10 Culture-Changing Ways to Honor Employees

Jim Goodnight quote

My Dad is awesome. As a retired high voltage electrician, he loves the fact that I run a business producing medium and high voltage products. He has always been interested in what I am doing with the company. He is especially attentive to the things I do for my employees. What’s even better is he suggests ideas from time to time. Last weekend, he made me laugh.

“You should implement Wiener Wednesdays,” he said. “Get all the employees together on Wednesday afternoon and have hot dogs. It would be good for morale and to build up the team.”

Despite the funny name, it’s a brilliant idea.

I’m a huge proponent of doing the little extra things to celebrate employees. In fact, I wrote about it in an article called Do Something Memorable for your Employees. I have had the honor to lead 9 different manufacturing businesses in my career and I’ve found that honoring employees, celebrating successes, and treating people with respect leads to improved job satisfaction, morale, and engagement.

“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.” Jim Goodnight

Over the years, I’ve done many things for employees. Some of them were big and required significant planning, others were small, just a simple way to say thank you. Regardless of the size, each conveyed a message, “You are important, respected and appreciated.”

Here are ten examples of things I’ve done over the past 20+ years. It’s not a complete list but just a sampling of some of the things you can do for people. I hope it inspires you to think of new ways to honor your team.

Lobsterfest. During an all employee meeting, I once promised a factory workforce a lobster dinner if we reached 1,000,000 hours of safe work. When we hit the milestone, we had a huge celebration which included steaks and flying 400 lobsters in from Maine.

“I’m convinced that celebrating wins does more to clarify the vision than anything else.” Andy Stanley

 Family Day. In one business, we invited employees and their families to an annual family day at a large amusement park. Employees spent the day in the park with their families and then gathered for a group lunch in the pavilion where we held a raffle and gave out gifts.

Fridays on the Floor. At several of my plants, the first Friday of the month was reserved for the management team to work on the shop floor. This gave us a chance to get to know people better and to learn ways to make things easier for them.

 Open House. Over the years, I have held factory open houses for the friends and family of employees. These were fun events with food, activities, and a chance for employees to show off where they work and what they did.

Letters Home. One of the things I like to do is send a letter to the home of an employee who has done something above and beyond. I think it’s more powerful than just giving it to them at work. At home, the employee’s family can see the letter as well.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” Stephen Covey

Buddy the Elf. At one business, I had the annual Christmas tradition to dress up like Buddy the Elf. I would climb on the back of a Cushman with another manager dressed as Santa. We would ride around the plant and give out candy to all the employees.

Wall of Fame. I started a tradition at one plant of hanging pictures in the lobby of employees who received a patent and those who had qualified as a Six Sigma black-belt. Every customer coming to our plant knew who our rock stars were.

Veterans Day. Being a veteran myself, I have always made a point to celebrate Veterans Day with all our veteran employees. It usually involves a small celebration with cake, a gift, and a ceremony to replace the American flag in front of the plant with a new one.

Team Pride. At one business, we had employees hang flags of their favorite sports team throughout the offices. We also had jersey days where the employees were encouraged to wear sports team jerseys to work.

 Swag. People like to belong and everyone loves logo-wear. Getting a shirt, a cup, or a hat with a company logo gives you a sense of pride and belonging. I love seeing employees wearing shirts they have received as gifts over the years. I’ve given out backpacks, coffee mugs, water bottles, jackets and even coolers to say thank you to employees over the years.

This list is just a small sampling of some of the fun things I have done to celebrate and honor employees. As a leader, I want to create an environment that is both safe and fun. I want people to actually enjoy coming to work each day. I believe in a workplace where talented employees are respected, empowered, and provided opportunities to fully serve the needs of our customers. In truth, honoring and respecting employees is not difficult or expensive but the payoffs are incredible.

For those who were wondering, I did take my father’s advice. We had our first Wiener Wednesday last week!

What do you think? What kind of activities have you used to honor employees? How has that changed your company culture? Is there a direct relationship between respect and employee engagement? Let me know in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

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