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We can all use some insider tips, right? So I’ve compiled a list that my 30 years here has taught me.
Take my advice. You can thank me later.
1. Use a Stunt Double
So you have planned a gala event, at which you plan to present the awards you have done. Everything is going along swimmingly, and things are wrapping up. A thoroughly-planned and successful event. You should be proud. And relieved.
Except there’s a problem. And it’s snowballing.
The recipients don’t want to tote their awards with them. They want you to ship them to them. Maybe some recipients have traveled long distances—or even all of them if you are having your event ceremony offsite. Perhaps you’ve even brought your award recipients to a foreign resort. But the awards are not conducive to being packed in checked bags or carried onto an airplane.
Here’s a solution we know can help, and it’s something we discuss before you find yourself in this pickle:
Use a single stand-in award for presentation, and have the individual awards drop-shipped simultaneously. In doing so, you will:
- Keep your requisite photo op intact.
- Alleviate the need to repack and find a way to ship stuff.
- Eliminate any burden to your recipients to have to haul their awards themselves.
2. Clearly an Issue
You’ve made it real easy on yourself by picking a glass award to present. They are ubiquitous and risk-free as far as selecting an award goes. You’re not likely to offend anyone by giving them a non-descript glob of glass.
But is that your objective? Is making it easier and risk-free for you really what your award program is about? Maybe it is. In which case, there are lots of options with lots of reliable and quality sources. Pick one off a catalog page or a website and be done with it. Don’t concern yourself with the impact an easy choice might make on your recipients.
Before you follow the path of least resistance, you might consider a few things first:
- Is there anything inherently novel, inventive or unique about a glass award?
- What impression are you giving your recipients by making an easy choice? Bear in mind one definition of the term “easy” is “free of effort.”
- Will the awards you’ve chosen actually be displayed by the recipients? Beware contributing to the notion of irrelevant desktop clutter, something most people are happy to spurn.
- Are you under-serving the notion of the recipient photograph? Be clear on the fact that glass awards just don’t photograph all that well, and instead become just a “thing” being held by the recipient. Both the message and potential for symbolic meaning are lost.
- Did you buy on price? Custom work certainly can cost more, but it doesn’t have to. We can design a solution to a specified budget. And deliver something no one has ever seen before—because it hasn’t been invented yet.
3. Coordinate Your Attack
Okay, it’s not really an “attack.” But operating a widespread awards program can be a logistical challenge.
Perhaps you’re looking to have shipments made in such a way that they are received at all locations—even globally—on the same day. Maybe it’s a company anniversary date, or a product launch date, or something you don’t want to tell anyone until you’ve told everyone. Whatever it may be, it’s likely we have dealt with similar circumstances.
Our job is not complete until we have delivered on all your objectives. We understand that how and when something is delivered can be as impactful as what is delivered. It’s an important part of our expertise and one less thing you have to worry about.
4. Update Your Budget
Let’s say your awards program is budgeted at $50 per award, and many of your recipients repeat as winners from year-to-year. We know fifty bucks doesn’t buy much, and you’re asking recipients to line ‘em up year after year— something they’re not likely to do.
So shuffle the dollars. Look at the $50 per unit annual budget as a $250 per capita 5-year budget. Then spend $150 on the initial-year award, and $25 each on update elements to add to the initial award for four subsequent years. Voila!
5. Beware the Updates
Not intending to be fickle here.
We realize we just said that utilizing an “update” feature can be a good idea. And it is. But don’t stop short of doing it right and leaving your recipients feeling short-changed.
Note that the mathematical gymnastics above accounted for $25 for each update. Not a $3 metal date “tab.” It needs to be something more substantial and more presentable. (Picture the scene of handing a recipient a little metal plate. Not very impactful.)
So consider a nice medallion, or a clever piece to add to the overall puzzle. Or at least make sure the packaging is an enhancement to the presentation.
6. Be Romantic
We’re not suggesting flowers and candy. Although come to think of it, if you’re hosting a gala awards event, why not?
What we have in mind here is what we call a “romance card.” It’s essentially an insert accompanying the award, such as a personally-signed letter from the CEO. Or a printed insert describing the award—it’s purpose, it’s heritage, how it was made, etc.
Most gifts come with a card. It makes sense to do the same with a recognition award.
7. Take Them Behind the Curtain
Consider creating a “How It’s Made” video trailer or slideshow presentation as part of your awards event. With us, you have the advantage of access to a domestic factory that can, with planning, adapt to a “sound stage” or photo studio of sorts to capture the story of how your award was born and raised.
Show your recipients how much they care by showing them how much care is given to each award.
8. The Whole Kit & Caboodle
We don’t have the first clue what a caboodle is, but as it relates to the presentation of awards or commemorative gifts, we understand what a kit is.
Kitting what we make with other items—either procured by us or provided by you or another source—is a common practice. And one that is growing in popularity.
You can enhance the occasion with products of all types, including hats, patches, lapel pins, writing instruments, key rings, business cards…The list is virtually endless. Integrate a personal-use item with the award designation. Or you can enclose a gift card or voucher for recipient selection of merchandise.
Use your imagination. And use our resources.
9. Permanent Marker
The awards event is over, and everyone involved drifts back to the day-to-day of their respective worlds. But engagement and recognition are not fleeting notions. In fact, to be effective, recognition should be a permanent beacon of the initiatives that are important to your organization. A lasting legacy for your top performers.
Installing a “Wall of Fame,” to which recipients are added over time, punctuates the meaning and effort behind your program. A large wall display perpetuates the occasion of recognition and makes it an enduring part of who you are.
It offers the medium for your best-of-the-best to be recognized year-round and around the clock.
10. Stand Tall and Take Cover
You’ve invested in a cool, high-end award that will endure the test of time and presented it to your recipient with the intent for it to be on display in a lobby or common area. Good work so far.
But does it have a proper home? Give it genuine museum treatment and put it on a pedestal. Give it a dust cover to elicit the notion of value and exclusivity. Heck, put a velvet rope around it, and give it a sign as if in a curated studio.
11. Some Recipients are More Equal than Others
It’s a popular (and safe) belief that everyone is a winner. But the truth is recognition is a caste system by which the performers at the top end of the bell curve are the ones who are carrying more water. So why treat someone at the 90th percentile the same as someone at the 50th?
Using a hypothetical, let’s do the math:
- You have a roster of 1,000 potential recipients who you are measuring in some manner to establish a pecking order.
- You plan to award the top half with your recognition program.
- Your budget is $50 each, so the total spend is $25,000.
That’s all fine and well, but does it inspire anyone to perform better than what is, by definition, average? And does 50 bucks really get you in the hearts and minds of the human psyche?
How about some new math instead:
- Take the top three tiers of performers, segmenting them into gold, silver, and bronze levels, for instance.
- Portion them into a group of 50 at the top level, then 100, then 150— that’s 300 total recipients.
- Allocate the budget points within these tiers at $120/$100/$60 levels.
It’s the same $25,000 budget, but it keeps the audience engaged and inspired to reach the next level. It still recognizes a large swath (30%) of your group, but allocating the budget among a ranking system allows you to build a program on the precept of “good/better/best,” which is shown to be an effective motivator for increased performance and results.
12. Air Your Clean Laundry in Public
It’s understandably tempting to keep people at their posts to maintain productivity. But when it comes to recognition, call time out and gather people out onto the public square. Positive reinforcement is best served in the spotlight, so risk embarrassing the shy violets in your group and let the world see the symbolic pat on the back. For the peer group, it invokes the thought of “How do I get that?”
That’s called recognition ROI.
13. The Worst Kept Secret
A rabbit will go the way of the carrot, but you gotta put the carrot out for them. No use in keeping it secret.
When it comes to a recognition program, show people what they’ll get when they get to the goal that’s been set for them. The game show host asks the announcer to “Tell ‘em what they can win!” to build the excitement.
Give the initiative a name. It’s an “honor club” in generic parlance, but create an entity that is identifiable and unique to your organization.
- Designate and communicate the rules that govern your award program clearly and regularly.
- Have a copy of your award made and put it in a place where it can be seen.
- Put the numbers out on a continual basis to communicate to the haves and have nots. Make sure the reinforcement you deliver is positive and never a matter of embarrassment or humiliation.
- Make your “honor club” a routine part of your dialog with everyone involved. Be the champion for your organization’s champions.
It all serves to keep the discussion alive and creates a public forum where performance clearly matters.
14. It’s Not the Thought that Counts
We’ve all received something that clearly indicates little thought went into it. How did that make you feel?
Your awards recipients are no different. Last minute shopping is transparent. Copping out by not taking the time to deliver something special is self-serving and detrimental to effectively recognizing and motivating people. Picking Item Z from the Acme catalog is uninspired and uninspiring.
Remember that thoughtfulness requires thought. Slow down and take in the view along the way of understanding what is in the hearts and minds of your recipients.
15. Don’t Be A Bubba Gump
As many as 30% of us go by a nickname, and our given names are reserved for government agencies, airlines, and scorning mothers.
Robert? Rob? Bob? Bobby?
If you’re charged with the task of designing a recognition program, you’re also responsible for making sure the names are correct. HR’s employee file certainly has Robert’s name spelled correctly, but no one outside of Robert’s first eight years on the planet knows him as anything but Bubba.
Take the time to get the nicknames right, and make sure to make Bubba happy.
16. Work Release Programs
If you have the type of program that recognizes performers throughout the year as opposed to all at once, we’re guessing you don’t have the resources to manage an inventory of awards at your place. And it stands to reason that you probably don’t have the means to properly personalize and inscribe them anyway.
We also realize you may not want your financial resources tied up in an inventory of awards, requiring you to balance between ordering enough to get you through and ordering a quantity that optimizes the cost.
So do away with all that and deploy a “Stock & Release” program. Buy a quantity to achieve a bulk rate, and have the orders called out—“released”—as needed. The financial burden is far less over time, and the nimbleness of a stock & release program means rapid-fire fulfillment of the awards you need as your recipients qualify.
No need to sweat the details—that’s our job.
17. No Inventory, No Problem
Take the concept of stock and release to an even higher plateau and deploy a print-on-demand product.
Current technology allows us to print in high detail all graphic elements and variable text on an ad hoc basis, pushing individual shipments out in as little as 48 hours. So you can have the best of both worlds: No inventory commitment, and quick delivery performance.
18. Duplicate Your Effort
One big award. Congratulations to the winning team! But what about the satellite offices and individuals who are contributing members of that team?
Performance objectives set forth within team environments are great motivators and bind people together. But effective recognition is personal, so consider the use of duplicate awards or miniature renditions for each person involved.
19. Go Blind
This is simple in theory, a bit less so in practice.
You’re on site at your awards event, unpacking boxes of awards, and you’ve enlisted some help. A common practice is to label each box with the contents, including the recipient’s name.
But what if “eyes only” information is divulged beyond the intended eyes? Any surprises you have planned could very well be spoiled.
We can help you with “blind” labeling, utilizing award titles or codes or any unique identifier of your choosing in place of names so the secret is safe until the appointed time. We pack individual boxes into master cartons using bar codes, so the labels are more for you than they are for us. And you’ll have a master list that can be included or sent to you to decipher each package.
Don’t risk getting all the way to the one yard line just to fumble it away. A simple measure will assure no one’s cover is blown.
20. Dash, Dram and Smidge
An excellent way to convey what you do as an organization is to show them what you do.
Send us the stuff you make, or the stuff you make it from, or the stuff you need to make the stuff you make. We can incorporate your product or elements of your product in the awards we make for you.
We’ve used shredded currency for a financial services company. We’ve used seeds for a farm supply company. We’ve used copper wire for an industrial cable manufacturer. Let’s show off your widget and make it a focal element to your symbolic award.
21. All Aboard!
There are dozens of opportunities to recognize individual achievement in any organization—sales, training, longevity, product launch, safety. Just to name a few.
There is one growing opportunity, but it is still largely under the radar: employee onboarding. You have an opportunity to make a statement with a new employee that can leave a lasting impression. It’s an occasion they are celebrating, and perhaps you can do more to celebrate too.
Dave Miller is VP of Sales & Marketing at Bruce Fox, Inc. and a professional writer by virtue of the fact his company is paying him to write this blog. He has been with Bruce Fox since 1990, the year the Reds last won the World Series. He would weigh about 32 pounds on the surface of the moon. The goal of his blog is to “edu-tain” (educate + entertain) promotional products distributors, with a focus on custom work. Dave also finds it very awkward to write about himself in the third person.