How to Create a Recognition Movement (that everyone can get behind)

I hope you joined us last week where I shared with you the most effective and strategic ways to form a recognition crew that gains momentum for your recognition movement. 

This week, I want to share with you how to take that effort and multiply it’s impact tenfold. I want to share with you how to create a recognition movement.

This is not just a “nice to do”. This is a need to do. We are in the midst of this talent shortage that shows no signs of easing until 2030 globally; our knowledge economy means talent is our greatest commodity. They’re leaving unhealthy and unfulfilling workplaces in droves, and they may not give you much notice when they do. And where does that leave you?

(And you know what? I am glad. Who else believes that if someone goes home emotionally and physically depleted is unacceptable? I’m glad we’re in an age of choice so people do not have to sacrifice their wellbeing for a paycheque; by the way, if you think I’m making too big a deal of this, read Arianna Huffington’s bestseller Thrive.)

Even if they stay, if the employee experience is not enriching, apathy can set in. Do you want employees who don’t care? How much discretionary effort do they give? How likely are they to attract prospective clients or colleagues? How many innovative solutions will they offer to longstanding problems?

So we’re all in agreement then? A recognition movement can help retain great people and fuel a healthy, productive and innovative workplace. So what’s next? 

1. Form a Recognition Crew

As we discussed last week (if you missed it, you can review it here), a group of champions that you don’t have to teach, convert or convince is a fundamental vehicle for change. Who are those people that are going to make sure they’re going to shepherd recognition through the storm and keep it on the radar front and center in our incredibly busy, exhausting, often not always strategically refined operational day to day work?

2. Gamify Recognition

In our distracted society, we need to gamify experiences. And work is an experience (like it or not, seriously it is.) What are some examples? Create challenges, like giving at least one compliment every day to a colleague for a month. Send one thank-you card to a loyal customer a week and track how many positive responses come back. Create a hashtag and track how many share recognition-worthy people and situations. Heck, it can be as simple as putting a box, post-its and a sharpie challenging people to write a kind word and take a post-it in return like they do at my local Starbucks. Make it fun and people will want to engage rather than see it as just another thing to do.

3. Celebrate Small Wins

Last week I spoke about your recognition crew using a system to identify quick wins versus longer-term projects. Celebrate, celebrate and celebrate some more the small wins! Your high engagement challenge, a kudos sent to a member of the team for your efforts, a .6% drop in turnover. Anything that shows progress, acknowledge it (don’t just be the givers of appreciation; give it to yourself and accept it from others too.)

4. Make Recognition Easy

Trial tools, approaches, and resources that help make recognition easy for people. For example, a few clients told me they didn’t find giving verbal recognition very easy, so my coauthor and I created a deck of 52 compliments, instructing even our shiest clients to put a card in their pocket and find someone to give it to before the end of the day. If you want people to write notes of appreciation, provide the kudos cards or thank-you cards. If you want people to nominate people on the intranet, add a banner to the front page so, in one click, they’re on the right screen and can submit it in less than 5 minutes. 

5. Make Recognition Measurable

Finally, as I reinforced last week, link your recognition efforts to business drivers. Now, many of our organizations don’t do a great job of this in general; in the book Traction, one of the key ways that organizations fail to realize their potential (whether it’s customer satisfaction, growth, product-to-market time, etc) is not consistently measuring key business drivers. How do you know it’s key? When this goes off the rails, you’re in trouble. Things like sick days, stress leaves, tenure, turnover, are all human resource variables directly tied to how valued people feel (and how much they are recognized), yet ask most leaders who have access to this information how the organization is currently fairing and they don’t know. It’s not because they’re falling asleep at the switch; they are usually overwhelmed in firefighting mode they can’t get to the important stuff. Put a transparent and regular process in place to measure what you would expect would improve with recognition. Not only will it validate your efforts are paying off, you’re more likely to recognize even more to keep improving the metrics.

I have a lot of clients who get really disheartened when I tell them it takes seven to 10 years to create culture change. Think about it: shifting culture is like turning the Titanic (now, don’t get morose as we all know how that story turned out…) The good news is, for something like recognition, I’ve seen hundreds of examples where this micro organization change creates a culture shift in a much shorter period of time. The longer you wait, the longer your culture shift will take. So what are you waiting for?

Want more help and ideas to leverage the exponential power of recognition in your culture? Reach out to us at and I’ll be sure to share some additional resources we’re sure will help.

Want to check out more resources about how you can recognize other’s greatness? Check out these articles:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve