Developing Recognition Programs

When it comes to increasing engagement among employees, recognition programs are the way to go. There’s no better way to engage employees than to let them know they’re special, needed and important to the overall success and growth of your company. Rewarding employees who have shown improvement in a certain area and acknowledging those who have gone above and beyond are great ways to foster pride among employees, helping meet the psychological needs of individuals and can raise employee satisfaction levels across the board.

Recognition can come in a variety of ways: verbal, written, digital, and even through a variety of communication channels. Depending on how your company is structured, recognition can flow from the top down — from the CEO, senior executives and managers — or from peer-to-peer, where employees are encouraged to recognize each other.

Here are a few programs to consider:


Employee Spotlight Programs – for exceptional service

Service Awards – for long-term employees

On-the-Spot Recognition – cash or vouchers for company items


Pass It On – a traveling token, medallion or recognition jar

Post It Online – on the company intranet or social media site

Recognition Wall – a place to post a note about a coworker

No way is the wrong way. Receiving recognition can sometimes be interpreted as more sincere if received from peers who are on your same level but it might also feel less important if your employee is looking for praise from someone who “matters.” It all depends on the person and the current culture of your company. That’s why it’s good to take a multi-dimensional approach to employee recognition and cover all your bases.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: In a Stress Cycle, Perception Is Reality

Do you ever get caught up in a cycle of stress that feeds on itself? You know, when your brain just keeps churning with things to do and stuff to remember and you can’t seem to make yourself stop? When you check two things off your list and add three more? When you find yourself in a perpetual state of busy?

As many times as I’ve learned not to let myself get to that point, I realized a few days ago that I was there. I was so stressed out I was having trouble getting a deep breath. When I stopped to look, I realized I’d been slipping into some bad habits over the last few months.

Instead of my usual quiet coffee time in the morning, I was jumping on my computer to check email first thing. Instead of leaving thoughts of work behind when I left the office, I was fitting in a few more hours of work at night, and more hours on the weekend. I was skipping workouts. I was driving too fast. All the things I knew not to do, I was doing.

It was time to walk the labyrinth. If you’ve never seen one, it’s like a maze but without the dead ends. A single path leads around and around into the center of the circle and back again. We have a new labyrinth in the garden of our church, and I hadn’t gotten around to walking it yet.

Some people describe the labyrinth as a walking prayer. One way to use it is to hold an issue or question in your mind as you walk. By the time you reach the center, an answer often is clear.

My answer, of course, was that I’m the only one responsible for my stress. And I’m the only one who can change it.

We all make our own reality. I went home and did a few things to take better care of myself. Moved a few things off my calendar. Called my favorite spa to see if they had any special fall deals (they did) and cashed in some frequent flyer points for a plane ticket.

Mostly, I changed my perspective. It took a few days, although knowing I had a spa trip coming to me certainly accelerated the process, but gradually I shifted my point of view. Instead of seeing myself as this poor wretched victim of too-much-to-do, I switched back to thinking of my life as relaxed and easy.

Not much is different on my calendar or my to-do list. But it feels completely different.




The Greatest Season of All

I am a native Floridian. Born and raised in Maitland, Florida (a suburb of Orlando), my knowledge of the seasons consisted of “summer” and “not-quite-summer.” My elementary school uniforms did not have a pants option – it just never got cold enough to require such extreme measures.

We only had one tree in my neighborhood that dropped any leaves in the fall. In Florida, the oak leaves turn brown and drop leaves (with fresh green ones growing in right behind) in the spring, leading to what my mom lovingly called “Fling.”

When it came time to decide on where to go to college, my heart led me to North Carolina. I became a Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and soon discovered that I would have to purchase closed-toed shoes. The first icy day of winter, I wondered aloud to my Pittsburgh-native roommate why they felt the need to fertilize the concrete sidewalks. She laughed.

Essentially what I’m trying to say is that the changing of the seasons fascinates me. Somehow, the seasons know just how long to last before you get sick of that kind of weather and need a change of pace (at least here in the southeast). At the end of winter, temperatures warm, jackets get tossed aside, the flowers spring forth and life is wonderful again. We get excited for beach weather and tank tops until we get sick of sweating out of our ears and long for the cooler temperatures of fall. Then we get nostalgic for winter wonderland and a white Christmas.

Of all the seasons, fall is far and away my favorite. I love that I now live in a place where the leaves change at all, but my favorite place to see fall color is in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I’m heading up there this weekend to soak in the crisp, chilly air and marvel at the Blue Ridge Mountains turned orange, red and yellow. The first time I saw that particular sight, the only words I could come up with were, “The Mountains look like Fruity Pebbles!” Poetic, I know.

There is absolutely nothing better than a fall weekend. My perfect weekend consists of college football, flannel, puffy vests, pumpkin bread, driving with the windows down on the Blue Ridge Parkway and good friends. I plan on combining all of those elements over the next three days.

As the Irish say, “I hope the weather’s with ya!”


Anna Chase is the newest Account Coordinator at Tribe. This is her second blog. 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Promoting Leadership — From Top Management to Frontline Employees

Does your company encourage leadership at every level in the organization? In some ways, this seems an oxymoron. If everyone gets to be a chief, who will be the indians?

But leadership can be seen as a sense of responsibility for moving things forward. Leading, as opposed to following, may not have anything to do with one person bossing a group of people around.

One crucial aspect of leadership is this quality of taking the lead — not of people, necessarily, but in making things happen. Some companies think of this in terms of generating ideas, and they go so far as to call these people innovators or catalysts or even the big-company lingo for entrepreneurs: intrapreneurs.

A spirit of entrepreneurship is difficult to achieve in most large companies. Some corporations like to boast they have the structure and resources of a large company, yet are as nimble and innovative as a startup. Sounds good, but in reality, that’s tricky.

To promote this type of leadership, a company has to be able to give employees a large degree of autonomy. In many large company cultures, each level hesitates to make a move without the level above them — not only to tell them how to do it, but whether or not it’s okay to do it.

Perhaps a more attainable goal is to nourish a sense of leadership in one’s own work. To encourage employees to approach their own jobs as entrepreneurs. To figure something out and propose a solution, rather than waiting to be told what to do.

From the C-suite to the frontline, the people doing the work are best equipped to create new solutions. The drive-thru attendant might see a better way to organize condiments; the salespeople might discover a faster method of processing returns; the receptionist might suggest rearranging the furniture, after noticing that waiting visitors are seated where they look straight at the break room garbage.

How do you get employees at all levels to take the lead? It starts with the C-level folks demonstrating that they respect employees — especially the oft-ignored frontline people — and value their input. Then you open channels of two-way communication so employees can share their ideas with management. You demonstrate that direct managers — and those in the C-suite — are listening. And you showcase the results of this type of leadership.

That all starts with the right internal communications. Need help with that? Tribe’s ready when you are.

Effective Communication Tips for Leaders

Great leaders tend to all have one thing in common – strong communications skills. This isn’t news, nor should it surprise anyone. Regardless of whether it is in a corporation, military, political or sports arena, successful leaders are best-in-class communicators and are able to connect with their audiences. How do you sell products and services? How do you share the vision and strategic plan? How do you motivate and inspire teams? All use communication.

Communication is not a one-way street. The biggest ah-ha moment for most leaders is when they recognize that communication is a two-way process. You need to be able to send clear messages using different channels that resonate with your audiences, but you also need to ensure you are being understood and are answering their questions and concerns.

Improving your communication skills is not rocket science. There are a few basic steps that will help your develop your own two-way communication process:

  • Determine the goal and outline the specific objectives for the communication
  • Anticipate how you want the reader to feel and what action you want them to take after reading it
  • Outline your key messages and ensure they help you meet your goals and objectives
  • Understand your culture and determine the right tone for the piece
  • Provide a forum for the reader to comment or ask questions
  • Select the appropriate channel(s) to reach your target demographics
  • Send the communication and keep an open mind on comments and feedback

Even if you are a natural communicator you still may need outside help.  Within your corporation, your internal communications department can help provide tips and may even have capacity to develop your communications.  Your PR team may also be a good resource.  If both of those departments are at capacity, there is a benefit of using an outside internal communications agency.  Not only will they have capacity but will have the expertise and knowledge of the latest technology to be a huge asset to you.

Do the few basic steps of communication leave your head spinning? Please feel free to contact Tribe, we would love to help explain.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What’s Your Employees’ Gross Happiness Index?

Does happiness improve your business results? Now that the economics of happiness are being measured by social scientists, economists and even governments, it seems only natural that companies would begin looking at that same metric in terms of their employees.

Etsy is taking the happiness metric seriously. That tempting online collection of individual storefronts selling handcrafted, vintage and other unique items has already been certified a B Corp (a Benefit Corporation, for those of you, like me, who had no idea what that is).

Now Etsy is turning its attention to the happiness of employees. A recent article on Fast Company’s website CoCreate highlights their initiative, led by Etsy’s Vice President of Brand and Social Responsibility Matt Stinchcomb.

What makes employees happy? Based on Tribe’s work with the internal culture of major brands, I’d say the most important element is work they enjoy. That could be because they’re excited by the field they’re in and the opportunity to use their talents, or because the company purpose includes some element of adding to the greater good. Etsy sounds like they might be offering both.

The Evolution of the Office Space

As I walked into work the other day, I stopped and looked around. We have a really cool office. Not only has it been organized by a feng shui expert, but our CEO, Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, has excellent taste and interior design skills. There is something about the open space, huge windows, water fountains and lack of fluorescent lights that creates a relaxed and open work environment. In fact, the office was one of the first things that attracted me to Tribe.

An article in Inc. last week, “What Makes a Cool Office?” talks with experts about the elements that make up a cool office and what it says about the business’s culture.

The office is your second home. As stated in the article, your office is much more than just a desk with a computer and bad coffee. Your office is where you spend most of your time, and because it is your second home, it should feel like your second home. Some CEOs might not feel the design and space of the office impacts employee productivity; however, a well thought-out and creatively designed office space can serve as a recruitment tool and also foster collaboration among employees.

Lose the Cube. While the traditional office space used to get a bad rap for its bland walls and never ending sea of cubicles, it has now evolved to a more open floor plan with exposed piping and brick. People are paying more for less. According to designer Denise Cherry, the goal is to achieve the “tertiary spaces”: spaces that aren’t conference rooms and that aren’t personal desks, either. This type of mixed space promotes communication and teamwork but also allows for quiet concentration. However, with that, there must be a balance. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all design for all businesses.

Let employees be the brand. Founder and Editor in Chief of The Roger (a quarterly magazine devoted to exploring creative workspaces) Alexa Baggio says the key to a creative workspace is to let the employees have a voice. “As much as it’s important to show off the brand in an office, people want to personalize their space,” she says. “The coolest offices, she says, are not necessarily those that have flashy accoutrements or sweeping views, but those that have spent the time to understand what their employees really want.”

What makes your office cool?


Why It’s Important for Leadership’s Vision to Cascade Through the Ranks

A lot of times the long-term growth plan or the vision of the company is decided behind closed doors in a meeting that consists solely of the leadership team. The trouble with this method is that more often than not, their excellent ideas to better the company are not communicated to the rest of the employees. Or if they are, they’re not communicated correctly.

It increases engagement and buy-in. For the most part, employers understand the strong reasons why communicating the vision of the company to managers and top-level employees is important, but they might not understand why it is important to communicate this message to employees at all levels.

Open communication between leadership and their employees fosters a sense of trust and pride in a company. When employees know what is going on and what the long-term plan for the company is, they feel confident in their leadership and confident there is a strategy for the economic growth of the company. In addition, when leadership communicates to employees about upcoming plans for the company, it creates an advance buy-in from employees. They feel that their approval of the plan matters.

It is relatively simple. It doesn’t have to be the CEO calling up each employee to tell them about the new vision for the company. It can be as simple as an email, newsletter article, blog or video broadcast in which leadership shares their foresight for the company. Consider a weekly blog directly from leadership that lives on your intranet or a standard feature in an internal publication. Much like the “fireside chat” from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and 40s, these methods will improve the direct line of communication with less chance for interpretation of the wrong message.

Better-informed employees make better business decisions. If employees are aware of key decisions and initiatives affecting the company, they will be better equipped at performing their jobs. Your employees face your customers, your partners and vendors every day. They are the face of your brand. You can have a brilliant vision for the company, but if your employees aren’t aware of it, they can be jeopardizing this vision.

Therefore it’s important to equip employees with the best tools and understanding so that they can act in the best interests of the company. The information they receive soon builds and provides a rich tapestry of context they can use when making decisions.

Directly communicate to all levels of employees. A lot of companies rely on the trickle-down effect. This works fine for disseminating most information, but consider using a more direct line when communicating the vision of the company. It is essential to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Any information that affects employees personally should be communicated directly so there is no room for interpretation or creative licensing when being passed down to each level. Remember the game, “Telephone?” The end message was never the same as the original message. Like it or not, we all have filters and our own personal understanding of the missive that alters the message we pass on to others.

Sometimes reaching employees at all levels is tricky, especially if all your employees aren’t at a desk. Consider pre-shift meetings, printed publications, digital signage (like closed-circuit networks) or video/audio podcasts where front-line employees can tune-in to hear from leadership.

Applying for Awards

Everybody likes to win things. Why not take the time to show off your company’s work and get recognized for simply doing what you do? Applying for awards is easy and can go a long ways towards building morale and generating positive PR.

There’s literally an award for everything. For any major success you’ve had, there’s likely an award for it somewhere out there. Keep someone in charge of checking on relevant awards on a regular basis (let’s say every three months) and identifying what categories make sense for recent work. Hint: When looking for awards, don’t try to overthink things – Google works just fine.

Don’t be afraid to brag on yourselves. There’s no better way to highlight exceptional work you’ve done than by winning an award. Instead of beating your chest and saying, “look what we did,” you’re now simply passing along someone else’s judgment of your work. Others will take notice if the subject matter experts chose your company as the recipient for their award.

Use it as a benchmarking opportunity. For every award you don’t end up winning, that means someone else did it better. Use this as an opportunity to gather ideas on best practices. Find out what you can be doing better and use this newfound information in future projects. Next time, maybe you’ll be the one that other companies are trying to emulate.

Finally, remember that with most awards comes some type of awards show or event. They’re not only a good excuse to get away for a few days in a fun city but also a great opportunity to network with others and generate new business.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: Trusting Your Gut to Say Hell No

Tribe: the movie? A former client emailed from LA the other day, asking if Tribe would like to appear in an indie film. In exchange for having them shoot in our offices (and a product placement fee) Tribe would be featured heavily in the film, with exposure for our agency, our work and cameo appearances by our people.

A lot about this idea made sense. One of Tribe’s goals is to be known nationally as a leading internal communications agency. We love showing off our offices and the work we do for our clients, not to mention our fantastic team of talented and beautiful people. It sounded like a fantastic opportunity. Besides, it would be fun.

But something in my gut said no. Instead of just going with that, I instead deferred the decision to our management team. That stirred up an interesting debate that stretched the decision out a while. Then, it occurred to me that our PR guy should weigh in on this one. He made a list of questions and concerns to review with us, so we could then review them with our former client. I was stalling.

When I found myself making a mental list of pros and cons, that was a dead giveaway. All those rational points lining up in two tidy columns are, in my experience, a clear sign that you’re trying to talk yourself into something. When you listen to your intuitive voice, you don’t have to waste time with that whole process. Because if it’s not a clear yes, then you don’t have to figure out what else it could be.

Where had I heard that line before? Oh, yeah. It’s in a book I wrote a few years ago called “Hell Yes!: Two Little Words for a Simpler, Happier Life.” The entire premise of that little book is that if your intuitive voice doesn’t say Hell Yes to something, then it’s a Hell No. No need to fret any further.

Ultimately, we took a pass on the movie. It didn’t break the heart of our former client. She just moved on to the next agency she had in mind for the film. The real beauty of us recognizing this opportunity as a Hell No is that it opens the way for another agency. And for another agency, the idea of being in a movie might be a resounding Hell Yes.