I like the spontaneity of XO’s choice. I think that randomness is what makes exciting.
June 30, 2011 at 1:43 am #134206
When I was at the Federal Railroad Administration as a mid-level manager I used to purchase quarterly safety awards with my own money. That’s not special but what was special is that everything I purchased was made in the United States. The employees, who were unionized under AFGE 2814, appreciated that I was setting an example for the Agency, which had previously purchased cups made in China and hats made in Viet-Nam. Of course, it is difficult to find things made in the United States but search hard enough and there are beautiful pens made in Rhode Island, Caps made in Washington, Thermoses made in Texas and cups made in various states.
June 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm #134204
The most memorable reward goes to a director I had who was always visiting different teams in foreign lands. He would always get the members on our team little trinkets and such and pass them out during team meetings we had with him every 2-3 months. The item always seemed very relevant/specific to the person he was giving it to, it seemed like he always really put some thought into what he was giving you and made it personal. It also always came with some reference to something specific you had done since the last meeting, so it felt like a reward. It was almost like your parent going away on a business trip and bringing you back something. I still have all the items he gave me over that time I was on his team.
June 30, 2011 at 1:30 pm #134202
Here we use Atta-Way notes. They’re purple slips of paper that co-workers or management can use to write a short note about what the person did and then post it at their desk, kinda like the XO award. One of our departments also does Kudos awards which are certificates of appreciation accompanied by a Kudos granola bar.
June 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm #134200
I used to get time-off awards, which were great. One of the cooler rewards was a reception with the head of our agency with my and one other team to recognize the work we had done. We also had an agency-wide awards ceremony once a year to highlight people’s accomplishments.
July 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm #134198
Jim ReedParticipantOur former department director handed out gold stars at our monthly staff meetings. That way everyone got to hear what other people were being recognized for, and we were encouraged to nominate our co-workers for their good work. Of course, the director made sure everyone got at least one star at every meeting. The actual stars were stickers we each collected on a certificate, and when we had 20 accumulated we could turn them in for a gift. Sometimes that would be something generic like a gift card, but other times it was something more personal, based on each employee’s interests or personality. It was a modest little program, but it was thoughtful and meant a lot to us.
July 1, 2011 at 7:42 pm #134196
We have two things. One is a ‘Pride’ award. Anyone can follow a link on the intranet home page and fill out a little certificate, saying what this person did that was great. There are 6-8 categories you can choose from and some different backgrounds that our photographers have taken, so it can be customized to each person. the recipient gets an e-mail with a link to the certificate, and their supervisor is notified. Some of us have a little ‘contest’….see who can get the most.
Another thing is the ‘Orange Hero’ award. It’s given annually and is a little Oscar type figure on a piece of marble (think little trophy) and it has a tiny orange vest on it. I do think, since it’s chosen by a committee, at the beginning it was a bit more spontaneous and now I do think there’s thought given to making sure all areas of the organization are representated but it’s still a nice bit of recognition from the secretary once a year.
Anything of any real monetary value really can’t happen. Too many statutes and rules to work around. (a couple of years ago management tried to think of a way that they could give every employee a logo’d polo shirt but ran into too many obstacles with what it’d cost and if it was even a ‘gift’ that we could legally receive so it was abandoned)
July 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm #134194
I purchased a set of 8 multicolored vases that are curved in such a way that they fit together when next to each other. When a group of staff work together as a team, I fill the vases with flowers and put oneon each of the staff desks. Other staff notice the flowers and ask about them, Once others hear it’s a teamwork award, “congratulations” generally follow. This way it’s not just me honoring the staff, as they get acknowledgements from others as well.
July 5, 2011 at 6:20 pm #134192
At quarterly meetings, the bureau chief will read letters of comendation to the whole audience. (not all bureaus do this from what I hear). My immediate supervisor readily gives a hearty thank you or comments on something done well, and he will take us out to lunch at Christmas time. The longevity “gifts” around here would be better if they bought them from Oriental trading (work here 20 years you can pick out a globe over a pencil box…I really like the sticky notes, you can get cute sticky notes with “great” and other superlatives in teacher catalogs. I was at a work shop testing new products and I was given a “team” stick pin which gets comments like “how do I get one of those”!
When I used to teach we had electric yellow “success” cards to fill in when you caught a kid being good one of my students had finally been working well consistantly so I sent the Success card home with her and she told me about her Dad taking her out to get a few new outfits because of her good behavior, she decided “good” was the route to go…
When I was a teacher I didn’t know I was a consumate teacher until I left. I was always given a “satisfactory” and told to work on some teacher aspect during my yearly reviews. When I quit to be a stay at home mom, I was given a letter of recomendation that was out of this world! I thanked my supervisor for making me sound unbeliveable but he said I was one of the best he ever worked with, inside I always thought of myself as a mediocre teacher, then old students came back to explain how I helped them through the years from my teachings…then I believed my old supervisor but by then I left teaching and went into cubicle world…I may have stayed in teaching if anyone actually told me I was good, or thanked me. I get many more verbal thank you’s here in cubicle world than any other time in my life.
It doesn’t have to cost a thing but stickies, stars and a few flowers every now and can go a lot farther than you know. No matter what- say it some how!
Hey, when you get thanked don’t say “no problem”, you’re being told “thank you”- the thanker is making a point that you actually made a difference, sometimes it wasn’t a problem but say “you’re welcome, I was glad to help” much different than “no problem”. (Now if the person says “I hope it wasn’t a problem!”…that’s a different story :))
July 5, 2011 at 9:05 pm #134190
Threase A. BakerParticipant
This is a GREAT idea!
July 6, 2011 at 1:19 pm #134188
For me the most awwsome awards are unexpected, infrequent, and genuine. A simple, but very real, “hey thanks for doing such a great job on xyz” is 10 times more meaningful than the “its your turn for a pat on the back” awards. Awards handed out like candy quickly become meaningless regardless of whether they are verbal, buttons, knicknacks or cash. Acknolwedgement that you have EARNED an award stays with an individual long after the money is spent and the little trophy is gathering dust.
July 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm #134186
At one of my overseas posts, I gave pencils to my staff that had the phrase “One of the B&F Favorites” on them (B&F stood for Budget and Fiscal Office back in those days) with the instructions that they were to give out one pencil each week to someone who had done something that made their work easier. My time and attendance clerk gave out the first one to a new American employee who had had great difficulty with his time and attendance getting transferred from his previous post to our post because of an unexpected change in assignments. The result: he was no longer being paid. This employee explained the problem to my staff member without giving her the impression that it was somehow her fault. He recognized that she was the solution to, not the source of, the problem. This attitude was so unlike what she had seen before that she handed over a pencil to tell him thanks.
Later I temporarily filled another office within that post so I ended up ordering pencils with “One of the Personnel Favorites,” “One of the GSO Favorites,” and “One of the Admin Favorites” so those local employees could also hand out pencils to say “thanks” to their customers. Pretty soon people started asking how they could get a pencil, and the discussion got rolling. More importantly, the staff started paying attention to the good behavior around them instead of the not so good — we’re all only human, after all.
On my departure from that post, I was pleased to receive a framed poster with signatures of all the local employees who had worked for me at that post along with five “one of the …. favorites” pencils – from B&F, Personnel, GSO, Personnel, and a fifth pencil that came from another office that picked up the idea from us. I couldn’t have asked for anything more precious as a farewell gift.
July 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm #134184
Sincerity does make a massive difference. People have noticed that, for some awards, it’s not ‘ok, who all has done above and beyond’ it’s ‘ok, we have a nominee from this area, now who can qualify for one from this area’….like there’s a quote to spreading it around.
yes, does ‘share the love’ but also cheapens it because it’s no fun to know that, out of 100 awards (let’s say), you don’t give them to the 100 ‘best’ employees, you give them to the 10 best from here, and 10 best from here, and 10 best from here and so on, totally ignoring that some of the people that didn’t make the cut in one area might have been better than those you’re giving it to from another area.
What also happens, after about 5 years of doing the awards, there are no repeat winners, yet with not a lot of turnover, it’s almost like it’s a ‘ok, stay with the organization long enough and eventually you’ll get one’ kinda thing.
I understand the need to spread it out, but it also cheapens it in a way because it’s gone from spontaneous to calculated and planned.
July 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm #134182
I could not agree more, Peter. That observation is huge!
The earning part is just as important as the awarding part!
A clear correlation between the two must be obvious or the award becomes an empty action.
July 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm #134180
Wow. This is a great story!
To see it come back around full circle as part of your farewell gift really says a lot. That’s a great thing to be known for. This sounds like it made a real difference in people’s lives.
July 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm #134178
I knew a Brigadier General who made it a point to deliver hand written notes to people who did something cool. He traveled a lot as many Generals do. On one trip, a woman at the ticket / luggage counter went above and beyond to help him with some travel snafu.
This man called the airlines, tracked her down though he only knew the airport, airline and approximate time the incident occurred. He wrote her a nice hand written letter and had it delivered to her – thanking her for the excellent job she did and explaining how she had made his life better that day.
It wasn’t that she was cute or that he was in uniform (so she knew who he was). He had nothing to gain by tracking her down. This was a case of him making a habit of acknowledging, in a very personal way, people he came across who did good things.
I suspect that people kept those notes. He took the time to make them mean something to the person he sent them to.
Very cool observation, Richard. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to make rewards personal.
July 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm #134176
I like the idea of getting the staff involved. I think it’s really cool that leadership where you are has formalized a system for colleagues to reward one another. That’s cool! I imagine it helps people to keep an eye out for reward opportunities and encourages people to go above and beyond for one another.
Ha! Nice play on the word “kudos!”
July 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm #134174
Hmm… This has an element of fun to it. Collect stars like kids collect tickets at Chucky Cheese. Turn them in for a reward of their choice. An interesting idea. 🙂
I suspect it meant as much that your director simply took the time to do anything to recognize people. The actual program could have been anything, yes?
July 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm #134172
This sounds similar to Dory’s purple atta-way notes, but on steroids. You guys actually build a Web program with email integration and supervisor forwarding capabilities! Incredible. That’s commitment!
I would love to see the written criteria the board uses to award those orange hero awards. It sounds like your organization has given employee rewards some serious thought!
July 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm #134170
Rewards gone viral! Cool!
You managed to make your rewards program a fun topic of conversation. Awesome!
July 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm #134168
I agreed that if everyone wins and award, no one does. Additionally we are not chickens pecking for a piece of corn. Give meaningful award onluy to those who produce over and above.
July 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm #134166
Jana – you raise the issue of acceptance. I love the point you made about just saying ” You’re welcome, I was glad to help.” What a gracious way to acknowledge the gift that someone gave you.
July 8, 2011 at 2:04 am #134164
Dale S. BrownParticipant
Jay Rochlin, who was the CEO of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, used to write hand written thank you notes. They were very specific about what you did right and what he liked. He expressed warmth and gratitude. I think I still have them. I remember finding them five years after he left- and they still meant something to me.
July 8, 2011 at 3:18 am #134162
Yeah. A couple of times I’ve gotten hand written notes from the secretary. And it does mean a lot, largely because I know what her schedule is like and that every minute is practically claimed, so for her to have taken 5 minutes to write a short note….means a lot.
And I keep mine too 🙂
July 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm #134160
I’ve noticed a common theme here: personalizing the reward and being genuine is more important than money or time off. Check out the cost of those hand written notes! Next to nothing, yet people save them forever.
July 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm #134158
I give out personal Thank you cards and include a small candy bar. the $100,000 candy bars come in small bars – very inexpensive. My position is financial in nature and the $100,000 bars are great. Also there are the Nicco (sp) candies that have $5 and 1$ on them. People seem to really love getting the recognition. . .I sincerely want to just give them a moment to know that they are important to me. Recognizing the positive instead of negative is always a win-win situation.
I sometimes use other candy bars, depending on the person. Babe Ruth, Peanut butter cups, Snickers, all can have a special meaning. If they bring a smile, they are well worth it.
September 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm #134156
I’ve heard the $100,000 candy bar idea used in other forums. I happen to really enjoy that candy bar, so that would be an awesome reward for me.
The idea of recognizing a win-win is great too. Very One Minute Manager esque. Ken Blanchard talks about “Catching people doing something right” in his book. I’ve used this technique with success in my career. This is a great tip, Julie. Thanks!
October 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm #134154
Last Night I watched “The Office”-the subject of the show was “Incentives”. The new office manager was challenged to increase paper sales by 8%. And the manager bought some cheapo weird incentive gifts that remind you of the incentives for a soccer team fund raiser. Once the co-workers picked up on getting points, they were encouraged to think of things to win-which ultimately led to the manager saying yes to point amounts he never thought they would reach (10,000-50,000 points-points that could be combined with the other workers points even!), well the manager should have thought of things like trips to Hawaii instead of what his co-workers went for. They went crazy getting orders and won the top prize of having their boss (Don’t read further if you want to be surprised!) scroll down…
get a tattoo on his butt. Hmmmm what a fun office!?!?
November 6, 2011 at 3:15 am #134152
Being told by my boss that I was exceptional and basically that a lot of things in the office couldn’t or wouldn’t have happened without me…and that if I ever left it would probably take three people to replace me.
November 6, 2011 at 3:24 am #134150
Nice. That’s a feel good moment. 🙂
November 7, 2011 at 3:37 am #134148
A number of years ago I was a manager to just over 25 people. Most of them were in the job over 15yrs already some already hitting 30yrs. They have experienced all the incentives from the numerous supervisors in their dept. We often experience people with this amount of time in their jobs have already reached that hurdle, the one not so fondly referred to as, the disgrunteled employee. My management style isn’t same as most people in my position. Probably because like them I worked my way up starting at the low grade and growing into my position. Of course feeling a bit of that “I’ve had enough of this place” once in a while. I beleived I needed to get my hands dirty and actually do what they did to demonstrate to them I was willing to give an extra hand when the going was tough instead of sitting at the sidelines to make sure they fufilled what was needed. That what I expected out of them I was willing to show them could be done.
Because there were so many people it was difficult to just hand out a free 30 min xtra time off, to me saying thank you wasn’t enough for them anymore. So I actually put a twist on it. Some of you may remember back in the day when beanie babies were a big hit? Well I had started a small collection for my twins. So what I did was I gave an animal ( I think it was a monkey) to a worker that I knew was having a difficult time. Personal stress with her family. The animal was to serve as a pick me up and without actually saying it (some ppl are too proud for that & makes them feel worse) giver her a break. It wasn’t meant that she didn’t need to work, it was more of letting her fellow workers know she was feeling crappy and just give her a break, if that means a smile, taking the calls for her, or giving her the light duty job. All I required of from them was they needed to give it to another coworker. I think often times we are too consumed about our own little world, we are so busy in our days we forget the people we work with sometimes need a reassuring smile, a kind act or just knowing we notice their day isn’t that great. They became aware of each other.as peole, not just the person that doesn’t do their share.
As corney as this all sounds it really worked well with them. Maybe cause I was kinda corney anyway, but it worked with them and put them in a good mood. Helped build loyalty as well I think. I was only in that position for a year, unfortunately it wasn’t continued. (hum so what happened to the monkey) But 8yrs later, those people still keep in contact with me. So I’m just saying not everyone is looking for just a few bucks and they knew I expected them to do their best always. I like working outside the box and not being the norm
November 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm #134146
Not government – but academia.
Connecticut College used to have a holiday party where people in departments would chip in to offer a raffle gift – although it changed over time. Campus safety offered a good reserved parking spot for a short period of time – which was great, given the lack of parking.
Salaried workers had great vacation benefits – but not hourly workers, who were already underpaid by both local and academic standards. The Presidents Office would give a day off with pay. That was the greatest for the people who most needed it.
When Conn started recognizing longevity, they went the lame corporate gift route. Rather than listening to staff, they did the silly clock, campus plate, etc. People wanted an extra day off for every 5 years – even for 10 year (at that time Conn College had many many staff members who stayed for decades) – me I only made 14 years so I only got the silly “Conn Blue” lucite clock – with my legal name, rather then the name I used at work.
The best reward I received was being signed up to give a presentation without knowing it. Sounds horrid for some people – but to be recognized for implementing a successful program as part of a larger grant that wasn’t quite as successful – and after the grant my program is still ongoing and other initiatives have withered away (I no longer work there and 8 yrs later collaboration is still ongoing). It was the idea of collaborating with another the department – and I was certain to pick a faculty member who was not only committed to the initiative, but to the underlying philosophy so that I knew it would not only continue each year, but grow and expand. My presentation wasn’t great – but I was honored to be the one selected as our best example of how to collaborate with faculty and get them engaged in library programs. I even had the faculty member and academic computing staff present with me!
November 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm #134144
Probably the best reward is a genuine and spontaneous one
November 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm #134142
I received two leadership awards for program effectiveness from the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Navy which HE handed to me in an award ceremony at the Pentagon. The third year they assigned the program to someone else. Go figure. Organizaitonal performance was underwhelming even though I trained him throughly.
However if everyone gets an award, no one gets one. Additionally doesn’t a gold star reduce you to a chicken pecking for a piece of corn? I worked in one office where employees were recognized in accordance with write ups from customers. It was always the same people, even though I wrote others up. This meant that employees working to please the taxpaying public like auditors were not recognized. Those working to please individual customers were. LEADERSHIP needs to decide who is achieving performance goals and recognize appropriately. Because it takes the same effort to award a theatre ticket as a $2,000 award, it makes sense to wait until employees achieve organizational goals. Or is the organization so co-dependent that it follows the whim of its customers? Finally the performer should get the recognition of their choice be it a trip to Hawaii, making a presentation to the big cheese, money, time off, or not in accordance with what motivates them.
November 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm #134140
Before I started working for the govt I worked for a compact disc manufacturer. Every night as we left the building our manager was there thanking us for being there and telling us to have a good evening/weekend etc.. Its this simple thing of being thanked for doing my job that I found more rewarding than receiving money for doing extra work. As a manager I always thank my employees. It generally makes them feel good even if they dont acknowledge it. Sometimes the simpliest things are the most appreciated!
February 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm #134138
Here’s another GovLoop conversation that is throwing off some more great ideas. Check it out:
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