How to Find Staff Recognition Ideas That Work Best for Your Team

On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs broke the longest title drought in American professional sports when they defeated the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7 of the World Series. In addition to the front office (led by curse breaker Theo Epstein) and the on-field talent, a lot of what finally made the Cubs World Series champs again was due to manager Joe Maddon.

Small White Goat Looking Up

By schubbel:

“That’s a nice baseball franchise you got there. Be a shame if something were to… put a curse on it.”

First, Maddon is not your typical major league baseball manager. His unconventional recognition and appreciation methods range from hiring a magician pre-game amid a five game losing streak to bringing zoo animals into Wrigley Field to reward and motivate players during a tight divisional race. Maddon’s wacky and easygoing approach was and is still the best way to appreciate and recognize his young core of players.

Brayden King, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management further explains, “What Maddon wants to do is create a culture that rewards players for good work but doesn’t limit their inventions and individuality.” Just pitched a no-hitter? Cue the pajama party.   

More so, his recognition tactics conveyed the trust he has with his players. Even after (barely) winning a pivotal Game 5 of the World Series, Maddon encouraged his players to stay in Chicago the next day (Halloween) and take the time to trick or treat with their families before flying to Cleveland for Game 6 and 7. He knew an extra workout or batting practice wasn’t what his team needed — but to relax and spend time with their families. The players had all the tools and strategies in place for the two biggest games of their careers.

Baseball Player Slams Home Run Out Of Ball Park

By Eugene Onischenko:

“Awardco is a HOME RUN! I’ll see myself out.”

So, how can you become the Joe Maddon of your organization and find recognition tactics that are unique and, more importantly, work for your team? Read our tips below.


No matter if you just started a company or are a part of an established company, you need to fully understand your employees and the company culture created or that you want to create. Sit down with employees for informal visits to understand what they want at their job and within their careers. Find out what really motivates them and helps them find purpose at work. Through these meetings, you can build a program that caters to your employees and not a program your employees adapt to.

If you don’t have time to sit down and meet with employees, send out surveys that ask about how your employees want to be recognized (manager-to-peer, peer-to-peer, etc.). Be sure to include sections with free response, so you can get specific ideas.

Revamp company culture to incorporate recognition

Chances are that if you are creating or revamping a recognition program, then recognition isn’t a huge part of your current company culture. But, it’s something that can be easily fixed! The sooner you start implementing recognition, the more motivated your employees become each day. It may be awkward at first, but once your employees latch on to the recognition program, it will become a natural aspect of your organization.

Make sure criteria of an award/recognition is clearly stated

No one likes ambiguity when it comes to recognition programs. In fact, when employees don’t know what constitutes winning an award within your program, they are more likely to not participate or worse, become disengaged. Be sure that your programs are clearly understood, both the measurable and unmeasurable criteria. Again, the actions and behaviors you are awarding should embody the established company culture.

Make personalization a priority

A key to Maddon’s managerial tactics is how he appealed to his players values — mainly giving them more free time to spend with friends and family. So, whether you implement gift lists or include handwritten notes, make the recognition or award individualized to the person.  

Rewards vs Incentives

By David Gilder:

“Easy choice. I’ve seen Snow White. I know how this plays out.”

At Awardco, we offer an employee recognition platform where employers can reward employees with things that they actually want and will use. Teamed up with Amazon Business, the Awardco Portal helps organizations offer millions of products for employees to redeem.

Check ins

After you’ve implemented recognition tactics and programs, be sure to periodically check in with employees to make sure they are satisfied with the programs and what can be improved. Furthermore, your company culture and employees may change over the years, so chances are you’ll need to make some adjustments to your recognition programs.

Through Maddon’s managerial tactics, he became the manager baseball players want to play for. You can do the same with your employees when you take the time and effort to create recognition and appreciation programs that relate and work best for them.

At Awardco, our focus is to increase engagement and satisfaction through effective recognition programs. The Awardco Platform is the easiest, most affordable way to implement employee recognition tactics into your organization.

Contact us to see how we can increase employee engagement by improving your employee recognition programs and save you money while doing it.  

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