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Employee recognition: A little can go a long way

Mary Widmer | Sep 28, 2018 Mary Widmer 09/28/18

It may seem simple—when someone does a good job, it should be acknowledged. Maybe it’s something small, like a note of gratitude from a manager. Or perhaps it merits a larger reward, like a bonus or promotion. But a recent Gallup poll revealed most employees feel their hard work is often overlooked. In fact, only 1 in 3 workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they have received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past 7 days.

Why is this important? Because happy, engaged employees are a vital part of your company. They make or break the health of your business, and it is your responsibility to make sure they feel valued and appreciated for the work they do.

The good news is there are numerous ways to do this, and they don’t always have to be an elaborate (or expensive) undertaking. At SMG, we have several creative and impactful ways of recognizing our employees. Here are a few of them:


High 5s

Back to that Gallup poll—only 9% of employees feel they get recognition from their peers. Of course it means a lot to be praised by leadership, but hearing positive feedback from your fellow associates packs a lot of punch, too.

That’s why we have our High 5 awards. It’s a simple but meaningful way for employees to give shout-outs to each other. These accolades are posted to our internal digital bulletin board so the whole company can see them. And each employee to receive a High 5 gets a chance to win a gift card at our half-past meetings—a casual happy hour gathering where we toast promotions, sales wins, and other company milestones. It’s a small token of appreciation but can have a big impact.

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The Abby Award

No department is siloed at SMG—each works hand-in-hand to make sure we are delivering the best for our clients. That’s why we have Abby. She is awarded at each half-past meeting to an employee who has demonstrated exemplary service and consistently exhibits the core values of our organization (or gone ABove and BeYond, as her name explains). The previous recipient is the one who awards it to the next—the only requirement being that person must be in a different department.

Abby is a giant gorilla and sits at the desk of the current winner, then moves on to the next. But each recipient receives a mini Abby for keeps and many are displayed proudly throughout our office.

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Grab and go gifts

Personal growth and career advancement are very important to us. In addition to two formal review periods annually for every employee, SMG encourages continuous feedback, regular 1 on 1 meetings, and employee-owned/manager-supported Personal Growth Plans. This dedication to development and progress helped us promote 47 employees in 2017—an overall company rate of 15%.

And while these major advancements are important, so are the more minor accomplishments in between—things like working overtime on an important project, coming up with a creative solution to a problem, or helping out a team member. The basket of grab and go gifts is a way for managers to send a little bit of gratitude to these employees. Notes like “Way to be a goal digger,” company swag, and restaurant gift cards are always a nice little morale booster.

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Anniversary fish

Fish have been a special part of our company culture since SMG was founded in 1991. Not only do we have several saltwater tanks of colorful fish throughout our Kansas City headquarters, we also use them to acknowledge major milestones in an employee’s tenure.

On an associate’s 5-year anniversary, the executive team gifts them a custom-made fish. The employee gets to choose a piece from a selection of local and regional artists who are commissioned to create the blown-glass fish. These works of art are a unique way to show appreciation for an employee’s dedication to the company and reiterate how much they are valued.

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More than a job

Employees want purpose. “Work is rewarding” is the most important aspect of a workplace, according to the 1 million employees we talked to. Whether that means making customers happy or growing within the company, having a job that means something is the biggest driver of employee engagement. Make sure you have a system in place so each person on your team is being recognized and feels valued for the work they are doing. Everyone—including your customers—will benefit.

If you’re interested in being a part of our team, check out our current openings.


Mary Widmer | Chief Strategic Officer