March 2014

Are Your Awards More Than Just Awards?

By Carlina Wytiaz






Quick, is there a greeting card on your desk? Did you buy it for yourself? You could certainly buy yourself a greeting card; you can probably afford it, and youÕll get yourself the exact card you want. But thatÕs not the point of a greeting card, is it? A greeting card is a symbol of how another person views your importance in their life; they took the time to find a card, sign it, and get it to you. If given a choice between a great card signed with personal notes from your whole team or the two dollars the card actually cost, most people would pick the card. ThatÕs because in our society, almost all gifts are symbolic. Gifts and awards are ceremonial expressions that indicate a personÕs status or recognize achievement; theyÕre worth more than the money it took to make them.


We are social creatures who love group acceptance and awards are fundamental to creating a feeling of inclusion and celebration. When you take the time to recognize your coworkers with symbolic awards, youÕre building emotional ties. Not only does the coworker feel valued—leading to increased productivity and loyalty—but the organization is tied to the employee with public validation of their contributions. Public awards—given in the company of others, displayed prominently in an office, and announced throughout a communication system—will always matter more to a colleague than a check. IÕm not saying your employees donÕt appreciate a monetary bonus, but an award chosen carefully for your employee, an award that means something because it comes from a personal and collective narrative, creates the ties that are the scaffolding for your companyÕs culture.


One company I worked for developed an award called the Trim Tab Award. A trim tab is a small section of a surface that helps guide a plane or a boat; itÕs really not much to look at, but it plays a pivotal role in direction. The symbol of the award is that people do small things every day that end up guiding the entire organization. The Trim Tab Award was given to one employee a year. If you looked at the award objectively you would see a small piece of etched glass with a wooden stand—maybe $50 at a trophy shop. However, when the Trim Tab Award was given, it came with tears, sincere gratitude, accolades, and the respect of the entire organization. It was a monumental award. I guarantee not a single person would have taken the $50 over the award. ThatÕs the power of a symbol: it means more than what it is.


The next time you want to recognize your employees for the great work they do, maybe you should consider what an award would mean. What are the symbols in your organization? Do the awards you give to your employees have a deeper meaning? Are your awards tied to your culture, do they create emotional ties and a scaffolding? Maybe itÕs time to look beyond money to what the true worth of an award could be.











Carina Wytiaz is a professional writer and Internet marketer, with experience drawn from her time at FranklinCovey, Borders,,,, and several traditional marketing and advertising agencies. She loves writing for O.C. TannerÕs blog because she has a passion for helping employees feel more included and valued through exuberant appreciation, as well as helping companies realize the incredible potential of their human capital.











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