3 Tips for Executing Employee Recognition Programs with Purpose

Being an employee-owned agency is an important part of the fabric of Padilla.

Founded in 1961, Padilla has been an Employee Stock Owner Plan (ESOP) company for the past 25 years. This means every employee at Padilla is an owner, a point of pride for us.

There are roughly 7,000 ESOPs across the country, covering approximately 14 million employees, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO).

Being employee-owned, Padilla is dedicated to demonstrating the significance each one of our employees brings to the organization. One of the ways we do this is through our employee recognition programs.

Padilla is not alone in recognizing employee achievements. A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the recognition consulting firm Globoforce, indicated that 80 percent of organizations reported having some kind of employee recognition program.

Twice a year, Padilla holds ESOP meetings with our 240 employee-owners across our seven offices. The April meeting focuses primarily on the business aspects of employee ownership, while our October meeting – which coincides with ESOP Ownership Month – focuses on employee recognition.

During the October celebration, Padilla honored our Living Our Purpose Award recipients. Four employee-owners were recognized for their contributions to the agency in one of three categories:

Each winner received an award of appreciation and a cash stipend.

Employee recognition programs are valuable mechanisms for honoring deserving employees. Padilla has considered several key best practices for developing a meaningful and enriching employee recognition program.

  1. Align recognition to a company’s mission, values and purpose. It’s important to recognize and reward employees who exemplify the company’s values and purpose. As Padilla has grows and evolves, we are constantly examining our brand purpose and values. Currently, Padilla articulates our company values in the following way:

Through direct and in-direct ways, the three categories of our Living Our Purpose Award – Client, Culture and Community – correlate to our agency values.

  1. Recognize specific behaviors and results, not just longevity. Many employee recognition programs only acknowledge longevity, which is important. Padilla recognizes employee-owners celebrating milestone anniversaries or “workaversaries” as we call them at our monthly staff meetings. Employees with milestone anniversaries – 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25+ years of service – are publicly recognized and receive monetary rewards commiserate with their tenure.

But our Living Our Purpose Awards are open to all employee-owners, regardless of how long they have been with the organization. To win, employees must have demonstrated specific characteristics and behaviors and have achieved identifiable results. Whether winning in the Client, Culture or Community category, employee-owners must have:

  1. Implement peer-to-peer recognition – not just top down. “At many companies, traditional top-down recognition by managers isn’t enough anymore. Employees also want acknowledgment from the peers they work with every day. This newer, more collaborative approach can have many benefits: It instills a sense of team spirit, motivates employees to do great work, and promotes openness and transparency. And recognition from peers may come as a surprise, which can have a very powerful impact,” according to SHMR’s HR Magazine.

To receive a Living Our Purpose Award, employees are nominated by their peers, although the final selection of the winners is done by the agency’s Internal Communications committee, which includes representatives from human resources and employees from various disciples and across various offices.

Along with our Living Our Purpose Awards, Padilla also has an ongoing “Kudos Awards” program, which allows employee-owners to recognize their peers – in small ways – on an ongoing basis throughout the year.

While the Living Our Purpose Awards celebrate a few deserving employee-owners for their outstanding contribution to our company, there are countless examples of how our employees strive for excellence each day.

What are some of your organization’s best practices for developing and implementing employee recognition programs?


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