The Best Place to Work, Part 7: Create a Thankful AtmosphereMy final instalment of this long series on Creating the best place to work (no hierarchy intended by the order) is about Creating a thankful atmosphere.
What does creating a thankful atmosphere get you? It gets you great work, in the form of people doing their all to get the job done. We humans—all of us, absolutely including CEOs—appreciate being recognised when they do good work.
Honestly, I love what I do and would do it without any feedback, but nothing resonates with me more than a moment of thanks from someone on my exec team or my Board. Why should anyone else in the organisation be any different?
This is not about giving everyone a nod in all-hands by doing shout-outs. That’s not sustainable as the company grows. And not everyone does great work every week or month! And it’s not about remembering to thank people in staff meetings, either, although that’s never bad and easier to contain and equalise.
It is about informal, regular pats on the back. To some extent inspired by the great Ken Blanchard book Whale Done, and as I’ve written about before here, it’s about enabling the organisation to be thankful, and optimising your own thankfulness.
Years ago we created a peer award system on our company Intranet/Wiki at Return Path. We enable Peer Recognition through this. As of late, with about 350 employees, we probably have 30-40 of these every week. They typically carry a $25 gift card award, although most employees tell me that they don’t care about the gift card as much as the public recognition. Anyone can nominate anyone for one of the following awards, which are unique to us and relevant to our culture:
- EE (Everyday Excellence) is designed for us to recognise those who demonstrate excellence and pride in their daily work.
- ABCD (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty) is designed for us to recognise the outstanding work of our colleagues who go Above and Beyond their duties and exemplify exactly what Return Path is about
- WOOT (Working Out Of Title) is designed for us to recognise those who offer assistance that is not part of their job responsibilities.
- OTB (On The Business) is about pulling ourselves out of day-to-day tasks and ensuring we are continually aligned with the long-term, strategic direction of the business. We make sure we’re not just optimising our current tasks and processes but that we’re also thinking about whether or not we should even be doing those things. We stop to think outside of the “box” and about the interrelationship between what we are doing and everything else in the organisation. In doing so, we connect the leaves, the branches, the trunk, the roots and soil of the tree to the hundreds of other trees in the forest. We step back to look at the big picture
- TLAO ( Think Like An Owner) means that every one of us holds a piece of the Company’s future and is empowered to use good judgment and act on behalf of Return Path. In our day-to-day jobs we take personal responsibility for our products, services and interactions. We spend like it’s our own money and we think ahead. We are trusted to handle situations like we own the business because we are smart people who do the right thing. We notice the things happening around us that aren’t in our day-to-day and take action as needed even if we’re not directly responsible
- Blue Light Special is designed for us to recognise anyone who comes up with a clever way to save the company money.
- Coy Joy Award is in memory of Jen Coy who was positive, optimistic and able to persevere through the most difficult of circumstances. This award is designed to recognise individuals who exemplify the RP values and spread joy through the workplace. This can be by going above and beyond to welcome new employees, by showing a high degree of care and consideration for another person at RP, by being a positive and uplifting influence, and/or making another person laugh-out-loud.
- Human Firewall is awarded if you catch a colleague taking extra care around security or privacy in some way, maybe a suggestion in a meeting, a feature in a product, a suggestion around policy or practice in the office.
In the early days, we read these out each week at All-Hands meetings. Today at our scale, we announce these awards each week on the Wiki and via email. And I and other leaders of the business regularly read the awards list to see who is doing what good work and needs to be separately thanked on top of the peer award.
Beyond institutionalizing thanks…in terms of you as an individual person, there are lots of ways to give thanks that are meaningful. Some are about maximizing Moments of Truth. Another thing I do from time to time is write handwritten thank you notes to people and mail them to their homes, not to work. But there are lots of ways to spend the time and mental energy to appreciate individuals in your company in ways that are genuine and will be noticed and appreciated. To some extent, this paragraph (maybe this whole post) could be labelled “It’s the little things.”
That’s it for this series…again, the final roundup for the full series of Creating the Best Place to Work is here and individual posts are here:
- Surround yourself with the best and brightest
- Create an environment of trust
- Manage yourself very, very well
- Be the consummate host
- Be the ultimate enabler
- Let people be people
- Create a thankful atmosphere
Anyone have any other techniques I should write about for Creating the Best Place to Work?
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