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HR Professionals Give Their Feedback on Recognizing Employees Today

June 30, 2020

During’s virtual INSPIRE event last week, Terryberry’s CEO Mike Byam presented a session entitled “Building a WOW Recognition Culture.” We were bowled over by the tremendous response from the audience and the insightful dialog and interaction during the event.  By request, we’re sharing the chat transcripts on our blog!
Read on for audience perspectives on:

  • What’s been encouraging or challenging during these uncertain times?
  • What are employers doing differently to recognize employees compared to pre-COVID?
  • What questions and perspectives can you share about employee recognition today?

We’d like to give a big shoutout to the wonderful group who attended for your openness to share thoughts, ideas, and challenges!
Terryberry is a provider of employee recognition programs. If you have questions about employee recognition for your business, we would love to discuss your unique circumstances and share ideas. Want to talk?  We do too! Connect with us.

To review the webinar recording, download presentation slides or register for upcoming webinars, visit

Terryberry asked: What's been challenging or encouraging during these uncertain times?


Diane Fowler: Teamwork has been incredible
Jeanna Mackin: most encouraging is seeing our employees really engage and "lean in"
Melissa A. Thompson: We have managers working more collaboratively now more than they have before!
Shari Urdang: Employees globally are connecting with employees they normally wouldn't know
Jenny Sampson: The most encouraging thing is how our company has adapted and ensured business keeps going.

Meg Rudge: Our employees have been very supportive of each other.

Douglas Yee: seeing random acts of kindness
Christine Dowd: We were ahead of the game with MS Teams.  We slid right into remote working!
Meisha-ann Martin: I love to see all these CEOs addressing racial equity and justice
Jill Steiner: very excited to have a 87% return rate after laying off over 300 employees

Sandra Boss Peck: Wow, Jill that is impressive. Glad so many came back

Kristine Lueck: encouraging we were able to change our plants to help support the need for sanitizers
Erika Alexander: Encouraging was more staff interaction by weekly meetings.
Valari Regan: I find that people are more empathetic with others in regards to the challenges of working at home with other family members in the same space


Debby Graham: Understanding what our employees are experiencing while working at home.  The balance!
Nancy Spinella: Our team is all remote now, and it's hard to "connect" with each other personally
Maureen Maloughney: Allowing employees to work from home when managers want employees in their office.

Mary Persky: Getting things set up properly to work from home

Joseph Ormond: Maintaining continuity of operations when everyone shifts from in office work to working from home
Brenda Podratz: Being remote and keeping our employees engaged.  Harder to do when we're not seeing each other each day.
Caroline Ries: People who are still working are jealous of those that are on unemployment making more
Tracy Brutcher: Connection with team
Tammy Mills: Challenge-keeping up with Executive orders over 9 states. Encouraging-the dedication to working at home
Debbie Shaffer: We are still working remotely and keeping in touch with everyone is difficult.
Deborah Klein: HR from afar.  Being there for employees while I'm not actually there
Susan Tinney: As a school district, we are struggling with the uncertainty of what fall will look like
Gwen Pulvirent: lack of true face to face interactions
Jenny Sampson: The most challenging thing has been to engage with our team due to remote working.
Meg Rudge: We've had employees experience great depression.

Natalie Mosier: Attaining PPE for return to work.

Cynthia Fetterman: Feeling isolated even though technology keeps us connected
Douglas Yee: cabin fever
Michelle O'Neal: finding ways to reward employees in a new way.
Kimberly Russo: The stress of dealing with all the anxiety people are feeling.
Kristine Lueck: challenges working thru getting employees to stay productive working from home.
Andrea Stogin: Working through employees emotions/fears while remaining open.
Porsche King: Lack of trust for leadership making it hard for employees to believe in the recognition program
Diane Paar: Pending furloughs and positive COVID tests
Dianne Stains: As an essential business, we have been busier than ever. It has been challenging keeping morale up and taking care of the employees.

Kenny Dang: It's difficult to engage employees when we work remote.

April Armstrong: not seeing employees face to face has been hard and keeping them engaged
Diane Stevenson: Miss the ad hoc communications from being in the office
Erika Alexander: Most challenging is the learning curve of working online.  I'm no longer in the HR business, but in education & classroom and it has been huge!
Diane Fowler: One of our worries has been ensuring colleague’s mental health, in addition to their physical safety
Jamie Harris: Working as a remote HR of one is proving difficult
Renee McNally: I also struggle with my CEO who just doesn't care enough for the employees
MaDena DuChemin: Technology has been a new challenge and getting used to virtual meetings.
Bertha Grimes Hall: trying to stay up to date with all of the changes, getting the equipment needed, etc as we are an essential business
Molly Daniels: seeing the frustration with employees

Sheridee Kinkade-Burnside: Communication and alignment on training initiatives

Kimberly Russo: Ways to reward employees while managing covid protocols
Carleythia Anderson: Restructuring teams after loss of work.
Donna Forestier: keeping employees engaged
Tyresse Ferguson: I'm making it, the company transparency and truly seeing the disconnect between leadership and employees.
Barbara Sadler: Working at home challenges...
Brenda Podratz: Being in the long term care industry and getting our employees to work due to COVID (and no Hazard pay).
Kathleen Joseph: Most frustrating has been not hearing from our corporate office during being furloughed.  No signs of being recalled.
Mary Pichon: Trying to stay up to date with the ever changing regs with PPP, Covid.  Keeping sales and moral up with layoffs and fuloughs with cancelled contracts.

Terryberry asked: What are you doing different today to recognize your employees compared to pre-COVID?

Jennifer Rosa: We are having coffee breaks with our office staff via Zoom to keep people connected and having fun because they miss their peers so much!
Sandra Chronister: My company sent one of our leaders a little package at home to thank him for his leadership and then asked to join our team meeting when he opened it so that we could all see it
Renee McNally: Before COVID, I was trying to rollout a new Recognition program which has just been ignored by senior leadership because that's not their focus.
Caroline Johnson: My team relies on Microsoft Teams chat to stay connected.  We were so used to seeing each other everyday and to have conversations.  We are able to keep in touch throughout the day
Tonya Brogdon: We use "Cause for Applause" cards which are given out frequently by all employees to each other, huge game changer!

Porsche King: recognition through virtual town halls

Debby Graham: More one on one conversations via Zoom
Diane Paar: Lots more communication
Haley Ayotte: The corp team has been putting together thank you videos for our front line staff and emailing to the company
From Shari Urdang: We do happy hour's, care packages to employees homes
Ashley Smith: Just trying to keep up to date with all the regulations and guidelines.
Jennifer Rosa: We are catering lunches once/week as a thank you and sending them out the menu a day before to send in their specific orders.
Tammy Mills: shout outs using our community chat
Bertha Grimes Hall: We did start an above and beyond recognition program since Covid started
Sonya Frej: Weekly shout outs during Town Hall meetings
Sheridee Kinkade-Burnside: e-Amazon gift cards

Diane Stevenson: Using e-cards instead of actual cards

Caroline Ries: Employees on site are receiving $2 increase phase 1 $1 increase phase 2
Shari Urdang: remote coffee chats
April Armstrong: sending chats notes to them and recognizing during team meetings
Gretchen Long: zoom group thank you’d
Amanda Hansen: Sending e-gift cards!
Deborah Klein: Employee Facebook group with a lot of shout outs
Diane Stevenson: coffee break zoom meetings
Sandra Chronister: We are sending personal thank you notes actually through  REGULAR mail - people are so surprised and excited
Angela Chisholm: CEO is acknowledging employees during his video updates
Patrick Maloit: virtual recognition
Jill Steiner: We are in weekly, sometimes 2x week newsletters
Donna Forestier: More positive reinforcement
Jeanna Mackin: increased communication to bi-weekly 1 hour meetings connecting across multi-state
Christine Dowd: We did a weekly "connect" time where we celebrating work done in the field with everyone.  90+ people attended
Carey Martin: We haven't changed our process but are seeing an increase in the amount of recognition is given
Jamie Harris: Hero bonuses for those working essential functions
Julia Quinn: Virtual Townhall meeting and MS Chat is working for our org!

Amanda Hansen: Ordering lunch for teams at home! 🙂

MaDena DuChemin: More communications-email, memos, texts, etc.
Andria Mladenovich: Microsoft Team Meetings to check in.
Bertha Grimes Hall: We also gave increases to those working
Michelle O'Neal: recognition on Slack and in 1:1 meetings
Gretchen Long: video greeting cards
Diane Fowler: Old school is some ways - handwritten notes to our colleagues still in the office
Barbara Sadler: Some of our employees are employees "hero" bonuses for service above and beyond.
Julie Day: we are still onsite so we hand out bingo cards in the morning and call out numbers on the PA system throughout the day for prizes
Christine Tom: Virtual happy hours and informal checkins weekly.
Jeanna Mackin: For my specific team, we have remote coffee meeting every morning and disucss our daily work
Erika Alexander: Our school did FB award ceremonies rather than in person.

Narciso Fierro: Yes, weekly shout outs and virtual Team meetings for Happy Hour

Denise Murphy: hero pay, casual dress, and work from home option
Lauren O'Donnell: Virtual Events and new team recognition program
Gretchen Long: take care task force. checking employee wellness
Jill Steiner: We are doing socials on zoom for management team that were left carrying things on for the almost 3 months we were shut down
Kathleen Joseph: Most positive has been the opportunity to attend so many virtual training programs.
Ashley Smith: We do monthly recognition meetings as well where we recognize employees and distribute out newsletters. We are a manufacturing facility so we've never closed due to be an essential business.
Kenny Dang: We have Kudos and team recognition at the beginning of our weekly meeting.
Adrienne Miller: We did a Virtual Talent Show

Cheryl Finch: Monthly Zoom "state of the business operation" meetings led by our CEO

Jeanna: We also did weekly happy hours with different themes each week - wear a crazy hat, sunglasses, babies and fur-babies
Mary Pichon: We did pandemic relief bags with TP, hand sanitizer and face masks along with a thank you letter for those who came into work every day at the beginning of the shelter in place orders (we are manufacturing so a lot of our staff still had to come in)
Porsche King: Trying to keep the team engaged through zoom happy hours and karaoke
Jennifer Rosa: We did a kudos wall and peers were putting up recognition/thank you's to others that got posted up for others to see.
Jennifer Rosa: We also created stay interviews.

Webinar Attendees: Questions and Chat Dialog

Jenifer Sweeney: Recognition is not a "one size fits all" program. We have some supervisors that don't participate and use our program and other that overuse it, almost to the point of devaluing the program. How do you keep supervisors properly engaged to ensure the program is used consistently and fairly among varying levels of supervision?
Rachel Unterbrink: What is the best way to recognize/reward remote team members?
Deborah Klein: We are restructuring our Production Groups.  How do I encourage / train new supervisors who are being bombarded with new tasks to include recognition?
Angie Murphy: How do I structure a sustainable recognition program with very limited budget?
Lauren O'Donnell: Transparency and lots of communication
Manasi Sabnis: How do I get leadership involvement in employee recognition programs and embed it as part of culture?
Denise Murphy: How to recognize employees during this time
Angie Murphy: How do I get supervisors and managers engaged (those who are used to the way things have always been done)?
Pamela Foster: We have been closed due to safer at home orders from the governor.  We will be opening the campus this fall and we want to welcome everyone back.  We have talked about a picnic, that won't work with masks.  We did not get to have our employee recognition program last spring.  Any ideas of how to welcome back and show our appreciation in a safe way?

Tyresse Ferguson: How do you get leadership onboard to improve how recognition is done?

Narciso Fierro: It seems like there is obviously a disconnect between what the employers feel is recognition and what the employees want. Employers need to follow the Platinum Rule and Recognize Employees the way that they would want to be recognized. One "thing" does not fit "all" employees?
Gwen Pulvirent: How do you handle when the CEO sees recognition to staff as fluff but has no problem having a big sales person recognition weekend for productive sales folks? This makes staff folks feel unvalued.
Patty Revis: How do I keep a peer recognition program to NOT become a popularity contest???
Andrea Stogin: We have people that feel like there is a lot of favoritism. They feel the people recognized are only the "favorites" of the leaders.

Debbie Shaffer: I agree with Andrea...when we recognize someone it is considered favoritism.

Nancy Spinella: @Andrea - same here. We have a small department and if we recognize individuals, it's always the SAME 2-3 people all the time

Emily Kao: Echo on Andrea, bad performers feel "unfair" when they see good performers receive recognition.

Lauren O'Donnell: Promote Peer to Peer recognition and make it more normalized. Then it will not seem so much like favoritism. Find ways to recognize more people. Positive reinforcement works!

Mary Persky: Tie recognition to the data analytics you track

Mary Williams: Agree!  “How” the recognition is delivered is more important than what is given to them. Failing to focus on “HOW” to recognize can be a missed opportunity for tenured employees.
Jennifer Rosa: We call it a Kudos Corner at our facility
Mary Persky: I find leaders know recognition is important but they want someone else to be responsible for it
Debbie O'Bryan: We are consolidating with another business unit - totally 2 different cultures - there is a huge need right now for assuring all employees on many levels - job is safe, COVID-19 precautions and inevitable change.  EEs have been through enough -- where do we begin?
From Pamela Foster: With daily recognition, is there a chance of diminishing intrinsic motivation with the risk that employees will wait for the extrinsic motivator (recognition/reward) to perform job duties?
Kathleen Joseph: We have found that verbal recognition only goes so far.  Employees want "more".  They begin to feel the verbal recognition is canned and it loses its significance after a short while.
Grace Adragna-Cappelli: I think with the super hyper-sensitive world we live in now, recognition is going to get harder to do on ad-hoc basis based on merit. I fear that recognition becomes uniform, structured and routine in fear of discrimination and we therefore will lose its impact when it truly counts.

Carleythia Anderson: Grace, if recognition is based on merit there should be no issue or appearance of discrimination or favoritism.

Diane Fowler: Great point - oftentimes managers only recognize going over and above. In these scary times, just showing up and doing a good job should be commended

Marsha Kittleson: I agree with you 100% Grace.  I have seen recognition programs for example Thank you notes sent to employees.  The managers were required to send a set amount out each month.   It didn't take to long for the employees to figure out that it was required for the managers to do this and they had a quota.   Lost the meaning of recognition.

Kelsey Rogers: Looking for fresh employee recognition ideas, tips, and tools? Be sure to check out Terryberry's FREE resources

Katia Luna: Recognition should be objective meaning for a specific act or behavior.  That way there is no fear of discrimination doesn't come into play
Mary Williams: Yes!  It’s not a solo activity - empowering all to share in highlighting accomplishments = important to get everyone involved.  Makes a difference.  Completely agree
Cynthia Jackson: Yes, based on performance - can be small or large.
James Garrett: Do you recommend engaging the front line team for what they feel is "Good" recognition? How do you recommend going about it?
Tammy Mills: Our company does a lot of shout outs and thank you emails, we are very good at telling our staff we appreciate them; now it seems like that is not enough, it has become too do we change it up?
Michael Perry: We have a daily hotwash and discuss business issues but also talk about how we are doing during this difficult time.
Andrea Stogin: We recently have been adding shout outs/recognitions in our company newsletter.
Julia Quinn: I love the Ecard best practice - Service, retirements, birthdays, promotions, new hires, births, etc!

Nancy Spinella: Where can I find good eCards?? Any suggestions?

Roxanne Rosario: I like the Ecards too..

Christine Tom: I will start using E-cards. Great idea.

Mary Williams: I give handwritten cards to staff every week - it’s AMAZING!!! They SAVE them…. When we moved offices, they kept the cards and put them up in their new work areas…. Very special.

From Kelsey Rogers: Love this idea, Mary! The power of the handwritten note is invaluable

Mary Williams: @Kelsey - it’s been FANTASTIC!!! And seeing them SAVE them… really special… makes me certain to continue the practice!

Michael Perry: Yes, we started this and named it "Give a shout out"
Diana Duncan: Most of our employees have no desire to be recognized publicly.  How do we change this mentality?
Andrea Stogin: We have had a couple of retirements during COVID-19. We really missed not having get togethers to wish them farewell.
Sylvia Chan Lopez: Orgs could leverage technology to recognize retirees like Jane and others more widely
Cynthia Jackson: Cool story for Jane - I like the Terryberry employee recognition software used for recognition.
Kathleen Joseph: We mail birthday and anniversary cards to our employee's homes, and recognize them internally on our in-house TV program.
Mary Williams: I love to tie recognition to corporate mission, vision, and values - very powerful!
Kelsey Rogers: I see a lot of people writing in about ideas to gain leadership support for recognition. I wanted to share this helpful resource on 7 strategies that will help win leadership support for developing a culture of employee recognition within your organization
Barbara Sadler: My company is doing shot outs in newsletters too.  Our CEO also makes personal contact with employees at all levels to ask how things are going, what they may need, and to say thank you.  His efforts makes a difference.
Lauren O'Donnell: Thank you! Leadership buy-in is crucial for recognition to thrive in an organization

James Garrett: Catch people doing something good and thank them...

Jacki Fetter: Managers get so busy, they forget to give out positives.  They get focused on the problems and negatives.
Mary Williams: There is also a subtly in demonstrating WHAT gets recognized - shows co-workers what behaviors/contributions get recognition so they can do likewise - this reinforces the org’s value in a great way
Cynthia Jackson: How are the points tracked in the point-based system?

Terryberry: Learn more about Terryberry’s AwardPoints program at or view a demo on demand.

MaDena DuChemin: Newsletter spotlight w/ pictures are used a lot.
Cynthia Jackson: Nominations by supervisors/managers and employee pictures on esigns
MaDena DuChemin: Have you found that one method is more effective than another?
Kelsey Rogers: Terryberry's 360 Recognition Platform is one hub with everything you need for effective employee recognition in your organization (peer recognition, service awards, points programs, and so much more). Discover what makes Terryberry’s 360 Recognition Platform so effective here.
Grace Adragna-Cappelli: We never did peer-peer recognition. I think this is a good idea.

Kenny Dang: Peer-Peer recognition is very powerful @ Grace A

Kelsey Rogers: Grace, our peer recognition platform is one of our most popular recognition programs. It's perfect for remote employees and its social-media style interface makes recognition simple, fun, and meaningful. Learn more here.

Jennifer Rosa: We do a milestone anniversary award and jacket presentation at our annual company meeting.

Nancy Spinella: For small departments, do you feel that 100% participation of peer-to-peer recognition should be required?

Jeanna Mackin: not required, because if recognition is forced it can feel insincere and have the opposite effect on the employee.  I would say "highly encouraged" you can run reports to see who are NOT giving recognition and then handle as a one-off

Pamela Foster: often recognition is received differently by employees.  For example, one employee may want public recognition and another employee would be mortified to be recognized publicly.  How do you ensure that you don't do more damage with public recognition?
Molly Daniels: How are you holding managers accountable to consistently recognize and use your programs for all across their purview?

Kelsey Rogers: Check out Terryberry's most popular free resource: Onboarding Questionnaire for New Hires

Christine Tom: Is there a way to recognize those amazing performers we have to lay off because of economic challenges (i.e. loss of projects, etc.)?
Patrick Maloit: How do you get more than a few people to participate in the peer to peer program?
Dianne Stains: We have service anniversary awards, performance-driven, point-based for a couple departments, and peer-to-peer
Grace Adragna-Cappelli: I recall “timeliness” was key to effective recognition so an automated message, especially for the growing number of remote workers is a good start and will show up on-time.
Richard Roark: Some recognition programs are inconsistent.
Kelsey Rogers: Speaking of the award presentations... another great free resource is our Award Presentation Cheat Sheet. Check it out.
Andrea Stogin: Our managers struggle with the timeliness aspect.
Cynthia Jackson: is the recognition only shared by phone?
Melissa A. Thompson: We had a peer to peer recognition platform prior to COVID that allowed for swag redemption. We had a hard time with mgmt participating yet they wanted more ideas on recognition even though they had a free and easy, social way to recognize. Since the virus, we had to eliminate the prizes and everyone got too busy to use it.
Dianne Stains: We developed a program just this year to focus on this for managers - through our OE initiative,
Christine Tom: Thank you, Mike, for sharing all the different ways we could recognize our teams, big and small. Loved the idea of E-cards and how we need to align our recognition program with our mission and culture. Thank you.


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