Building an employee recognition culture

January 11, 2009
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Spending 91 years in the employee recognition business is bound to offer some solid lessons. Mike Byam, managing partner of the Terryberry Co., an international firm that develops, implements and manages employee recognition programs for organizations, put those lessons on paper with the publishing of “The WOW! Workplace.”

The book discusses how to build an employee recognition culture in organizations.

“We started about three or four years ago doing a lot of speaking … talking about what effective recognition can look like in an organization and how to capitalize on that to make the most of your business to get those big results,” said Byam. “There was so much interest in us speaking, we thought (a book) would be a real way to get that message out there.”

Terryberry representatives speak to approximately 60 to 70 groups a year, ranging from businesses, leadership and other organizations that are interested in instilling a culture of recognition.

“Sometimes it’s a human resource person who’s trying to encourage the ‘C’-level executives to buy into the concept. They’ll bring us in to help move that process along,” he said. “What we tried to do is balance the rationale and theory behind it with what companies are doing, and suggestions. So if you picked up this book, whether you’re a first-time manager at a fast-food restaurant or you’re someone who’s running a 1,000-employee company, you can read this book and come away with some practical ideas that can impact the people you work with on a day-to-day basis.”

Adrienne Stevens, president of L-3 Avionics Systems, a local manufacturer of safety avionics systems, implemented some of Byam’s teachings and was featured in the book.

“In 2007, we implemented a ‘wow’ program which goes beyond traditional employee benefits,” said Stevens.

“We are very proud of our employee relationships and the level of open communication that exists. Recognition and active feedback is part of the fabric of our company; this results in a highly productive, low-cost operation and continued growth in profit and cash flow at the same time that our retention rate remains very high,” said Stevens.

Stevens also noted that it is important to have a culture of recognition during a harsh business climate because it helps unite a company.

“A strong culture of recognition builds trust in an organization,” she said. “It reinforces communication and acknowledgement of your contribution, while also creating a motivating and goal-oriented environment. This is imperative because it helps your work force to be objective-focused while emphasizing values and priorities of the company. Additionally, it reduces some fear of the unknown, especially during challenging business periods.”

Byam remarked that employee recognition can start with anybody.

“Anyone can impact their environment and anyone they’re working with,” he said. “You don’t need to be the CEO to impact recognition in the workplace. If you’re using recognition effectively, it can produce results.”

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