Employee Recognition

3 CEOs that are leading the employee recognition agenda

employee recognition-1

Much the same as leaving a family WhatsApp group, employee recognition programs are becoming increasingly popular.

To tap into your employees’ full potential, you have to make them feel more valued. This display of appreciation for their efforts can drive a sizeable improvement in their performance within the organisation. 

For employees to deliver stellar work and increase their productivity they need to be engaged at work. To do this, you’ll need to recognise their efforts.

Employee recognition can help you achieve this. 

The war for talent isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, it is set to intensify as companies grapple to come to terms with the new state of workplaces. It is with this in mind that executives must strategically gain a sustainable competitive advantage over their counterparts.

The way to do this is by implementing strategies that attract and retain their top performers. This type of strategy also seeks to increase employee productivity and organic business growth. 

Frequent employee recognition boosts employee engagement.

A Gallup analysis showed that only one in three U.S employees strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing great work within the past seven days. 

Employee recognition really is one of the biggest opportunities for a competitive advantage in business. Recognition in the workplace boosts performance and motivates employees. It offers a sense of accomplishment and drives the sentiment of value within individuals and teams. Many CEOs are recognising the importance of driving this recognition culture at work.

In this article, we take a look at three CEOs truly championing the workplace of the future, using recognition and frequent feedback.


1. Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

The Context

Cheryl Bachelder’s CEO style is a compelling one based on servant leadership. Named CEO in 2007 at a time of declining guest visits and restaurant sales. The company share price had also dropped from 34 USD to a meagre 13 USD. Everything about the brand was diminishing faster than Vanilla Ice’s music career. 

By the time 2014 came around, under Cheryl’s leadership, sales had increased by 25 percent and profits by 40 percent. The previously-plummeting share price was over 40 USD. 

The differentiator?

When interviewed Cheryl said that she took the reigns with the resolute vision to create a new workplace. One in which employees were respected and treated with dignity, but held to the highest level to outperform themselves.

Of this philosophy she said, “It was time to serve the people who have invested the most in the business. Leadership and management who didn’t buy into this vision were filtered out driving collaboration and people recognition.”

Here’s a quote that Cheryl fiercely stands by: “I must know you to grow you.”


2. Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller

The Context

After the passing of his father, Barry Chapman, became the CEO of family-owned-and-run business, Barry-Wehmiller at 30 years of age way back in 1975. Fast forward to the present day and Barry owns a conglomerate of over 80 acquired companies comprising more than 11,000 employees across 100 locations around the world. 

The differentiator?

Citing in his book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Treating Your People Like Family, he explains that in the formative years when he first stepped into the role of CEO he was driven by financial success.

That notion quickly faded as he had a personal conviction to become a good steward of the family business. To him, this meant that employees should receive recognition and not just a salary for their hard work and efforts. He believed that as CEO it was his responsibility to create a workplace where his employees could thrive. A place where they showed up to, and felt proud of the work they did. 

This revelation was at a time when he was raising six kids of his own. Feeling a deep sense of accountability to ensure that his kids were cared for, he immediately felt a sense of responsibility to do the same for his employees. 

Barry set out and accomplished what he said he would do and has championed recognition transformation throughout the business. This culture of unlocking human potential is a responsibility he believes all leaders have. He was quoted as saying, “In our business, we measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.”


3. Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company

The Context

Central to his leadership style Gary believes he is a teacher. His role is to encourage and motivate his employees with a view to maximising opportunities, individually and company-wide. He understands the advantages that purpose-driven employees can bring to an organisation – fresh ideas and a dedication for learning and mentoring others. When employees are engaged they pour all their energy into causes bigger than themselves. As he says, “More importantly, they go home to their families happy at night.”

“As the CEO of WD-40, I am elated that our employee engagement stands in excess of 90 percent. My people are my tribe and they bring brilliance, dedication, joy and fun to work each day. I believe that any CEO who is truly committed to recognition can see these engagement levels in their organisation. It’s not easy, but it is simple.”

The differentiator?

Having successfully grown the company’s shareholder value over the past 14 years, Gary’s framework for success (in order of importance) are: people, purpose, values, execution and freedom. 

He’s resolute in creating a culture of trust, respect and absolute transparency – which he attributes to the success he’s been able to achieve at the company.

“Leadership is about teaching and learning from those around you. We have no mistakes here, only learning moments”, he explains in a Forbes interview.

He believes that recognition and servant leadership is key to getting the best from people. Also, at his company, coaching, development and feedback is a conversation you have every day. His principles of recognising the hard work of employees is the only way to grow a business that is led by enhanced performance. When you do this, you help people become the best version of themselves.  

Employee recognition has to be championed by the C-Suite, and, as can be seen from the examples of other CEOs, business success is the outcome. Link behaviours and actions to company values and help them to understand how their daily actions impact the success of the organisation. This will give your employees purpose and motivate them to go above and beyond the call of ordinary effort.

If this piques your interest, take a look at our eBook - it's a 10-step in-depth guide to helping you build your very own recognition program. Simply click the button below to get your copy. 

employee recognition