Attitude of Gratitude: How 5 Companies Regularly Recognize Employee Efforts

Five leaders share best practices for building a robust culture of employee recognition.

Written by Olivia Arnold
Published on Apr. 26, 2023
Attitude of Gratitude: How 5 Companies Regularly Recognize Employee Efforts
Brand Studio Logo

While a coworker shoutout on Slack or a “job well done” from a manager may grant some momentary warm and fuzzies, it takes time to truly develop a robust culture of employee recognition. 

Companies that have adopted an attitude of gratitude, however, are finding that these efforts are well worth the investment. 

Studies show that employee recognition, from both peers and managers, significantly impacts team members’ day-to-day operations and long-term career journeys. In a study of organizations with recognition platforms, Deloitte found that employee productivity, performance and engagement were 14 percent higher compared to companies without these programs. According to SurveyMonkey, 63 percent of employees who feel recognized at work are unlikely to look for a new job. 

At the five companies featured below, leaders are committed to making space for and investing in initiatives that validate employees and acknowledge their professional contributions. Before celebrating individuals, these leaders get to know whether their team members prefer to receive kudos one-on-one, in small groups or publicly at all-hands meetings. 

The leaders — from Fusion Risk Management, Crafty, Attain, Kalderos and Inspirant Group — also stressed that recognition should be timely, specific, consistent and authentic. They connected with Built In Chicago to share these tips and more on the art of appreciation. 

 

Rebecca Stanley
Senior Director, Talent • Fusion Risk Management

Fusion Risk Management provides cloud-based software to mitigate business risks and enable IT disaster recovery and crisis management. 

 

How do you and other leaders at your company recognize employees for their hard work?

Each month, we recognize four to six employees through our peer recognition program. Employees are nominated by their peers or managers based on outstanding performance that is aligned to at least one of our core values. 

They are then selected and recognized by the executive leadership team during our monthly all-company meeting. Along with this recognition, they receive a generous spot bonus to show our appreciation for their exceptional performance. This process is repeated for our end-of-year awards, where we recognize key contributions under categories that include unsung hero, newcomer, star and impact. 

In addition, we have a team within our talent and people function that is solely focused on employee engagement. Various efforts are strategically designed to ensure all of our Fusionites worldwide feel connected, appreciated and supported. We have programs such as: lunch with the executive leadership team, remote city hub events, annual in-person celebrations, monthly trivia, swag appreciation for participation, wellness events and partnerships with our various employee resource groups. 

 

As a leader, how do you encourage a culture of recognition on your team?

To help encourage managers to recognize and show appreciation for their employees, we implemented an employee appreciation initiative. Managers are provided with a quarterly budget to use for each employee as they see fit. 

If someone exceeds their target, has a great presentation or just needs an extra boost, the manager can purchase a gift specific to that person to recognize them in the moment. We've seen managers use it to purchase lunch, a gift card to a favorite retailer and a movie pass. This initiative allows the autonomy to recognize employees with something that matters to them. 

 

If you see great performance or behavior, stopping in the moment or that day to recognize the employee allows them to feel seen and appreciated immediately.”

 

When it comes to giving meaningful employee recognition, what is the most important best practice? 

Making it timely and specific are two rules of thumb that I always follow with recognition and employee appreciation. If you see great performance or behavior, stopping in the moment or that day to recognize the employee allows them to feel seen and appreciated immediately. Don't underestimate what words of affirmation and positive feedback can mean to a person. 

The pace of the workforce has increased steadily over the last few years. Rather than over-engineering a recognition plan or strategy, provide thoughtful and specific feedback, either one-on-one or in a group. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs to feel recognized and appreciated.

 

 

Brady Merchant
VP of Client Services • Crafty

Crafty offers a centralized platform for companies to manage food, beverages and supplies for their teams.

 

How do you and other leaders at your company recognize employees for their hard work?

It all starts with a genuine “thank you … seriously.” We make sure that we say it often and loudly, so that people understand we are grateful for their contributions. 

Crafty is a place where we acknowledge our gratitude for one another whenever it crosses our minds. It can catch new people on our team off guard because gratitude isn't present in every workplace, but it’s wonderful to see people embrace and apply it across the company. It sounds simple, but a genuine “thank you” goes a long way and encourages team members to keep going and growing.

 

Crafty is a place where we acknowledge our gratitude for one another whenever it crosses our minds.”

 

As a leader, how do you encourage a culture of recognition on your team?

On my team, the first agenda item of every meeting is space for shoutouts and recognition. We open up the floor for anyone to jump in and share a word of appreciation for someone publicly. It sets the tone for the meeting, makes people feel good about the work that they've done and gets our team into the habit of recognizing each other whenever they feel grateful. 

It also serves as a reminder that this is how we work — with gratitude first. I want people to develop this recognition muscle into their lives regularly, so that it becomes second nature. 

If people don't want to wait for a meeting to recognize someone, we also use a performance management tool called Lattice. In Lattice, you can give someone public feedback, and it is integrated with Slack, so it automatically shows up on our general channel. This is great because it’s not just our team who sees it, it's the whole company. It’s great to scroll through that channel and see how vocal our team is when it comes to celebrating each other’s hard work. 

 

When it comes to giving meaningful employee recognition, what is the most important best practice? 

The most important part of employee recognition is making sure it feels authentic. Say it when you feel it; don't just say it to check it off your list. 

When your team impacts your work life positively, call out precisely what you appreciate rather than using generic platitudes like, “Way to go, champ!” I make sure that I highlight exactly what I appreciate and make it specific to that person.

It's also fun to catch people off guard and give them a shoutout when they least expect it; it can be more impactful and meaningful for the recipient.

 

 

Carmen Meister
VP of Sales • Attain

Data company Attain allows people to access cash advances for their earned wages, saving tools and rewards through its Klover app. 

 

How do you and other leaders at your company recognize employees for their hard work?

One of the benefits of working for a company of our size is the opportunity to collaborate regularly with folks outside of your immediate team. This level of visibility is so rewarding. We are able to see how different parts of the organization are all critical in moving the business forward and advancing our mission.

Over time, we've created several ways to recognize and give visibility across the organization. First, is through our companywide Slack channels; this is a really easy way to give visibility and celebrate accomplishments. We have one channel called “Living our values,” where anyone can tag a teammate that did something that aligns with our company values or mission.

Second, is during our cross-functional weekly meetings; our sales team has a weekly meeting, during which we ask folks to present a project or win to the entire team. Giving people an opportunity to showcase something that they are proud of or invested a lot of energy into helps create a culture of sharing, collaboration and feedback.

 

Giving people an opportunity to showcase something that they are proud of or invested a lot of energy into helps create a culture of sharing, collaboration and feedback.”

 

As a leader, how do you encourage a culture of recognition on your team?

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to create space for sharing and collaboration. Outside of companywide meetings that tend to focus more on passing along operational information, we dedicate 30 minutes each week to our immediate teams to share projects, celebrate wins and ask questions. Showcasing and celebrating the important work we do together is a core motion that every organization should incorporate. 

One of the things that I always try to do is identify ways that one person’s work can benefit others on the team. Leaders have the luxury of visibility into all parts of the organization, and we can see how to scale someone’s impact outside of their direct purview. Recognizing and celebrating your team’s work is important, but the cherry on top is when that work together helps everyone rise.

 

When it comes to giving meaningful employee recognition, what is the most important best practice? 

There are three things that are always top of mind for me as I’m supporting and leading teams. One, it is my responsibility to regularly create space to highlight people’s impact on the team, our partners and business. Two, we need to share feedback in the moment when something goes well and progress is made against goals. Three, remain focused on identifying ways to illuminate how one person’s work benefits others on the team or organization.

 

 

The Kalderos team
Kalderos

 

Jessica Bogart-Kasper
Director, Organization and Culture Design • Kalderos

Kalderos is a data analytics and infrastructure company that solves challenges around U.S. pharmaceutical discounts. 

 

How do you and other leaders at your company recognize employees for their hard work?

“Kuderos” are big; it’s our fun play on “kudos” plus “Kalderos.” It is a daily practice in which employees tag other team members in a Slack channel and share gratitude for their collaboration or admiration for their excellent work. 

As someone who is a culture leader, one of my favorite parts of the week is going through my calendar to recall who I interacted with and then sharing something specific that I thought was exceptional about them. This shows how their actions reinforce the positive culture that we’re building here at Kalderos. 

Another effort is our shared meals and celebratory events. This sounds somewhat basic, but considering that we are a heavily remote company, it feels like a big deal when we’re physically in the same city together. When we are, we like to take the opportunity to come together, step away from our work and acknowledge key accomplishments such as promotions, overcoming challenges and completing large and small initiatives. 

This March, we completed an intensive 10-month leadership training program and brought in the cohort to enjoy the graduation event in person, take photos with our CEO and go out for a team celebration.

 

‘Kuderos’ are a highly visible and consistent part of our culture of recognition. Each week, we see roughly 250 detailed messages of gratitude and appreciation.”

 

As a leader, how do you encourage a culture of recognition on your team?

“Kuderos” are a highly visible and consistent part of our culture of recognition. Each week, we see roughly 250 detailed messages of gratitude and appreciation. We encourage employees to hashtag one of our company values or guiding principles. Browsing through these messages has become my favorite part of the week. I learn about the great work that people do across the company and see how we support each other. 

Following a big work effort, we encourage teams to take a moment to share their “why” along with their “what," which is one of our guiding principles. When you don’t work closely with a team on a project, it is hard to truly recognize and appreciate the work that went into achieving an outcome. Through our lunch and learns, we have found that it is impactful to create space for teams to bring transparency into their process and take a moment to share the nuts and bolts of their hard work.

Finally, as a people team, we work to be in the know about events in our team members' lives so that we can personally support them through important moments, such as work anniversaries, birthdays and more.

 

When it comes to giving meaningful employee recognition, what is the most important best practice? 

First, understand the individual's preference. Everyone likes to be recognized in their own way. Some folks prefer it one on one, others like big announcements and most prefer something in between. It is important to know who you are recognizing and what their preferences are to ensure that your message is received as intended. 

Second, be specific. Saying “great job” carries way less weight than “wonderful work leading the completion of project X with your attention to detail and ensuring stakeholder approval along the way.” This feels both more genuine and personal. The more specific you can be, the more meaningful the recognition is. The specificity helps individuals understand what exactly they did well to know what they should repeat and continue doing in the future. 

Third, be consistent. We all get busy, and it can be easy to let recognition fall to the wayside when we are under tight deadlines or leading major projects. However, we believe in the importance of recognition and have built practices for consistently making space for it.

 

 

Meighan Newhouse
SVP, Transformation and Enablement • 10Pearls

Inspirant Group is a consulting firm that bridges the gap between business and IT to deliver impact-driven solutions. 

 

How do you and other leaders at your company recognize employees for their hard work?

We regularly provide in-the-moment feedback. We also give weekly shoutouts on all-team calls, quarterly monetary spot bonuses and annual awards for living our core values. 

 

We also give weekly shoutouts on all-team calls, quarterly monetary spot bonuses and annual awards for living our core values.”

 

As a leader, how do you encourage a culture of recognition on your team?

Our core values were established close to the onset of our organization. We speak about these often and shout out folks who live the behaviors associated with them. I regularly praise team members, whether it's one on one or in small- or large-group settings. We also have an internal all-company weekly newsletter where I share shoutouts with the editor to include for distribution.

As a leadership team, when setting the annual budget, we are sure to include dollars for spot bonuses and other team-building activities, so that both leadership as well as directors and managers can recognize their team throughout the year.

 

When it comes to giving meaningful employee recognition, what is the most important best practice? 

We stress how important it is to get to know each team member on an individual level. It is important for direct managers, as well as peers and leadership, to know how each individual prefers to receive recognition and then do their best to deliver it in that way. If you don't know, ask!

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

Hiring Now
Ampersand
AdTech • Big Data • Machine Learning • Sales • Analytics