Worker Appreciation is not Rocket Science

goodjobWe are facing a real uphill battle these days to find, train, and retain great employees. However, we do have a secret weapon we can use that is about as old of a technology as you can imagine.

It involves the use of the yellow sticky note. Invented by 3M scientist Dr. Spencer Silver in 1968, the Post-It Note as it was called then has now undergone a renaissance of sorts with the patent expiring in 1997. The low-tack pressure-sensitive adhesive allows the notes to be easily attached, removed and even re-posted elsewhere without leaving residue. This is why I chose to use them for an experiment in employee recognition.

I was the director of an application design and development company which has won a sub contract to provide Joint Application Design (JAD) support. JAD is a process used in the life cycle area of the dynamic systems development method (DSDM) to collect business requirements while developing new information systems for a company. I was tasked with the coordination for this development the direction and resolution of the requirements, and the building of a then unheard of data base for all movements within the Department of Defense. This thing was a massive undertaking for the mid 90s and was at the early stages of internet development. We had about 10 different companies under the overall direction of a large corporation. In my role I had interactions with all of the user community, database engineers, application designers, historical programs that were in danger of being replaced, and a hodgepodge of general officers who all had an input into the project. To say the least the constant differences in opinions as to how we were doing was causing consternation, disillusionment, and discouragement among the troops where were tasked with actually building this multi Terabyte data base monster.

I only had two folks working directly for me so I had to come up with a reward system that did not upset the applecart nor step on any other director’s toes. My solution was staring at me on my own computer screen – yellow sticky notes. I used them to remind me of appointments, due dates, and inputs from my JAD sessions.

I would simply go to the computer screen of one of my developers or engineers and pout a “Well done today – Thanks. Tom” yellow sticky note in the edge of the screen and go about my business. Nothing else and no direct talking to each other as everyone was super busy.

Those notes never hit the trash can. The staff collected them and displayed them like trophies on the walls of their cubicles. They were badges of honor and proof they were doing good work. They may still have them after all of these years. What are you doing to show appreciation of your team?

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