The best recognition efforts often start small and build over time. Take, for example, the Reward of Excellence program at Herbalife, the health and nutrition company based in Los Angeles.

It all started when the distributor services department at Herbalife decided that it wanted to increase the amount of recognition being used and find a better way for employees to recognize one another. The department heads looked at various incentive suppliers, called references, and finally selected The Bill Sims Co. ( to help launch a departmental recognition program.

The program used two-part “WOW!” cards to provide employees with a means to jot thank-you notes or praise to any other employee. One part of the card went to the employee, and the other part went into a recognition box that was reviewed monthly by six volunteer members of a recognition committee.

The committee then selected the most stellar example from the WOW! cards each month, whose name was posted on a WOW! bulletin board. That person was given points toward merchandise awards, as well as tickets for a drawing for a cruise. All of the honorees were also automatically submitted to the company's “All Star” program for additional recognition and visibility.

To give the program the best chance for success, Herbalife started it with a trial period of three months, over which time they collected feedback from employees. For example, when they found out that employees were unhappy about having to pay freight and handling for merchandise they had selected, they built those amounts into the awards. (Employees preferred this, even though they needed more points to earn the same merchandise.) Once the kinks were ironed out, it was easy to duplicate the program in other departments with the help of human resources.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, and Managing For Dummies; and a frequent presenter to management groups, conferences and associations. For more information, visit