In a prior blog, I said that overall, formal Employee Recognition Programs don’t work. I repeated this statement at a recent conference where I was presenting and I asked if anyone had a formal employee recognition program that did work. One hand went up out of 125.

This hand belonged to a store manager at REI and she graciously shared with me (and said I could share with you!) their process for a formal employee recognition program that is truly honoring, meaningful and inspiring.

This employee recognition program is called the Anderson Award which is named after the Founders of REI, Lloyd and Mary Anderson.

5 Key Aspects that make this employee recognition program successful:

  1. It is a peer to peer award – employees nominate other employees
  2. It takes place annually
  3. About 1 in 100 employees receives this award – so it’s truly a special and unique honor
  4. It recognizes team members whose contributions exemplify REI’s Core Values and support their Mission
  5. Everyone except for Managers, Directors and VPs are eligible to receive this award

5 Key Logistics of this employee recognition program:

  1. Anyone can submit a nomination form (that then goes to the store/unit manager)
  2. The manager then selects a peer committee to evaluate the nominations and select a recipient (a manager does NOT sit on this committee). The committee chair is often last year’s recipient.
  3. This committee not only makes the final selection, they also decide how to announce each nominee to make it unique and innovative every year
  4. The final announcement of the recipient, as well as the honoring of nominees, occurs at the holiday store meeting
  5. The recipient goes to REI Headquarters for three days to interact with other recipients, all divisions and leaders of the organization AND a stone, engraved with their name, is added to the walkway at headquarters that is made up of prior Anderson Award recipients’ stones.  They become a permanent physical part of the history of the company – talk about a sense of ownership and leaving a legacy!!

A bit of local flair:

  1. In the store where this store manager manages, the photos of those who are nominated are posted on a bulletin board in the entry to the break room. Of her store’s 51 employees, 20 nominations were received for 13 employees.
  2. A physical, useful, engraved with “Anderson Award” will be given to the recipient at her store (don’t want to spoil it!) and the nominees also receive a physical, creative, useful award (meaning not something that’s bland and sitting on a shelf).

Does your company have an employee recognition program? What can your company learn from/apply from REI’s employee recognition program?