Appreciation Goes a Long Way
While employed at Vertafore I was introduced to the Connect and Reward program. I believe my initial comment to one of my colleagues was "so we're getting paid in high fives now?", but I severely underestimated the power of simple appreciation. At its heart the Connect and Reward program was a portal for employees to recognize their coworkers' efforts by giving them eCards and/or points that could be cashed in for some actually pretty cool stuff. I thought it was a nice idea but I didn't really see the big deal. In hind sight I think my perspective was due to my experience with one of my Scrum teams, where long before Connect and Reward we were giving each other meaningful recognition and appreciation during our retrospectives. As the ScrumMaster I was always very conscious about communicating "team" accomplishment externally, but inside the team, where people knew exactly what you were doing and understood the effort it took, for ten minutes every two weeks it was all about praising individual achievement.
Recently (July 5th, 2012) I changed employers and am now a manager at Jackson National. During my first full week of employment I got the opportunity to see one of my team members rise to a particularly difficult challenge. It was an emergency request that required a lot of extra hours and effort. I felt he deserved something for his efforts, but didn't want to do anything requiring money (keep in mind, I hadn't even been employed a week, so for all I knew these things happened frequently enough to put me in the poorhouse in no time). I thought back to the Connect and Reward program and the badges that you could give to people. I decided to hack together my own little "Wall of Awesome" webpage, just a series of images of badges that when clicked on pop up a plaque with a very militaristic sounding recognition. With minimal fanfare, and even less expectation I gave a printed out "Awesome" to the developer who shined through the emergency and to another team member who helped deploy all the changes needed. I couldn't have been more shocked than when a couple minutes after delivering them one of them came to me, with a slight tear in their eye, saying how this is exactly what they've wanted, to be appreciated. Now encouraged to continue I have slowly found ways to appreciate most of the people on the team (hopefully I'll get everyone by the end of the week), and I think everyone has cut out the plaque from their printout and placed on their cube wall. I even had one team member come by my cube yesterday, just stop for a second and smile, and when I asked how they were doing they said, "I'm awesome!", then went on their way.
I'm so glad I took the risk of looking cheesy or lame, because even if the effect is lessened with time, I have had a chance to really make people feel like they had worth and that their work was valued, and that is something that I will cherish.