While visiting with Yum! Brands, I was treated to an employee recognition ceremony. Actually, it would have been hard to ignore it. The recognition committee – a few folks dressed up in holiday regalia with a portable CD player – came marching around the cubicles and then landed in an open space.
Apparently this is a pretty regular occurrence, so the employees working in that area knew that was the signal to pay attention. Before long, a ring of people attracted by the hubbub formed. The master of ceremonies made some preliminary remarks that mentioned some of the company values such as ‘Customer Mania’ and ‘People Capability First.’ Then he turned to employee who was being recognized and announced her name. The look of surprise on her face was priceless and the pride in being presented with the award was evident.
There was a short speech describing the specifics of her contribution and the significance of her actions. It was evident that the company’s value factored heavily into the decision to select her for this recognition. She then received a cape, goggles and a plaque describing her accomplishments.
A few things really impressed me about the approach and execution of this recognition program.
- This is not a fad – it is an ongoing program that figures prominently into Yum’s formula for success.
- People are considered as candidates for this recognition when multiple colleagues recommend them for an award – this is not a popularity contest.
- The person is publicly complimented for their demonstrated ability to uphold the corporate values – they are cited for specific actions that bring the values to life.
- The recipient receives something they value – in the ceremony I attended, it was preferred parking during the winter.
Employee recognition programs are tricky. They need to make employees feel special and should encourage others to try to achieve a similar level of accomplishment. They might sometimes be kitschy, but perhaps that enhances their charm as long as it fits into the company’s culture. They should also be designed to reward individual as well as group accomplishment. Of course, there must be some way of making sure the person being recognized does indeed embody the company values rather than having achieved success but having left bodies in the wake.