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Does everyone in your organization have the opportunity to get special recognition?

I really value this particular question on the Great Place to Work survey, because I am always enlightened by the responses of our people. It seems no matter how good your organization is at recognition, getting better is still important. You might have 85% of your people saying being recognized at work is a strength of your organization, but that means 15% of your people feel their efforts, work, and contributions are not regularly acknowledged. That’s sad and just not good enough. After all, if people don’t feel their efforts will be recognized, will they give you their all to help the business?

If this is happening at your organization, it’s time to ask, “What can the company do to improve?”

Secret Weapons: Managers + 360 Recognition

The role of managers in ensuing your people are being recognized at work (not to mention many other critical roles) cannot be stressed enough. Ensuring managers regularly make time to recognize creative ideas, strategic thinking, good work, and growth in empathy, team play, or excellent service is fundamental to creating and sustaining a recognition culture. However, I think of recognition in terms of a full 360. If recognition starts and stops with managers, you can only get so far. Recognition from peers, customers, team members, and other people across the organization and up and down all levels is what makes recognition a real strength in organizations.

5 Ways Root Fosters a Recognition Culture

Here are a few special things we do at Root as part of a recognition culture:

  1. Simple Celebrations
    We recognize everyone’s birthday each month as a group. Why? Because a birthday is something to be celebrated! I know we have employees who send personal birthday notes to their peers, but we also do something small but entertaining as a company. It costs nothing, takes minimal time and effort, yet always gets a chuckle: We sing and clap the average age of everyone celebrating a birthday that month during our monthly all-company meeting.
  2. Shout-Outs
    Each month, employees can recognize each other to the entire organization. We ask for special call-outs, and we don’t screen them in advance or require approval. Employees simply step up to recognize performance they found really helpful to them or a client.
  3. Digital Tools
    We use a digital recognition platform, which we initially developed for our clients, where individuals receive a recognition card from another employee. Whoever holds the card can then recognize another person with a short note. We track where the cards have been and where they are going. It’s cool to look back and see how even a small number of cards have touched so many employees.
  4. Recognition for Developing Others
    We don’t just want to give thanks to those doing great work in the moment; we also want to recognize people who are developing others. When someone has been with Root for four years they are given a Grow Award. They are asked to give this award to the person at Root who has had the most impact on their growth outside of their direct manager. The recipient of each Grow Award is then publicly recognized at our monthly all-company meeting.
  5. Group Recognition
    Annually we recognize the individuals who best represent our organizational values. Leadership does not choose these recipients. Instead, folks nominate someone they feel is deserving, and then all nominees are voted on by the entire organization. The awards are presented using personalized and creative presentations by the previous year’s recipients. This award ceremony is something we all look forward to. We call it The Rooties.

Most forms of recognition are free. People don’t need plaques or medals to feel they are being recognized at work – and in many ways those techniques are outdated. That isn’t to say that some traditional ways of recognizing people aren’t valued. We still do service awards at Root, giving American Express gift cards based on years of service. I know our people appreciate those, but it is the personal recognition by their peers that makes the biggest difference.

If you are looking to build a stronger recognition culture, look to how your leaders can model recognition with one another and then encourage those behaviors to cascade throughout the organization at all levels. Build in some fun and make it personal. If you already are vibrantly recognizing your people at work, then great. But if even a small percentage of your workforce doesn’t feel it, step back and get curious about it. Build in something new or different and feed the human spirit.

Robin Wooddall-Klein oversaw Root’s application to become a Great Place to Work®-CertifiedTM company. She’s happy to discuss what Root is doing right and the company plans to do next to evolve to become an even greater place to work. If you’d like to discuss what your organization can do to improve too, you can reach her at

November 20, 2018

More deeply rooted thinking

Developing Leaders and Managers


I want to hear how you can help my organization align on and activate our strategy. Call me, today.

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