Why we made employee recognition a weekly habit (and you should too)

Chantelle Little August 18, 2021 4 min read Tiller
Employee recognition graphic

You cook a meal for your family and they praise your culinary skills. You help a friend change a flat tire and receive a surprise thank you card in the mail. Your insightful LinkedIn post racks up likes, comments, and reshares.

Humans love to be recognized when they do something well. And, more often than not, being recognized and appreciated gives us the confidence and motivation to repeat that action again.

The same rings true in the workplace. People love (and need) recognition.

  • 90% of employees say that recognition motivates them to work harder.
  • 92% of employees are more likely to repeat an action they’re recognized for.

It doesn’t have to be a grand spectacle, but creating space for routine, team-wide recognition contributes to:

  • Boosting team morale
  • Encouraging individual team members
  • Motivating employees to repeat a celebrated action
  • Reinforcing company values or principles
  • A stronger company culture

How do I know? Because we tried it. We loved it. And we made it a habit.

Tiller Shoutouts – our favourite part of the week

“What gets celebrated gets repeated.”
– Lisa Nichols

In 2019, I was working with Janet Breitenbach, a business coach from Novus Global. She shared that their team gathers every week for a short internal team celebration where they acknowledge individual and team wins that happened during the week.

They tied this employee recognition to their company principles (behaviours that they wanted their team to emulate). Meaning that whenever they saw these principles lived out, they celebrated. And it wasn’t just leadership recognizing employees – it was cross-team and peer-to-peer recognition too.

Here’s what they started to notice:

  • The first meeting was awkward. Nobody piped up.
  • The next meeting was less awkward. People started participating.
  • Celebrated actions were repeated.
  • Living out company principles became the norm.
  • Their team was happier and workplace culture improved.

Naturally, we had to give it a go

First, we defined our principles. Not our values, those didn’t change. Instead, we got into the nitty-gritty of what we expected of ourselves and each other – the mindset and behaviours that would help us best serve our team and our customers.

This idea of principles didn’t come from Novus Global alone. Netflix has become widely known for its commitment to corporate culture. To learn more about how they transformed their business through culture, check out “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility”.

We paired each of our principles with a short description outlining how it should be lived out. We even talk about these principles on our culture page – because we believe customers and prospective clients care about more than just our offering. Here are a few of them:

  • Go the extra mile
  • Be an advocate
  • Think outside the box
  • Fight for clarity
  • Raise your hand
  • See something, say something
  • No ceilings (my personal favourite)

These principles began to serve as a guide to how we thought, spoke, and acted. And once we defined them, it was time to reinforce them.

Enter Tiller Shoutouts

Every Friday as part of our team meeting, we spend 15-20 minutes celebrating each other for various accomplishments or actions that drove a positive impact throughout the week.

At first, it was awkward (just like Janet described), but within a few weeks the team was engaged (some people even came with specific notes on what they wanted to celebrate). And then we actually started to look forward to it. It easily became my favourite part of the week.

I love it because I don’t get to work directly with everybody on the team. As Tiller continues to grow, I’m not part of every conversation or project. By having Tiller Shoutouts I get to hear about wins every week. Without Shoutouts, many of these stories might remain untold.

What do we actually shout out?

Here are a few recent examples:

  • A developer finished coding a complex website on a tight timeline and put in extra hours to get the job done. (Underlying principle: Go the extra mile)
  • A project manager was uncertain about a specific piece of client feedback on design. Rather than acting on what they assumed to be the client’s intent, they reached out and confirmed exactly what the client was hoping to see, saving our team and our client from wasted time and effort. (Underlying principle: Fight for clarity)
  • A designer nailed the website UI design of a niche-industry website, delivering concepts beyond customer expectations and helped differentiate them from competitors. (Underlying principle: Think outside the box)

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”
– Margaret Cousins

We compete as a team, not with each other

I often hear stories of the competitiveness that exists within other agencies and companies. And while it’s good to be competitive and high-achieving, inter-team competition can quickly become toxic.

This is a big part of why it’s so important to me that we celebrate each other’s accomplishments each week – to build teamwork and trust, and remind ourselves that we do great things together because of the unique and individual contributions of each person. We trust each other to do the right thing and when we see someone living out a Tiller principle, we celebrate it.

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be public

Tiller Shoutouts has become an excellent way to routinely recognize employees. But we also encourage one-on-one and more informal recognition at work – Slack messages, a quick high-five at the coffee machine – simply taking the time to say “Hey, I saw you did this, and I thought it was great”.

Since we carved out weekly time to celebrate each other, we’ve noticed that more people encourage each other outside of the meeting too. We love to see this because we recognize that everyone is different – some people like public recognition at work, but some find it more meaningful (and comfortable) out of the spotlight.

Tiller Shoutouts helped us infuse employee recognition and celebration into our culture and DNA and ultimately has become a beloved staple of each week. Give it a try for yourself!


Freddy Meynard quote about Tiller Shoutouts

Jeremy Sincennes quote about Tiller Shoutouts

Andrew Argue quote about Tiller Shoutouts

Leslie Lai quote about Tiller Shoutouts

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