Congratulations to Cargill Inc., Wayzata, Minn., which was recently named the Overall Best Recognition Culture by Recognition Professionals International. The company — the country's largest privately held employer with over 160,000 employees — has one of the best grassroots programs I've ever seen.
How It Works
For starters, it is primarily driven by employee volunteers. In the company's Dressings, Sauces, and Oils division, for example (one of 85 business units), each site (14 in North America alone) has a recognition team staffed by volunteers. A 17-member Business Unit Recognition Team defines the parameters of the program and serves as a liaison to the corporate leadership team. Cargill even named a chief recognition officer in 2004 to lead the effort.
The program is a balance between formal and informal recognition. In addition, the company offers a variety of merchandise gift certificates that can be given to employees to redeem with four retailers that also happened to each be customers of Cargill (including Costco).
Cargill hosts a bi-annual conference for the finalists for its top-tier recognition, the Chairman's Awards. To be nominated, employees must fill out an extensive application, and only about a quarter of those who apply become finalists.
The conference was introduced in 2002 to serve as a combined recognition and brainstorming event. At the most recent conference in 2006, the company gathered more than 1,200 employees for a half-day session to identify what Cargill can do to ensure that every employee is engaged in the company's plan for building a strong future. Employees were divided into roundtable groups for discussion, and ideas were transmitted via a computer at each table. Next, using electronic polling devices, the group voted on an action plan. This event allowed Cargill's most engaged employees to get involved in motivating the rest of the company. The tradition will continue in 2008 when the DSO division holds its Recognition Summit in September, complete with roundtable discussions.
Cargill's revenue in 2003 (measured in millions) was $54,390; by 2007, it had risen to $88,266 — a 62 percent increase. With financial results like those, it's easy to see how this combination of philosophy and implementation earned Cargill one of the top honors in the recognition world.
Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc.; a frequent presenter to management teams and conferences; and a best-selling author of several books, including 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and The Management Bible.
7 Steps to Success
Recognition Professionals International uses seven criteria to evaluate recognition excellence. An organization's recognition effort must have the following:
a recognition strategy
recognition program measurement
a communications plan
recognition events and celebrations