“Many companies would say that in dark times you have to cut programs like recognition to the bone,” says an executive at El Paso Corp’s corporate benefits department. “But they are dead wrong. We tried that and it didn’t work. The bottom line is that when people feel unappreciated they are unwilling to bring their best to the table. And if you want to grow, you need everyone to be willing to give their best.”
The company conducted a culture survey in 2004 with dismal results: Employers were frustrated, morale was at an all-time low, there was a lack of trust and faith...but through a focusedplan to engage employees the company greatly improved and satisfaction.
That included a peer-to-peer recognition program proposed by a senior administrative assistant, Claudia Soto.
“I spoke with my manager about the idea,” said Soto. “I said, ‘maybe we can get out together as a team, so we can try to act more like a team, not just at work, but outside of work. So we can get to know each other better and build relationships.’”
The tighter the team, Soto pointed out, the more willing team members are to help each other out. “Rather than thinking, ‘I have to work with this other person.’”
She wasn’t the only one speaking up for more team tightness. As a result, managers decided to do something every quarter for the entire team, “to know each other better and just have fun, for example, a pool tournament or a baseball game.” The company also sponsors a 5K race for charity.
But beyond sporting events, to help build team unity, Soto’s manager also heard from Soto and others that the team could use more “small” opportunities for huddling.
“Going to lunch together as a team (with him buying) or getting together to talk about how everyone’s week is going... It’s simple things that make a difference on a day-to-day basis. It’s not just about rewarding someone. But those types of meetings make you feel appreciated, so that in itself is a reward.”
Soto proposed another small way to make co-workers feel appreciated: an email certificate. Soto said she came up with the idea because, “So many times you get such great help from your team members or others on your floor. When that e-mail certificate comes across and it has a ‘thanks’ on it … it’s so small it might seem insignificant. But when you get it, it puts a smile on your face.”
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