Employee Recognition Programs: Connecting Behaviors With Company Core Values

Thank You Yellow Road

Why are companies like Zappos and The Motley Fool constant targets for titles like “Best Places to Work?” Yes, their products and services are of high caliber, but perhaps even more spellbinding to employees is this: both companies have created an insatiable company culture, with strong, bulletproof values that can be consciously reinforced through their employee rewards and recognition programs.

If people looked at how you recognize and reward employees—the language you use, or the behavior you reinforce—would they be able to gather intel on what your company stands for?

Shaping your recognition and rewards programs around company values helps to connect employees’ behaviors to them. It strengthens the brand and voice of your company as a direct effect.

There are four key components in making your employee recognition programs match the behaviors in employees that you wish to validate. We use them in our Kazoo software and cultural approach to fostering genuine happiness at work.


1. Value Tags

Value tags are key phrases that correlate with your company goals, virtues, or mantras, that you can “tag” when recognizing employees.

For example, at Kazoo, our brand is based on happiness at work, flexibility and productivity. Therefore, we base our Value Tags around the following:

  • Create Happiness
  • Adapt or Die
  • Open Book
  • Leave it Better
  • Eyes on the Prize


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These Value Tags are customized to fit our “language” (or, the tone of our brand and culture). In our software, we select them when recognizing employees for specific behaviors that pairs best with one of our value tags.

The Motley Fool’s Value Tags might look a little bit different, for instance, to match their own brand and language. (source: Motley Fool).


  • Collaborate – Do great things together.
  • Innovate – Search for a better solution. Then top it!
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.


2. Modeling

Employees see what others are being appreciated for, thanks to the value tags and public recognition that pairs with it, and model those strengths, including the value of appreciating colleagues.

[blockquote type=”pquote” content=”It is an old truism: employees do not turn to written statements on the company intranet for clues about how to behave—they look to each other.”]

(Fast Company)


For example, Tim sees that Jess has been recognized for her timeliness in responding to emails: “Wow, Jess, I really appreciate you getting back to my email at lightning speed. The data you sent helped me write my blog in record time!”

Oh, yeah!” Tim thinks. “I’ve got a couple people waiting on my feedback!” Through a team member’s recognition of Jess, Tim is reminded about the importance of answering people promptly. He fires away some e-mails, and is back on track!

By seeing the recognition given to their peers, or receiving it from colleagues or leaders, it reminds employees to also jump in on the recognition-giving. This creates a work community of positively driven achievers, who look to each other for guidance and inspiration.



3. Employee-Driven

Managers typically control who is recognized, when and how, but they’re not always sitting side-by-side with their employees everyday. No one sees the hard work and labor poured into assignments of employees better than their fellow employees. Peer-to-peer admiration and respect are easy to carry through even the largest, most dispersed teams, by encouraging employees to recognize one another in a way visible to the entire company.

Employees who take charge of recognition feel empowered by the ability to make a difference in their co-worker’s day. They don’t have to wait on a manager or boss, who might be off-site or too busy, to receive recognition, either.

For instance, Anna, who primarily works from home, can ping Chelsey over in the office with a sincere note of gratitude for landing new clients that day. She can select the Company Value Tag, “Eyes on the Prize,” and give Chelsey adequate points that Chelsey may use to redeem for the FitBit she’s been eyeing in the rewards catalog.

Employees using the Kazoo software even get to choose their own rewards. I mean, why settle for a generic company coffee mug once a year from the boss who lives out of state when you could revel in your work-related achievements with a FitBit?


4. People Metrics

Kazoo software allows companies and employees to pull recognition data to assist in evaluating strengths and areas for improvement. You can see what an employee is most recognized for (thanks to the Value Tags) and how often they are giving and receiving recognition. Moreover, employees can print out a “Brag Report” that summarizes their accolades given throughout the months. Both the employee and employer see how far an employee has come with the company.

Managers can also use this feature when assembling new teams for short or long-term projects. For example, an employee who gets the most recognition for a Value Tag such as “Laser Focus,” and an employee who gets the most recognition for being a “Major Innovator” might be a great match for tackling a groundbreaking assignment.


For more employee recognition that actually works, visit our blog, Employee Recognition Programs: Putting Employees First and our 50 Free Reward Ideas via the button below!