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Employee Recognition: Foster meaning, reduce burnout and create strong relationships

conscious leadership Dec 20, 2022

Recently, there has been an influx in publications focusing on employee wellness, the importance of values in the workplace, and how healthy work relationships can benefit both the stakeholder and the business. From the The United States Surgeon General releasing the Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplaceto several reports in The Harvard Business Review and beyond, the focus on remedying this issue has never been stronger. 

A focus on mental health in the workplace

According to the 2021 Mental Health at Work survey by Mind Share Partners: 

76% of U.S. workers experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. These include burn out, depression and anxiety. 

84% reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health, the top factors being: 

  • Emotionally draining work
  • Challenges with work-life balance
  • Lack of recognition

As a result of these statistics, the US Surgeon General published the Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being aimed to “help organizations develop, institutionalize, and update policies, processes, and practices that best support the mental health and well-being of all workers.” We’ve discussed the many parallels between the framework and The Culture Fix®, but for this purpose we want to focus on just one of those top factors for negative mental health: lack of recognition. 

The fourth Essential of the Framework is Mattering at Work. They describe this as, “People want to know that they matter to those around them and that their work matters. Knowing you matter has been shown to lower stress, while feeling like you do not can raise the risk for depression. This Essential rests on the human needs of dignity and meaning.” This is hugely reminiscent of The Culture Fix’s CorePurpose™, and continues on to provide several suggestions, or Key Components, for achieving this value. These include:

  • Providing a living wage
  • Engaging employees in workplace decisions
  • Connecting individual work with organizational mission
  • Building a culture of gratitude and recognition

Providing the recognition employees crave

A recent report by Gartner shared that, “The era of the employment contract, when a worker provided services purely in exchange for monetary compensation, is over. Employees want a more human employment value proposition: They want employers to recognize their value and provide value to them on a human level. Monetary compensation is important for surviving, but deeper relationships, a strong sense of community and purpose-driven work are essential to thriving. This is the value that employees expect their employers to provide.”

This observation hits the nail on the head when it comes to the importance of creating employee recognition systems, known in The Culture Fix as Notice and Nominate. Where this has always been a key point in maintaining a Valued Culture, it is more important than ever in the post-COVID, remote-forward workforce. Some leaders are focusing on more valuable 1-1s with their team, and others are integrating tech platforms to foster these relationships. 

The Culture Fix encourages the use of a Notice and Nominate scheme, a recognition tied directly to your CoreVals™. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, your stakeholders are encouraged to nominate their peers when they ‘catch them committing a CoreVal’. This concept brings those values front and center, and shows how integral they are to daily operations. If you show your gratitude for demonstrating a value that defines your group, based on company history that everyone knows, you’ve got context. You are also tapping emotions, making people feel connected and, of course, having fun.

We’re not just talking about a free coffee mug. We’re talking about something that people really want and will appreciate. One way to do this is to ask your team what their interests are and what would make them feel special. Show that you’ve made an effort to make the prize personal to the individual. Before you know it, you’ve got people doing their best to be next in line for that same recognition. 

Notice and Nominate: Some of our favorites over the years

We’ve had the privilege to see many Notice and Nominate systems flourish throughout the years. Some of our favorites include: 


Employees nominate their coworkers who best live up to one of the company’s CoreVals for their monthly “228 Award”. Everyone gets together in the warehouse and one member of the leadership team announces the winner of the “228 Award.” Stories are told, values are reinforced, and one person from each department goes home with a $250 gift certificate. The sum is rounded up from $228—the amount of money that Larry Nance initially invested to found SABRE in 1975. Do you think any member of SABRE has forgotten about the roots of their business? Not a chance.


Mike Petsalis, CEO of Vircom, hands out statuettes of the Star Trek characters to everyone in the company who is “caught committing a core value” that month. These are vintage models found on Ebay. He has resisted handing out financial rewards, not because of budget, but because the statuettes are so highly valued by his team. One month, he didn’t bother handing out the statuettes and the winners came to his office in protest. These seemingly simple things can take on great importance at little cost.


In Tevera’s approach, employees recognize their peers for exemplifying the different CoreValues throughout the month. At the end of the month, Culture Czars choose a winning story under each CoreValue, and share them at the monthly All Hands on Deck meeting. Winners then receive a badge, lunch with a coworker AND a choice of reward that corresponds to the CoreVal. Rewards include things like books and educational courses for Driven, a self-care item like a massage or manicure for Caring, and so much more! Plus, employees who receive all four badges over the course of a year are recognized with a special prize and tickets to an experience in their community. 

We recommend reading the following posts.

The best company culture books

 Cultural values

The Great Resignation

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Image credit: Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash  



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