$?$,$Wtotivation is a moving target. You can't expect a single recognition or rewards program to work for everybody or to work for years. One size does not fit all — and people's expectations change.

That's why companies need to be innovative. One such organization with which I recently worked is Syncrude Ltd., one of Canada's largest energy companies. John Thomas, manager of operations, has helped to recharge that company's recognition efforts. For one, he personally created a new award, a simple plaque with the name “The Pay it Forward Award,” that he first presented to someone on his senior staff for exemplary work. On the back of the plaque, it describes how the award can then be given to someone else, at the discretion of the current holder. The award has found several subsequent recipients.

Thomas reviews the performance appraisals for about 500 people and writes personalized letters to those who have been selected as high performers. He also has asked team leaders to identify three or four people on their teams whom they value; he then sends someone out into the field to pull those people right off their equipment to present them with rewards.

Thomas has begun to schedule four hours a week to go out into the mine and meet employees to discuss procedures, safety, and morale. He asks people directly whether they are receiving positive feedback on their work performance. With 600 employees, it's an important step that helps him stay in touch.

Other managers are making similar efforts to create and sustain a culture of recognition at Syncrude. The company is planning to have senior leaders conduct informal workshops with the team leaders to help spread the word about positive recognition practices. Said one of them, “I think those leaders who see the value of recognition and are good at it can help influence the others.”

Thomas believes his efforts have already had an effect on employees. “If you surveyed our people both a year ago and today, you would note a significant difference in morale,” he says. “I had almost stopped some of the recognition activities I was doing, but the feedback has been so positive, it made me want to continue. We have a lot of great people, so it should keep me busy for quite some time.”

Bob Nelson, PhD, president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego, is a popular speaker at meetings and conventions, and is a best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Managing For Dummies, and his latest book, The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook. For more information, visit www.nelson-motivation.com, call (800) 575-5521, or e-mail Bob at BobRewards@aol.com.