Prize and Shine

By Malcolm Fleschner

Few of us will ever stand on the winner’s podium at the Olympics, hoist the Stanley Cup as National Hockey League champions or humbly offer thanks to our agent and publicist while accepting an Academy Award in front of a televised audience of millions. But as a recent article in Potentials Magazine points out, when companies do it right, recognizing employees’ performances can tap into the same motivational emotions that make these high-profile events so memorable. Here are Potentials’ tips for giving your recognition program some of that flashbulb-worthy excitement.

1. The Academy Awards. Winning an Oscar is all about the prestige; it’s not about the value of the award itself. After all, why would multimillionaire actors and directors be so anxious to get their hands on a $200 statuette? Industry experts refer to this kind of cachet as the heirloom factor.

What you can do: Create categories and then recognize your top performing employees in front of their peers and fellow high achievers. The Gallup Organization, for example, holds an annual event where everyone from the number one sales rep to the most outstanding teacher at the company’s onsite child-development center is given an award. About 500 finalists attend the swank ceremony during which winners are crowned and given trophies.

2. The Stanley Cup. As the oldest trophy in professional sports, the NHL’s Stanley Cup occupies a unique place in North American sports tradition. Part of the mystique of kissing the Cup comes from knowing that this ritual has been repeated by many of the game’s greatest players since 1893.

What you can do: Traditions have to begin somewhere, so why not now? Most organizations have a history with mythology, legends and lore all their own. Can you think of or otherwise develop a symbol, such as a unique plaque, trophy or ring, of your company or organization that employees will find compelling? People naturally are drawn to anything that represents the organization’s best traditions and highest achievement levels, especially if the item in question can’t be bought or traded for, but must be earned.

3. The Olympics. Standing atop the Olympic podium and hearing their national anthem is the ultimate goal for the world’s greatest athletes who must battle fierce competition in their efforts to garner one of the highly coveted gold medals.

What you can do: Stoke your salespeople’s competitive juices. At Toshiba America Medical Systems, for example, the equivalent of Olympic gold is earning one of the 30 coveted spots on the company’s Extreme Performers sales incentive trip, this year to Maui. The contest has become more competitive each year as winners have returned, talked up the experience and inspired their peers to want to reach that achievement level. One key to the contest’s success: both individual and team efforts are rewarded, promoting both personal accomplishments and contributions to larger group sales efforts.