Why Tombstones Fail as Recognition Rewards

Employee engagement tombstonePicture yourself in this scenario. You are a dedicated insurance agent, honestly concerned about the welfare of your clients. A major hurricane strikes. You log exceptional overtime responding to frantic calls from clients experiencing flooding and other damage from the hurricane.

After several back-to-back 14-16 hour days, the pace eases up and returns to normal. You don’t expect anything, per se, from management, but  a “thanks for your commitment and dedication” would be nice. Yet, you hear nothing. Months later while sitting at your desk, you’re handed an acrylic figurine  as a thanks for your efforts.

What would your reaction be?

In this true story, the recipients were confused (trying to remember what the “recognition” was for) or just dumbfounded and simply dropped the acrylic item in the trash.

Those acrylic desk items are called “tombstones” for a reason. Intended to be a reminder, tombstones in reality are a reminder of what was lost.

In this case, the acrylic tombstone is a reminder of the lost opportunity to do recognition right:

1) Thank your employees in the moment for their stellar behaviors and exceptional efforts.

2) Make the recognition meaningful by telling them explicitily how their efforts mattered – to you, to the team, to the company and, most importantly, to the customer.

3) Ensure the memory of the recognition is a strong, pleasant association with your organization by giving your employees the reward of choice – let them choose a personally meaningful reward they’ve always wanted from the world’s largest reward network. Don’t just assume what they would like.

Your employees work hard. Don’t fall into the “their pay is thanks enough!” trap. Keep employee engagement high with timely, appropriate and meaningful recognition for their behaviors and efforts.

Have you ever gone far above and beyond only to be ignored or given a meaningless “reward?” What’s your story?


Ben Miele (22 Posts)

As Globoforce’s VP Sales & Services, North America, Ben is responsible for overseeing North American sales strategy as well as driving new business development. Ben brings to Globoforce more than 20 years of senior management experience in the information technology industry. He enjoys working closely with HR professionals and senior company leaders to identify and achieve their ambitions for truly strategic employee recognition programs.