With the positive impact of competition between colleagues and contemporaries in question, organizations have shifted focus to alternative opportunities to inspire and recognize top results.
According to Melanie Langille, vice president of sales with St Regis Group, “Awards are as popular today as they have always been.”
Maybe more so.
This response caught me off guard because my pre-call research into studies about the impact of competition on motivation had not yielded favourable results. Many scholars have written recent papers about the limited positive impact, and discovery of more negative effects, of competition.
In summary, investing your "best effort" and falling short of victory can have a pretty significant negative impact on a majority of people, leading to symptoms that include heightened anxiety, depression and a general apathy towards future competition.
Putting aside my interests in psychology and a burning desire to accuse participation ribbons for contributing to a modern society seemingly unwilling to compete, I scrambled to catch up to Langille’s positive message and reframe my intended questions.
Wondering if competition is really no longer in vogue, I listened eagerly to learn more about what factors are driving this golden age of awards.
“Awards are the number one category to celebrate recognition and prestige as symbols of achievement.”
Langille’s opening description was a first clue to the reframed conversation. Rather than ranking first, second and third place, modern awards programs are recognizing personal and team achievements, using goal-based levels that encourage continuous improvement.
In his book, Bring Your Whole Self to Work (published by Hay House), author Mike Robbins discusses the difference between positive and negative competition, using fitness training to illustrate a positive competition approach to motivation.
“Positive competition occurs when we compete healthily — in a way that brings out the best in us and everyone involved… "
"Working out with another person is a positive, practical strategy for getting in shape because having a workout partner creates accountability, support, and motivation… If we negatively competed against each other, I would obsess with figuring out how to run faster, bike farther, and beat you at tennis.”
Applied to a safety awareness program, a positive competition might include awards recognizing milestones of achievement based on the number of days without incident. These awards could be shift based, company-wide and/or unique to the individual. The ideal impact is a team motivated to work safely and to be aware of keeping others safe on a job site.
Langille teaches others about the impact of sharing awards.
“Highlighting employee achievements with awards emphasizes innovation, teamwork, high performance and enthusiasm. When you see an award on someone’s desk you want one as well to show your strengths within the company.”
The intended impact would certainly provide a safer work environment, reduce time loss due to injury and/or damage, and cultivate a more positive and caring workplace culture. I could understand why a human resources manager would invest in recognition of achievements, but how could this extend to a sales manager?
“Most corporate and industry events, such as conferences, and trade shows, always involve award ceremonies.”
Having a moment of recognition, like walking across a stage to accept an award, can be very empowering.
Clearmount custom creative awards is now a part of the St Regis Group brand family. Learn more about encasing items in custom acrylic, and other unique opportunities to develop brand-specific award designs. Alex from Promonoise speaks with Kate Plummer, Clearmount/St Regis Group.
Awards can become part of our self-identification, reinforcing our own perception of our strengths. Frontline staff who interact with customers tend to be outgoing, creative and at least a little bit competitive. Rather than turning that competition inward, redefining the goal posts can help an organization to achieve desired growth and support the professional development of team members.
For example, a sales manager might invest in an awards program that recognizes each sales team member who reaches a monthly milestone quota and celebrate the achievements of members who meet quota in consecutive months. You can use a base number, or a percentage of growth, or look at a running average over time to set achievable team and individual goals unique to your team and organization needs.
You do not want goals to be discouraging. They should reflect ideal results for above-average efforts, and the key to impact is to celebrate the awards.
Langille notes the impact awards make on our perception of organizations and people: “Employee recruitment and recognition programs in the workplace create a very positive reputation for that employer in the job market... Organizations that have received prestigious awards are shown as leaders in their field, therefore attracting top talent who want to work for industry-leading companies. Awards can be utilized as marketing and branding tools to enhance a brand's reputation and credibility.”
The extended value of awards programs, as the host and as a recipient, is the opportunity to build your brand by marketing your award-winning success. It’s an easy area of improvement for existing awards programs.
Capture photos of winners, include a caption of their achievement, and share that message in an internal newsletter with regional and industry media contacts and on your social media. List your achievements on your LinkedIn resume and build your profile as a top performer. Don’t let awards and the efforts that earned them go unnoticed.
In reflection, a lack of competition has not created a decline in awards but rather remodelled the environment of achievement resulting in more people winning more awards. And my longtime indictment of participation ribbons was simply ignorance of their intention: to recognize the effort invested in learning a skill, bringing a positive attitude to the game and having the courage to show up and try. That’s a message worth promoting. mem
as featured in the June 2023 edition of marketingedge magazine