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08 Jul. 2019 | Comments (0)

Many companies plan recognition activities that center around the boss's favorite activity (e.g., golf). These events often get scheduled on a day that is good for the boss, but very inconvenient for a number of employees (e.g., the first day of pee wee baseball or other extracurricular activities of their kids). I’ve found senior management often offer such staff recognition activities out a sense of duty and then get annoyed at a lack of appreciation on the part of their staff. The event becomes an unappreciated burden, even if the boss pays for everything. 

If you get employees involved in planning such recognition activities, you’ll often end up with better activities that are more valued by your employees. If you ask for volunteers to help plan such activities, e.g., younger staff members, they often will view the event as an opportunity to shine and have fun as well, valuing the opportunity, the responsibility and the visibility it affords.  

Matt Dwyer, president of Dwyer Engineering in Leesburg, Virginia offers up just such an example. He reports: “I had been trying to get an organized activity started for team building, and I couldn't get it off top dead center. I thought I had good ideas (e.g., attend a baseball game, go sailing), but they did not seem popular. They all involved weekends which is when I had free time, and they all involved activities I like. I could tell that enthusiasm was muted to say the least and I didn't want to spend $100-150 per person (I include families or significant others) for something that was perceived as a duty. Another senior staff member took a stab at it and again it also pretty much went nowhere.   

“Finally, we changed course and turned it over to a young employee who met with other employees his age and came up with a list of their own ideas. I gave them a budget, asked them to include families as an option, as well as to get buy-in from a majority of employees. I retained veto rights (naked mud wrestling is probably not happening) and ended up nixing one of the ideas they suggested.   

“They surveyed everyone to get a sense of what was the most popular and most inclusive (not always the same thing) using They then used to find a good date for people. They put it all together and we all wound up at a medieval dinner and joust night on a Friday evening for a few hours. Some staff with small children brought them and the venue sat us all together and made a big deal about us. The whole process galvanized the younger staff put in charge of it and we have repeated the process with success multiple times (our last event was at Top Golf, a local semi-indoor golf game that includes dinner and drinks).  

“The process taught me a valuable lesson about approaching such recognition activities: To best hit the mark, involve those you are trying to motivate. We’ve since applied this simple principle to other aspects of the company with great results.”

  • About the Author:Bob Nelson, Ph.D.

    Bob Nelson, Ph.D.

    Dr. Bob Nelson is Senior Fellow in Human Capital at The Conference Board. In addition he is President of Nelson Motivation Inc. (, a management training and consulting company that…

    Full Bio | More from Bob Nelson, Ph.D.


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