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When Joanne Sullivan, Corporate Social Responsibility Director, moved from the hospitality to the demolition sector, she saw some immediate opportunities. She had seen first-hand the power of recognition with hospitality customers and employees, and wanted to bring this to Coleman to overcome the challenges of engaging with a workforce dispersed across 10 moving worksites who demolish big and complicated buildings. She developed an innovative and cost-effective recognition program that increased employee engagement from 60% to 82% in just one year. That’s a huge achievement at any company, but even more so since she had to win over the hearts and minds of a workforce unaccustomed to recognition. 

The Play

When Sullivan first went to the business with her recognition ideas, they “just stared at me, and said that no one would like them.” She decided to give it a go anyway, and introduced “Wacky Wednesday”, which involved sending each site a box containing old-fashioned games and sweets. Sullivan said it was hit and miss, but when she asked for feedback, ideas rolled in for the next event, so next they did a “Quiz Week”, posting questions on the company’s online intranet each day relating to business and company values, with teams winning prizes for the best answers.

These smaller events grew into “ThankMe Week”, which now takes place twice a year. It’s the company’s way to “genuinely say thank you,” says Sullivan, with a new activity launched on the intranet daily. Recently, one of these weeks included “Munchy Monday”, where each site bought breakfast for employees; “Time Off Tuesday”, where an employee’s name was picked every hour to get their birthday off; “RewardMe Wednesday”, where employees won cash prizes through the company’s discounts portal; “ThankMe Thursday”, where senior leaders created and posted a video to thank employees for their efforts and contributions; and “FreeTime Friday”, where all employees could go home two hours early.


According to Sullivan, “We plan it well in advance so it doesn’t affect day-to-day activities, and give managers a month’s notice to plan their workloads.” This is extremely important, since 70% of their workforce works for clients offsite, and the business wants all employees to have the same experience. “We’ve had to get creative,” says Sullivan, but employees have helped the HR team come up with new ideas to keep the week fresh and effective. This works, along with peer-to-peer e-cards and manager instant awards, which empowers managers to give small cash awards to employees with no approval required. Together, these programs create a culture where employees feel appreciated 365 days a year.

In Practice

  • Look for opportunities to add simple, fun and low-cost activities to your recognition program.
  • If you struggle with getting leadership buy-in, see if you can do something small and simple to build trust and support before going big.
Find more plays like this one in "The Rebel Playbook" 


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