Written by David Louden. Dave is a co-founder and partner at Fathom, a strategy and creative consultancy based in Connecticut. In the past 25-plus years, he has worked with leading companies and brands to design futures worth fighting for. Dave also conceived and developed the ubiquitous VeriSign Secure Site Seal and helped grow several start-ups to successful IPOs and acquisitions.
Recently, my team finished a sizable and important project. It was a great team effort, took a lot of time, and left us feeling very proud of our work. What did we do when we finished?
We got right back to work.
This experience—which I’m guessing is familiar to many of you—hit me hard. With how much we put into the work, why didn’t we take time to pause and celebrate?
When I reflected on this question, I realized that celebrating takes effort. Going back to deadlines is easy. Creating fun and meaningful celebrations takes time and planning and is a commitment. However, in what I’ve observed and learned with a bit of research, the payoffs are huge.
Celebration can be a powerful force in creating a thriving culture, retaining talented employees, and in growing your business. With these benefits in mind, creating opportunities to celebrate is a priority we should all remember.
The Benefits of Celebration
In recent years, there has been a good deal of research into motivating employees and the impact of rewards and punishments. It turns out that rewards, including public recognition and celebration, are among the most powerful forces in motivating and influencing positive behavioral change.
The research indicates that celebration works wonders in the brain, releasing a powerful array of chemicals, including oxytocin, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. When these chemicals are combined with personal recognition, employees become more motivated, speak up more, and gain confidence.
These individual benefits extend to teams and, as Liz Jazwiec, author of Eat That Cookie!: Make Workplace Positivity Pay Off…For Individuals, Teams, and Organizations, says, “The bottom line is that workplace celebrations foster relationship building, improve morale, enhance retention, and encourage employees to achieve results.”
The Downside of Not Celebrating
On the other side of the equation, skipping the recognition can create problems.
With how hard many folks work these days, a lack of celebration has been equated to a lack of nourishment in this article entitled Without Celebration, We Wither Away. And a recent Towers Watson study found that 80% of people cited lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving their jobs.
Since celebration is key to employee and team engagement, here are some tips for making recognition at your workplace successful:
1. Celebrate Often
The Towers Watson report states that employees want some form of recognition every seven days. While you’re likely not going to throw a party every week, expressing gratitude and letting your team know that you’re aware of their efforts is key. For some companies, modestly monthly team recognition events with a more substantial annual celebration works well.
2. Celebrate Both Small and Big Wins
Whether it’s a new client, a product launch, or a great quarterly result, celebrate your wins. This can create a true sense of momentum with your team. When done well, these occasions also help individuals see how their work contributed to the overall success of the organization.
3. Connect Celebrations to Your Values
If your organization’s values are truly what they are meant to be (non-negotiable standards for behavior), it is crucial to celebrate employees who exemplify them. As famous author Tom Peters said, “celebrate what you want to see more of.”
As the recent SHRM global workforce survey states, “Rewarding employees for performance that reinforces organizational values and contributes to the organization’s overall business goals can help engage employees and create a purpose-driven culture,” said Tanya Mulvey, SHRM researcher. “While monetary investment is also important, the research found it had a more positive impact when recognition was core to the organization’s talent strategy.”
Many of our clients give regular values awards to employees. Small tokens of appreciations like coffee mugs and t-shirts work. Other clients give more substantial rewards quarterly or annually to employees who exemplify their values.
4. Build a System
To make sure celebrations become a habit, assign owners and budgets to your recognition program. From my experiences, you’ll find a number of people willing to take on this role!
Considering how many companies struggle with employee engagement and retention, creating a culture that takes time to celebrate is a critical goal. After all, there are many behaviors and milestones to celebrate.
I encourage you to be deliberate about identifying and celebrating what matters most to your business and the culture you seek to create. At the same time, I encourage you to schedule your first celebration now and start building the muscle to make this a regular habit in weekly or monthly team gatherings and larger quarterly and annual celebration rituals.
As the co-founder and partner at Fathom, Dave has worked with dozens of clients to bring meaning to their brands and engagement to their culture. Dave can be reached through fathom.net. An EO member since 2013, Dave is also a former national champion and Olympic Trials finalist swimmer who continues to train and compete at a world-ranked level to sustain his mental and physical endurance.