It’s not always necessary to have a “formal” employee recognition program, as long as you take the time to sincerely acknowledge the contributions your people make to your company, says Patti VanKuiken, assistant general manager, Seaman’s Mechanical, Grand Rapids, MI. The company was Contracting Business.com’s 2006 Commercial Contractor of the Year, and the company has been named to the West Michigan “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” list for 10 consecutive years.

VanKuiken and owner Randy Seaman pride themselves on creating and maintaining a family atmosphere at the company, and that means doing things that families do. Employees receive phone calls from both Seaman and the management team on their anniversary dates and birthdays, and VanKuiken says the company hosts numerous events for employees throughout the year, including a summer picnic, fall hayride, and Christmas party.

At the Christmas party, every employee and his or her spouse receive a gift, and employees celebrating a significant anniversary are recognized by Seaman and presented with an additional token of appreciation. These can include a night for two at the luxurious Amway Grand Plaza hotel in Grand Rapids, an engraved watch, or, for 20 and 25 years of service, $1,000 and an engraved award.

VanKuiken says the company also tries to make its ongoing training programs fun for employees. “When we have training after-hours, we bring in home-cooked meals and also have a cash giveaway,” she says. “We put in $5 for everyone who comes to the training, then split the pot in two and have two drawings. So, in addition to learning new skills in the training, everyone who attends has a chance to walk out the door with a little extra cash.” The company also pays for training classes that take place outside the company, as well as continuing education courses and apprenticeships.

Seaman’s Mechanical also has an associate satisfaction committee made up of one representative from each department that meets regularly with VanKuiken.

“If they see an area in which they think we could do better, I take it back to the management team and we see what we can do,” VanKuiken says. “We’ve been doing this for about 16 months, and it’s been very well received.”

All of these “small” things may not be mapped out as an employee recognition program in the company’s handbook, but they’re all important elements of making sure co-workers know they’re appreciated.

“It’s no secret that the economy in Michigan is a tough one, and these are some of the things we do to recognize and engage our employees,” VanKuiken says.
— Ron Rajecki

The More Recognition, the Merrier
“It’s impossible to provide ‘too much’ recognition,” believes Dewey Jenkins, president, Morris-Jenkins, Charlotte, NC. The Contracting Business.com 2009 Residential Contractor of the Year went on to describe key items in the company’s recognition program:

  • Customer service representatives are recognized for maintenance agreement sales.
  • Technicians receive a variety of kudos in a number of areas: revenues, maintenance agreement sales, low callbacks, going out of their way to take care of a customer, training, and overall productivity. Service training achievements are tied in part to the company’s participation in North American Technician Excellence (NATE). In addition to NATE patches, technicians receive “Supreme Service Technician” patches for their crisp, white shirts.
  • Salesmen are awarded when targets are achieved, and the salesman’s success is broadcast throughout the company.

“My philosophy is to find someone doing something right and then recognize them for it,” Jenkins says.
— Terry McIver

Marketing Campaign, Recognition Put Employees Front and Center

At Campbell & Company, we still employ the first employee we hired nearly 30 years ago. I believe our employee retention can be attributed to constant employee recognition. Our owner, Mike Campbell, sends a hand-written birthday card to each of our more than 110 employees each year. Our company marketing campaign features photographs of employees. Our company vans, trucks, business cards, and “Thank You” cards were designed to put our employees front and center.

Employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction always seem to go hand-in- hand. A few years ago, we redesigned our customer satisfaction surveys and made an effort to have our technicians leave them with the customer at the end of the call. However, we found that getting our service technicians to not only leave behind our customer service survey, but encourage our customers to fill it out was a challenge for many years.

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We decided to make it more fun to track all the surveys that come back by putting each tech’s name into a hat every time he gets a survey returned via mail or our web survey.

We draw four names out of the hat each week for a $10 tool gift card. The gift cards are simply my business card with a $10 insignia and my initials next to it that are redeemable with our purchasing coordinator.

This program has been successful because it awards excellent service and also allows our techs to save up for that special tool he has been wanting and helps to keep our techs’ tools up-to-date. Additionally, we’ve been meeting our goal in increasing customer feedback. We typically run 50 or more calls a day, but it’s not uncommon to get four or five surveys returned by customers.
— Sherry Erickson, vice president of operations, Campbell and Company, Pasco, WA, the Contracting Business.com 2012 Residential HVAC Contractor of the Year.

‘Messengers’ Merit Attention & Praise

Making certain our employees deliver the Hobaica message clearly and consistently every time is our key to success and profitability.

In order to be certain this happens, we know that our most important customer, first and foremost, is always our employee.

Without a satisfied and happy employee, it’s impossible to be certain that our culture is delivered precisely the way we want it to be delivered every time.

Here are some ways Hobaica’s recognizes their employees:

  • Most importantly, employees are recognized in front their peers, the entire company, on a consistent basis
  • Birthdays & anniversaries are celebrated every month. Celebration cards are signed by all employees and presented to the employee with $25 in “Hobaica Bucks” enclosed, which they can exchange for a gift card of their choice. In addition, the entire company sings “Happy Birthday/Anniversary.” We sound awful, but we have fun.

We also trumpet:

  • Certifications and training achieved
  • Position advancement and promotions
  • Monthly sales goals achieved
  • Bonuses earned. Monthly bonus checks are awarded during a meeting. We announce bonus check amounts, and bring any employee receiving $500 or more up front to be recognized.
  • Vacation points are awarded to employees based on performance and awarded individually on a monthly basis. Employees exchange their points for a vacation of their choice. In 2011, we had 20 employees that earned personal vacations, from a week in the Bahamas, a cruise, or Disneyland with their kids. We have a “vacation picture of the year” contest, and employees submit their favorite picture from their vacation for a chance to win $250 toward their next vacation
  • Employees choose an “Employee of the Month” each month, based on memorable moments created by that person. The winner gets a signed, framed award certificate, an “Employee of the Month” lapel pin, and $25 in “Hobaica Bucks” for a gift card of their choice. Monthly recipients are added to our framed winners of the year, which is posted in the front reception area. The same recognition is given to our monthly “Raving Fan Champ” based on customers’ “rave reviews” of that employee’s service.
  • Company breakfasts and barbeques are always a great time to celebrate and build relationships
  • Company social events such as an annual Christmas party and spring picnic, with our “world championship” horseshoe tournament are great ways to build teamwork and friendships
  • Our “Hobaica Wall of Fame” displays a picture of every employee, with a listing of their accomplishments.
  • We consistently get our employees involved in every meeting, and a different employee each time leads the company in our Hobaica cheer, our mission statement, our motto, and even singing our jingle. Employees share experiences, role play, and educate other team members. Employee involvement is huge in our company, as we enable all to participate. We strongly encourage every employee to get out of their comfort zone and have fun.

— Louis Hobaica, president, Hobaica Services, Phoenix, AZ, the Contracting Business.com 2011 Residential Contractor of the Year.