Case Study: Using an employee recognition program to boost morale

February 16, 2016 -  By

Recognizing well-deserving employees boosts morale at J.W. Townsend Landscapes.

Leigh Townsend is pleased with the results of his company’s monthly staff recognition program.

Leigh Townsend is pleased with the results of his company’s monthly staff recognition program.

Leigh Townsend, president of J.W. Townsend Landscapes, is always looking for ways to invest in his people, and he’s willing to learn from ideas that have been successful at other companies. When he heard in his peer group about a successful employee recognition program at another landscape company, he adopted the idea and tailored it to fit his Charlottesville, Va., operation.

The idea was an employee standard of conduct and monthly recognition program. Since implementing it, morale has increased and employees have received the appreciation they deserve, Townsend says.

The program is called The Townsend Way, and it’s based on the company’s core values: integrity, teamwork, safety, community, client focus and excellence. Employees who exemplify these characteristics are eligible to win The Townsend Way award. Team members nominate peers to receive the award, and it’s announced at the monthly company breakfast.

“We’ve always looked for ways to recognize our employees,” Townsend says. “So when we heard about this idea from Nathan Helder, (owner of Gelderman Landscaping Services in Waterdown, Ontario) we knew it would be a good fit.”

In addition to being honored in front of the company, the recipient’s name goes on a plaque that hangs in the front office, recognition on the company’s website and a small gift. Townsend says the monetary investment in the program is minimal, but taking the time to recognize a deserving employee is invaluable.

“Our staff is out there doing great work every day and may not always get special recognition for it,” he says. “This has been a way to change that—to show employees that their peers are recognizing what they’re doing.”

One of the best examples of an act that lead to a The Townsend Way nomination happened when the recognition program was still brand new. A field staff member had clocked out for the evening when he noticed the nursery manager unloading a delivery truck full of plants. Rather than getting in the car and leaving, he stayed and helped.

“It’s that kind of action—an employee doing something above and beyond when they’re not even asked—that represents The Townsend Way,” Townsend says. “The classic definition of integrity is ‘doing the right thing when nobody is watching,’ and that’s what this idea boils down to. We feel strongly that our people are the most powerful part of our company. If we can recognize those extra efforts they’re making that might have otherwise gone unrecognized, we feel that’s the right thing to do.”

Although some employees were unexpectedly averse to recognition, Townsend says the program has enhanced an already strong, positive company culture since he introduced it four years ago.

“There are occasionally those individuals who prefer not to be recognized and are uncomfortable with it—something we hadn’t initially expected,” Townsend says. “But for the most part, the response has been very positive and the effort has been well received.”

Typically, there are five or six nominations for the award and one person often receives multiple entries, so there’s no need for management to weigh in. But if there’s a tie, Townsend polls the executive staff to determine the honoree. Some team members have won multiple consecutive months.

“When we were just starting to implement the idea, that was something we kind of frowned on,” Townsend says. “We wanted different people to win each month. But one of the lessons learned is that it’s OK for the same person to win multiple times. If they’re repeatedly deserving of it and their peers believe they should continually win, why wouldn’t we give it to them? The whole idea is to recognize employees who are going above and beyond—even if it’s the same person.”

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

This article is tagged with , and posted in February 2016

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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