HR departments share recognition ideas

What London Drugs and Aman Building Corporation are doing to recognize employees

Creating recognition programs is a case of finding the right triggers that keep employees motivated, engaged and focused on an organization’s mission. Canadian HR Reporter talked to two HR departments about their recognition strategies.

London Drugs

In January 2002, 7,000 employee-London Drugs launched a new employee recognition system.

“The older program wasn’t meeting employee needs,” says Jackie Stuart, manager employee relations, at the Western Canada retailer. With head offices in Vancouver, the firm has outlets in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Surveys showed employees didn’t like the recognition program because it was seen as a kind of popularity contest since winners were chosen by the managers. “There were perceptions of favouritism,” Stuart says.

They got rid of that program and put in a new three-level peer recognition system, the first level of which is the Bravo card program. Anytime an employee wants to thank someone — and it can be for the most trivial of things — they fill in a Bravo card. Once the manager signs off on it, one part of the card is given to the employee and another part (a carbon copy) is placed on a board in a public place so that everyone can see it.

Then, every quarter all the Bravo cards go into a draw. The employee who is picked from the barrel gets a London Drugs gift certificate and all of the other cards are reviewed by a committee of between seven to 12 people, who make recommendations for the Appreciating and Celebrating Excellence, or ACE, award, the second level of the program.

The ACE award winner gets a choice of awards provided by a recognition vendor, like gold bracelets, watches, pen sets and so on, each with a London Drugs logo affixed. Or else they can take a London Drugs gift certificate, she says.

Finally, each year 10 of the ACE award winners will receive the President’s award.

These are the people who have really gone above and beyond their job expectations, says Stuart. Recipients are flown to Vancouver and put up in a hotel to receive the award at the annual career achievement banquet. Here again employees are given their choice of gifts from the recognition vendor’s Web site, this time of greater value. But they also receive a travel voucher. At this year’s banquet, one of the President’s award winners was a store manager who was recognized for developing a program to reduce young worker injuries in the workplace. Another was rewarded for saving the life of a baby who had stopped breathing.

The important thing now will be to get these winning stories across the organization, says Stuart. A video of the ceremony was made and sent to every location and the intranet will be used extensively to promote employees when they are recognized for a job well done.

Though this was the first year of the program, it has been well received, she says. “We did the survey and the survey results have drastically changed,” she says.

One of the keys to the success of the program will be support from the executive team, says Stuart. So far that hasn’t been a problem.

“Our president probably writes the most Bravos and one of his was selected as an ACE winner. If our president can find the time to recognize employees, then the other employees will find the time.”

Aman Building Corporation

When she started at Edmonton-based construction company Aman Building Corporation in January, human resources manager Doreen Cleverly decided she wanted people more involved in thinking about processes.

“We don’t want to do things in the same way just because we’ve always done it that way. And it’s the people doing a job who know the job best. They’re on it, they see the pros and cons of doing things in a certain way that we’ll never see.”

So she is introducing a rewards program for people who come forward with suggestions that are valuable to the company.

“We’re ready to have a small committee to look into the suggestion,” says Cleverly. The committee would be composed of the superintendent at a job site, a project manager and anyone else involved, such as the health and safety co-ordinator.

The person with the idea would be invited to come and “verbalize” it, she added, “because quite often, verbalizing something is easier than writing it down, particularly for field staff.”

The committee would then examine “how valid this suggestion is from the company’s standpoint, what the level of impact this will have, and then what the level of recognition will be.”

Because she doesn’t know what suggestions will come up, she hasn’t determined what the prize will be.

“It will be tied to some degree to the monetary aspect, but there are things like improving communication that are difficult to put a dollar figure on. Communication is high on our priority as something we want to improve. So the recognition on something like that could be more than for something like saving $100 a week. Because that’s really important.”

Apart from this initiative, the company will occasionally reward people for exemplary work, such as when a team recently worked “absolutely horrendous hours” to get over a set of excruciating problems, which Cleverly declined to describe.

To recognize them, Aman Building Corporation is sending this team to a dinner and champagne reception. Thanks to its corporate donations, the company is sometimes given a table at fancy functions, but “it’s not just the managers or the business associates who get invited.” In this case, the table is reserved for the workers involved in the difficult construction project, because “when everybody was under the gun, they had stayed focused and gotten the work done.”

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