Appreciating employees in week-long event

Commitment, team-building events, awards, brochure make for memorable occasion
By Chris Vyse
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/04/2012

There are a lot of different days and weeks of celebration in our calendars now. When I was young, it seemed there were Easter and Christmas holidays, two weeks for summer break and a national holiday here and there. But today, we have national days and weeks for everything.

One of these newer celebrations is a day that’s really important to support: Employee Appreciation Day. Since 1995, it’s been the one day — the first Friday in March — companies large and small take the time to appreciate, recognize and thank employees.

But what if Employee Appreciation Day was extended to Employee Appreciation Week? With just a little effort, an employer can create an environment where people feel valued and appreciated.

This leads to engaged employees who are ready to go the extra mile and committed to the organization’s success. Who wouldn’t want that?

Recently, O.C. Tanner celebrated its 85th anniversary and here are some insights to consider from the company’s Employee Appreciation Week:

Start at the top with executive commitment: Our CEO, Dave Petersen, was the key sponsor and driver of our Employee Appreciation Week. He did a blog post on why the week and our employees continue to be so important. This was followed by emails to employees, a speech on the actual day and a letter. Our CEO got out there — people saw, heard and felt his genuine appreciation.

Have a symbolic award to mark the occasion: Every employee at our company received a handsome, low-cost award — a symbol of the company’s appreciation featuring the O.C. Tanner emblem with the number 85, for its 85 years in business. Each award included a brief message from our CEO celebrating our “rich history and bright future,” customized to each O.C. Tanner location.

Facilitate fun team-building events: Getting together with a work team is a great way to let off steam, deepen your culture and build employee engagement. During the week, every O.C. Tanner team around the world was encouraged to get together. It was fun to see how each location did something different.

Many of our colleagues at our United States headquarters visited a local history museum and then participated in an all-company barbecue in the parking lot. Sales offices around the world went to ballgames, had lunch together, went to the movies or bowling, or had a harbour cruise on a yacht. One office even went shopping together.

Our SaaS platform made it easy to share these experiences with photos using our Wall of Fame social media platform. Many sales and consulting employees work in distant locations but they all felt very much a part of the O.C. Tanner team during Employee Appreciation Week.

Show appreciation with an event award: A few years back, we initiated a peer-to-peer recognition program whereby employees could give each other small metal buttons to say thank you and recognize their peers in a quick and easy on-the-spot way.

The program was a huge success and very shortly we had shared almost 30,000 buttons. We then recreated the metal buttons as virtual eButtons and added the ability to include a brief message to co-workers.

For Employee Appreciation Week, our CEO sent a bulk email and eButton with points to all 1,600 employees. Every employee received Dave’s personalized message with 850 points (85 years in business X 10 points per year).

They could then go and select an award to cement the positive memories of the week. The awards were from O.C. Tanner’s Canadian, American, European and global award catalogues, depending on each employee’s location.

Communicate — a lot: To mark the week, we published a special edition of the Appreciateologist, our monthly employee newsletter. It was a colourful, four-panel foldout brochure featuring a timeline of the company’s history starting from 1927, with important milestones along the way. The brochure included messages from the chair of our board and our CEO. It made a nice keepsake that sits on many employee desks today.

The Employee Appreciation Week was a great experience for employees. Top-down support combined with focus and the investment of a little time and money made it a week to remember. We all truly felt appreciated.

Chris Vyse is vice-president of sales and marketing at O.C. Tanner in Burlington, Ont. He can be reached at (905) 632-7255 ext. 58282 or christopher.vyse@octanner.com. Or visit www.octanner.ca for more information.

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