As an employee-owned company, our success at Carter Ryley Thomas (CRT) is the result of the creativity, intelligence and initiative of our associates. Our motto is that “it’s the people stupid.”  It is this approach that led us to create the “We Work” Employee Recognition Program, which was conceived and developed by one of CRT’s associates. The goal of our innovative “We Work” program is to recognize quality work that impacts our business and demonstrates our Shared Values in Richmond and our regional offices.  Our nine Shared Values, which we use to guide our business decisions and work, are:
  • What’s best for the group comes first.
  • Always be open and honest.
  • Have a passion for unsurpassed quality, continuous learning and personal excellence.
  • Work for and trust each other.
  • Deliver more than promised.
  • Seek responsibility, and share recognition and rewards.
  • Respect and value individuals--clients, associates & suppliers--and their differences.
  • Keep a balance between family and work.
  • Give without expecting anything in return.
The Shared Values are an important part of the company’s culture. The “We Work” program allows us to acknowledge co-workers for demonstrating and living the Shared Values, as well as the outstanding work they do and the contributions they make to the company. This includes bringing in a new client, taking on more responsibility and growing professionally.  The program encourages employees in Richmond and the regional offices to talk with each other frequently, both those on their team and on other teams, about the work they are doing.  It is truly a unique program that generates workplace enthusiasm and contributes to CRT’s family-like atmosphere.
Before “We Work” was created, CRT had an employee recognition program called “Unsung Hero.”  It involved a nomination form that was distributed to staff mailboxes on a monthly basis.  A week or so before an upcoming staff meeting, employees would be encouraged to nominate co-workers for the award.  However, participation was low and criteria were unclear.  Our challenge was to create a formalized employee recognition program that celebrated our quality work and demonstrated living the Shared Values.  It was important to create a peer recognition program because that is an important element of our team-based approach to work.  Also, peer recognition at CRT is seen as important as recognition from supervisors. 
While developing the program, CRT employees were interviewed to see what was important to them in an employee recognition program. Based on the results of this research, the objectives were developed:
  • To create a program where peers recognize each other (rather than “upper management”)
  • To create a program that incorporates our Shared Values
  • To create a program that can be utilized at any time (rather than once a year, for example)
  • To create a program that is practiced and embraced by all employees because it is meaningful
  • To create a program that encourages employees to recognize work throughout the company
Based on the above research results, our current “We Work” program was developed. This important program is based on our Shared Values and is designed to recognize great work. The program strategy is as follows:
  • We created slips that incorporate the Shared Values, where employees check off the demonstrated values and write the reasoning behind it.
  • Each employee receives 12 slips to use throughout the year. The Board of Directors (12 CRTers) receives 24 slips to share. We chose 12 (not an unlimited number) in order to stress the value of each slip.
  • Employees are encouraged to recognize employees in Richmond and regional offices throughout the company, from finance and creative to IT and account service.
  • Create high visibility for the program, through constant reminders. In addition to our current strategy, we are implementing new tactics to increase awareness of the program. Some of these include: posting information about “We Work” on our CRT Web site, along with articles about Employee of the Quarter winners; developing a logo; holding special get-togethers were slips can be presented in person in front of everyone; and printing an article about the Employee of the Quarter winners and Employee of the Year winners and excerpts from the winner’s slips in our quarterly CRT newsletter.
The “We Work” program was introduced to CRT at fun kick-off event. The CRT president spoke of the importance of the program and the slips were distributed to all employees. “We Work” packets including 12 slips, a program overview and a schedule of the quarterly program.
Distributed “We Work” slips are tallied on a quarterly and annual basis.  The individual with the most nominations for his/her efforts is acknowledged with fun prizes (such as a day at the spa or dinner at a special restaurant) at a staff meeting. Also, raffles are drawn for two additional prizes per quarter to recognize other employees who have gone above and beyond.  The year-end winner and second and third place winners receive a financial reward for their contributions.  All “We Work” slips are displayed prominently for everyone to see and to recognize the significant contributions we are all making to CRT, our clients, vendors and to each other. It is truly an exciting experience when an employee receives a “We Work” slip. The employee feels appreciated and rewarded.
The program already has been recognized as an innovative program when it recently won the top award in the international United Press Syndicate’s Work Wise 2000 program for innovation in the workplace.  Participation in the “We Work” program has been outstanding and close to 100 percent. When discussing the results of the program, it is best to let our employees speak:
“The ‘We Work’ program is a terrific avenue for us to show our gratitude and appreciation to colleagues who have done great work on behalf of the agency.” – Scott Davila, team leader
“What I appreciate most about the ‘We Work’ program is the fact that is makes our Shared Values tangible. When we see co-workers truly exemplifying the ideals and values that Carter Ryley Thomas was founded upon, we thank them through our ‘We Work’ program. Personally, it has meant a lot to me to receive ‘We Work’ slips. It reminds me that my co-workers recognize my efforts and appreciate my work.” – Jeff Wilson, associate
“The ‘We Work’ program is a wonderful way for all employees to acknowledge their peers and their commitment to the Shared Values. This recognition not only feels good - but works to help us all remember our Shared Values and how they are being lived on a daily basis.” – Shelly Akers, production manager
“The ‘We Work’ program is a great way for us to share recognition and rewards with everyone at Carter Ryley Thomas.  Not only do we recognize and thank an individual for great work, we also share that great work with everyone at CRT.” – Jill Kasselberg, associate
" ‘We Work’ is brilliant in its simplicity.  As communications consultants, we work with clients on creating programs to boost their internal cultures, and we often advise creating a recognition program that offers both peer and supervisor recognition.  ‘We Work’ does that, and can be implemented in less then two minutes -- a major plus for busy PR people." – Michele Rhudy, vice president
“I think the ‘We Work’ program is great because it works with our values.  Not only do you get an opportunity to recognize what an employee brings to or does for the agency, but you also get an opportunity to recognize how the employee lives up to our values.  I think the program is awesome.” – Glynis Harrison Willis, director of operations