When I was in elementary school, our principal implemented a monthly acknowledgement and reward system called “Caught Being Good”. It worked like this: a handful of classmates were nominated by our teachers each month to be acknowledged for their good behavior. Those students were given a paper certificate signed by the principal. Each student then brought their certificate home to share with their family, where it was then prominently positioned on the fridge, mantle, or staircase gallery wall. The students had their photograph taken and that photo was published in the local newspaper. At school, our individual headshots were hung in a hallway showcase for all to see. The opportunity to earn recognition from authority figures, our peers, and our own families reinforced positive student behavior. It helped foster a school community where sharing and helping were commonplace among students and teachers.
Acknowledgement and recognition in the workplace can stimulate similar feelings and environments. At PhotoShelter, we currently have a few systems in place for employees to express gratitude towards one another. The most widely used expression of gratitude is our practice of gathering and sharing shout-outs at our monthly all-staff meetings.
Our company is currently in a growth trajectory and we consider it an important time to reflect on all systems, including gratitude. After reading the OpenIDEO Gratitude in the Workplace challenge brief and the supporting research, we facilitated a group brainstorm session. Our group determined there is a missed opportunity to directly link gratitude to productivity at our organization.
Our Idea is to improve upon the existing employee shout-out program to make peer acknowledgement and recognition publicly visible, timely, inclusive, and measurable. In doing so, we feel we will see an increase in experience and expression of gratitude in our workplace. This will lead productivity at the individual level while also building a greater sense of pride in our community at our office.
The three main areas of the existing shout-out process our group wishes to tackle include:
The current shout-out program does not measure whether every employee is giving and/or receiving gratitude. Participation is currently optional. We need everyone to be more mindful of new employees and remote employees. By implementing a system of shout-out tracking, we will ensure everyone in the organizational hierarchy knows who is/isn't participating and the people who receive shout-outs less frequently than others are soon recognized for their accomplishments and/or strengths. We want to add a list of employee names to the shout-out collection form and send reminder emails to complete the form.
The current shout-out collection form is only available for a short time, so there are missed opportunities for gratitude capture. This also means acknowledgement is not provided close enough to the time of the triggering event. To provide as many opportunities to give a shout-out as possible, we will create a new gratitude collection form that everyone in the company will have access to at all times. We will share reminder messages with the company in an effort to increase the frequency of shout-outs. To reduce the time between when gratitude is given and received, we will also develop a shout-out notification in an all employee Slack channel, so that the positive feelings associated with receiving gratitude are felt sooner and felt on a wider scale. This is one half of the visual gratitude idea, which is what we feel will contribute to a longer-term positive feeling in our work environment.
It’s not sustainable for our CEO to read statements of gratitude out loud in our monthly meeting as the company expands in size. We started limiting shout-outs to one sentence per person due to meeting time constraints, but would prefer not to have this restriction. We seek to change the delivery method to a format that is trackable, visual and longer-lasting by using Slack. This will also help ensure the positive feelings associated with giving and receiving gratitude last longer. In addition to Slack, we will also introduce gratitude stickers as an incentive for participation. They will be placed on our employee "pride" wall, on a common floor everyone accesses for meetings and lunch.
We will include a system of shout-out tracking to help our management team ensure expressions and experience are more evenly distributed and emotionally consistent. This will also indicate whether or not participation has increased. With user feedback collected through surveys, we can gauge which visual expression is the right fit. Through testing various iterations these three variables, the new shout-out program will address the three main challenges our existing shout-out program faces.