A Comprehensive Approach in Developing a Recognition and Celebration System

Len Carter, Chief Human Resources Officer, FHN

Len Carter, Chief Human Resources Officer, FHN

It is not uncommon to see organizations struggle in developing individual recognition programs. The first step should be defining what the organization’s focus and outcomes will be. In addition the drive should be towards a comprehensive approach to a Recognition and Celebration System for the organization which is dynamic and constantly evolving. The following model provides just such an approach for any organization.


The goal of an organization’s recognition and celebration system is to maintain an organizational culture where staff enjoy working together; look for positives; understand and appreciate others; build each other’s self-esteem, and handle negative situations in a positive way.

Recognition and Celebration System

The system of recognition and celebration should be designed around three levels, formal, informal, and day-to-day. Like a three-legged stool, each form of recognition and celebration accomplish different goals to support the entire recognition/celebration culture: formal recognition/celebration gives prestige and honor; informal recognition/celebration creates a sense of belonging and accomplishments; day-to-day recognition/celebration provides positive feedback and enhances the recognition culture.

A. Formal Recognition Programs and Celebrations

Process Drivers: The organization’s Executive Leadership

There are several formal recognition and celebration approaches.

Recognition of Certifications
Service Awards
Holiday Open House
New Birth Celebration
Special Bonus Awards

B. Informal Recognition and Celebration.

Process Drivers: The Organization’s Directors

Informal recognition/celebration is utilized to reward or acknowledge staff for meeting specific goals. Although individuals can be recognized informally,  informal recognition/celebration efforts are mainly directed at groups, committees, departments, quality/process teams, and cross-functional teams. These groups are recognized for accomplishments such as meeting a deadline, finishing a big project, or achieving an objective. Informal recognition/celebration helps staff feel appreciated for their extra effort and helps them feel part of a team. Informal recognition/celebration is left up to the imagination of the Director.

"The system of recognition and celebration should be designed around three levels, formal, informal, and day-to-day"


 Team Achievements
 Graduations, Birthday, Wedding, Work Anniversaries
 New Program Development
 Project Completion
 Achievements in Customer Service Scores
 Extra Heavy Workload
 New Skills or Growth (Multi-skilled)


• Parties or gatherings: pizza parties, pot luck luncheons, breakfast with coffee and rolls

Outings: tours to other organizations, visits to customers or suppliers

Gifts and give-aways: coffee mugs, pens and pencils, gift certificates

C. Day-To-Day Recognition and Celebration

Process Drivers: All Organizational Staff

Day-to-day recognition/celebration is defined as positive feedback – verbal or written acknowledgment from one person to another. Anything from a “thank-you” note to a smile and a “good morning” is positive feedback or reinforcement. This can include feedback from customers, in addition to staff.


Acts of Respect, Dignity, Compassion
Individual accomplishments
Positive Customer Comments


Family Appreciation Letter from Leadership
Congratulatory Memo
Kudos/ Thank You Note
Welcoming New Staff
Handshake/Thank you
Letter from Leadership
Welcome back from a Leave of Absence
That-A-Way Notes in each Department

Measuring the impact of the Recognition and Celebration System

1. Staff Surveys

• Comparison questions on Leadership and Staff Surveys.
• Mini Surveys on Recognition/Celebration
• Staff engagement results

1. Turnover Data
2. Stay Interviews
3. Exit Interviews
4. Individual Program Strategies

The collection of data will allow organizations to identify the effectiveness of the system, where gaps may exist and how the organization can continue to improve the recognition/celebration process.

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