Team recognition

Shooting for the stars (and for everyone else, too).
By Adrian Gostick
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/14/2001

We all get a little obsessed with the best and brightest. Superstars athletes like Wayne Gretzky and business leaders such as Bill Gates get more than their share of attention and adoration. And in the excitement, we often tend to forget the teams that help them achieve their success.

But business is becoming more of a team game, and some of the best companies in Canada are rethinking recognition policies that hand out rewards to just the superstars.

It makes sound business sense. Almost every study conducted on workplace effectiveness shows that the more committed people a firm has, the better chance the organization has of breaking out of the pack.

And most workplace studies also show a direct correlation between employee commitment and rewards and recognition.

But unfortunately, many companies still don’t seem to understand the strategic need for employee recognition. And ask most companies about how they reward their teams, and you’ll receive a look as if you just stepped out of a spaceship.

But for a performance recognition program to be successful — to drive heightened productivity, innovation and customer service — there should be a way to effectively recognize not only an organization’s best teams, but to lead average teams toward enhanced performance as well.

Teams win championships

“Individuals win trophies, but teams win championships,” says John McVeigh, vice-president of recognition specialists O.C. Tanner Canada.

“I think all of us would agree that teams are important to a company’s success, and yet most companies have no way to strategically reward team-based performance. When done right, team recognition is a wonderful way to advance your organization’s culture and strategies — driving your best teams to perform even better and helping under-performing teams learn what is expected of them.”

McVeigh has designed team-based award programs for some of Canada’s leading companies, and has seen what does and doesn’t work.

He says team-based recognition can demonstrate to employees that management actually cares about them and their hard work on their project and in their permanent teams.

“But management must be very visible in presenting team awards and talking about how to achieve these awards,” he says.

“Management also has an important role in making sure award plans are fair, motivational and properly aligned with corporate objectives.”

Even with team-based recognition, many companies include a personal component. For example, a team’s leader could be recognized at a management level for her leadership, the team could choose its own MVP and present him with an award. And employees who cover for team members while they are on their special assignment could be recognized.

HR professionals designing or revamping an overall recognition program should ensure that:

•team awards are appealing to employees and feature a symbolic tie to the company or project — making the awards lasting reminders of the achievement;

•the reward program is communicated clearly so that every team member knows what awards are available for what actions;

•rewards are tied to actions that are important to the organization; and

•there is a method to measure the success of the recognition program.

Organizations will always need to reward individual achievement, and especially their superstars. But increasingly, companies need to find a way to not only recognize the best, but all the people who help the superstars perform so well. As John Donne stated in 1624, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of a continent.”

Adrian Gostick is the author of the newly released “Managing with Carrots: Using Recognition to Attract and Retain the Best People.” He may be contacted at adrian_gostick@octanner.com.

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