Simple recognition tips for creating team spirit

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Harvard Business School research published in February found that awards programs with little connection to corporate values or actual employee performance may have a negative impact on corporate productivity after implementation.

The more we work with recognition and rewards, the more we continue to be intrigued with how it’s the simple, sincere ways that employees appreciate each other – with minimal cost, paperwork and administration – that can create some of your best team spirit.

In our years of researching industry best practices, here are a few to feed your inspiration:

At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., one of its 180 recognition programs is called The Spirit of Fred Award, named for an employee named Fred.

When Fred went from an hourly to a salaried position, five people taught him the values necessary for success at Disney. This help inspired the award, in which the name Fred became an acronym for Friendly, Resourceful, Enthusiastic and Dependable.

First given as a lark, the award has come to be highly coveted in the organization. Fred makes each award – a certificate mounted on a plaque, which he then varnishes – as well as The Lifetime Fred Award – a bronze statuette of Mickey Mouse given to multiple recipients of the Spirit of Fred Award.

Maritz Performance Improvement Company in Fenton, Mo., has a Thanks a Bunch program in which a bouquet of flowers is given to an employee in appreciation for special favors or jobs well done. That employee then passes the flowers on to someone else who has been helpful with the intent of seeing how many people can be given the bouquet throughout the day.

With the flowers goes a written thank-you card. At certain intervals, the cards are entered into a drawing for awards such as iPods or logoed jackets.

The program is used during especially heavy workloads or stressful times.

AT&T Universal Card Services in Jacksonville, Fla., uses the World of Thanks award as one of more than 40 recognition and reward programs.

It’s a pad of colored paper shaped like a globe with “Thank You” written all over it in different languages. Anyone in the company can write a message of thanks to someone else and send it to that person.

The program is extremely popular – in four years, more than 130,000 such notes have been used.

ARA Services headquartered in Philadelphia organizes a day of appreciation for worthy employees. It sends out a proclamation announcing Bob Jones Day, for example, with the reason for the honor.

The honoree enjoys all sorts of frills, such as computer banners and a free lunch.

The Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. uses a “pass around” award that is first given to the division’s “special performer.” Later that person passes the award to another person who, he believes, truly deserves it.

The award has great value and prestige because it came from one’s peers.

A recipient can keep the award as long as he or she desires, or until he or she discovers another special performer. When the award is to be passed on, a ceremony and lunch are planned.

A Hewlett-Packard Co. engineer burst into his manager’s office in Palo Alto, Calif., to announce he’d just found the solution to a problem the group had been struggling with for many weeks.

His managers quickly groped around his desk for some item to acknowledge the accomplishment and ended up handing the employee a banana from his lunch with the words, “Well done. Congratulations!”

The employee initially was puzzled, but over time the Golden Banana Award became one of the most prestigious honors bestowed on an inventive employee.

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