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A recurring theme at the performance management conference was the importance of awards in improving both individual and organizational performance. Three presenters shared the various ways their particular organizations used employee involvement to improve their awards programs and support improved performance.
Jack McAndrews, Director of Personnel at the Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania, explained how employee involvement shaped the redesign of their awards program. The Depot's Labor Management Partnership Council, comprised of union representatives, managers, and employees, surveyed employee attitudes about the awards program. The council found that employees viewed the program as unfair and not supportive of the Depot's business and strategic plans. Based on the survey results, the Partnership Council linked rewards to organizational performance by eliminating rewards based on performance ratings and instituting a variety of special act and teamwork awards. Now all employees have a vested interest in the Depot's success, and notable productivity gains have been achieved.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also surveyed employees before revamping its awards program. Steve Oldham, Organizational Development Specialist at FHWA Region 3, described the Red Tool Box Award, one of various awards used by FHWA that resulted from an idea generated by the employee survey. A big red tool box filled with items of nominal value, such as, mugs, caps, and portfolios with the Region 3 logo, is placed in senior managers' offices. Both managers and peers can give these items to recognize achievements that are not substantial enough for cash or time-off awards. This type of informal recognition works well for FHWA Region 3. Managers are more inclined to give awards and employees are recognized immediately following a contribution, drawing a demonstrable link between performance and the receipt of an award. This form of recognition has worked so well that FHWA is ready to go out again with another survey to gather fresh ideas from its employees.
Using employee involvement in awards program design helps assure that the program will be tailored to meet organizational needs and will reflect agency cultures. Ken Aguilar, Chief of Personnel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center in Florida, noted: An agencywide survey revealed that at the Kennedy Space Center, recognition was a "Hot Spot" that needed work. A Recognition Process Action Team (RPAT) was established at the Center to design and implement changes to the recognition program and ensure consistent criteria. The charter of the team, made up of union representatives, managers and employees, was to use the many available forms of recognition to align performance with the Center's strategic plan. The new awards program ties recognition to measurements to ensure that processes have been improved and that customer expectations are being met. In addition, employees are receiving the types of recognition they find valuable, such as meeting astronauts or going to see a launch. NASA is maximizing opportunities to use situations and events that are unique to NASA and its culture. With employee input, the RPAT developed a culture specific awards program and aligned it with the Center's strategic plan.