It’s always nice to get a pat on the back for a job well done. In fact, it’s almost a necessity in today’s workplace environments in order to keep employees satisfied and loyal. According to Harvard Business Review, a 2014 study surveying 2,415 employees in 10 countries found a strong correlation between loyalty and acknowledgment. Among the 512 U.S. employees who said their company has strong recognition practices, 87 percent felt a strong relationship with their direct manager. That number dipped to 51 percent among those who reported a lack of such practices at their companies.

“Skilled workers in the trade industry are increasingly valuable, so recognizing them for their accomplishments is important,” said Doug Cuenin, human resources divisional manager of American Residential Services (ARS), Memphis, Tennessee. “We recognize employees from the branch-level on a weekly basis. The president and COO of ARS [Luis Orbegoso] also gives a ‘Customer Service Spotlight’ in his monthly video that is distributed to every employee.”

Additionally, ARS is developing a specialized recognition program based off of the see, own, articulate, and release (SOAR) concept — employee mapping and focus group sessions that examine dozens of employees in customer-facing roles to explore employee motivators.

“Our employees are our biggest promoters,” said Cuenin. “The branches do a great job, and from a corporate perspective, we are excited about developing a data-driven program development vehicle in order to best assess how employees want recognition.”


Mike Agugliaro, former co-owner of Gold Medal Service, East Brunswick, New Jersey, and founder of CEO Warrior, said it’s widely known that recognition equals retention.

“In our industry, if you look at the old school, you were taught by kind of pain and punishment,” Agugliaro said. “The old-timer would say to you, ‘You’re doing it wrong, step up, stop being stupid.’”

While that may have worked in that time frame, it’s a different world today, he said.

“We’ve been trained by social media where we not only love recognition, we’re addicted to recognition,” Agugliaro continued. “When you post something on Facebook, it doesn’t matter if it’s your dog or cheesecake, somebody’s recognizing you, ‘Oh wow, that’s amazing; you’re amazing.’ I’m from that generation where that really wasn’t as much of a need. But today, it’s a need because people are already conditioned that they want to feel warm and fuzzy all the time. And, if you’re not making them feel warm and fuzzy, then guess what? The minute another company looks like they’ll recognize them and make them feel warm and fuzzy, they’re going to leave.”

Agugliaro said anyone could have paid his 200 former Gold Medal Service employees more and stolen them, but the thing they couldn’t steal was the way he treated them and how he made them feel. In addition to quarterly meetings where the company owners would give a real, heartfelt thank you to employees for their hard work, Gold Medal Service also held holiday parties for its employees and their families.

“We also had a formal recognition program for years of service where we would send them a special package in the mail,” Agugliaro said. “It had an anniversary certificate, and you could accumulate points and then go on a website and redeem them for gifts. One of our managers got a whole pot and pan set. We also had a birthday program where we would give employees the day off on their birthdays — which was huge because most places don’t do that — and we would send them a card with a gift card to say, ‘Happy Birthday.’ Those are just a few, the list goes on and on.”  

Having strategic recognition programs in place improves company morale 100 percent, Agugliaro noted.

“A company’s culture is not that different from a family culture,” he said. “If you walk around your home and never get a ‘good job’ for anything, you’re going to feel pretty much useless.

“Company morale gets built by you appreciating the people. You have to honestly appreciate them, you can’t fake it,” Agugliaro continued. “I could say to you, ‘Great job!’ And you’re like, ‘OK, thanks.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Or I could say, ‘I really appreciate you for the job you do,’ and be specific.

“You can see the difference,” he said. “It has to be honest, sincere, and you have to really care. It can’t be some bull crap act.”


Paul Sammataro, president, Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning, Plano, Texas, believes working in the HVAC industry is stressful, difficult, and few people can do it.

“I believe if you don’t recognize the efforts and sacrifices that the employees make, you’re doing a huge disservice to them,” Sammataro said. “They sacrifice a lot to serve the customer when the customer needs service — bottom line.”

Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning annually recognizes an exemplary employee with its Karl Panyko Award — a crystal trophy that reads, “For your unrelent-ing support, efforts, and abilities consistently displayed throughout the year.”  

“Karl received the first award in his name back in 2014. So, not only are we recognizing him annually, but we’re recognizing an employee who has gone above and beyond during the whole year,” Sammataro said.

In addition to the award, the winner also receives a week’s paid vacation.

The company also has a Review Rewards program that awards points to employees for  each positive customer review they receive. This benefits the company as well.

“Our employees give the customer a card with their name and urge them to review the service they just received,” Sammataro said. “The points start adding up based on the review. They can redeem those points on anything from cash to a cruise. One of my employees has already received two cruises from the program. It just depends on how long they let their points accumulate.”

Contractors can never recognize their employees too much, according to Sammataro.

“Recognition definitely improves company morale,” he said. “It gives them each a little more to strive for that’s part of their job anyway. They receive a benefit and recognition among their coworkers, too. At the end of the day, they’re getting rewarded for doing their job.

“I don’t take my employees for granted, but in the everyday running of the business, sometimes you forget to really thank them,” Sammataro continued. “You have to go out of your way to make sure you remember. It just has to stay in the forefront of your mind.”   

Publication date: 1/22/2018

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