A COVID-19 Q&A with CEO Steve Sonnenberg

Awardco CEO Steve Sonnenberg recently sat down with the Truss Group for a Q&A about the role recognition plays in the changing work environment surrounding COVID-19, and how some of our customers are seeing great benefits from increased recognition throughout their organizations.

Q: What is Awardco?

Steve: Awardco is an employee recognition platform that allows you to easily recognize employees for all they do, tag values, and share stories around those values. If you have a budget you can also pair that recognition with a monetary amount, which the employee can then redeem through the Awardco platform for millions of products on Amazon—with zero markups.

Whenever a recognition is given employees will receive a recognition notification in their email and can log in from there to the Awardco platform. Our platform is the only one of its kind in the employee recognition and rewards space because of our partnership with Amazon Business. We’ve essentially rebuilt Amazon into a points program, which is pretty exciting. It's always a lot of fun to marry the recognition employees get with points (where possible) so they can get something they really want. 

Q: What are some of the best practices you’ve seen from your clients regarding how they’re motivating and incentivizing employees during this time when so many are working remotely?

Steve: We work with some of the biggest companies out there, including one of the largest financial companies in the world. Since the global COVID-19 pandemic this particular financial firm saw their recognitions in the platform triple. It didn’t happen overnight, but it has been amazing to see such an increase in recognitions in their organization. Their leaders have been reaching out to managers and encouraging them to reach out to their team members even more during the pandemic, and that is a huge thing to encourage recognition.

So many employees are working from home, or are putting themselves in harms way to continue providing essential services, and there is much more anxiety in daily life than there used to be. Employees want to know they’re doing a good job through all of this, and it can be a huge boost to culture and engagement when recognitions are given freely and often.

Many of our clients have seen first hand how recognition has helped isolated people at home know they are doing a good job and feel part of a greater whole. It’s been an invaluable culture building tool, and has helped keep teams organized and motivated even though they may be separated physically. One cool thing we’ve seen with that financial firm I mentioned is that recognitions have spiked during the pandemic to one recognition every 15 seconds. When you realize you can pair all those recognitions with a company value it really tells an amazing story of what everyone is doing to exemplify those values during this challenging time.

Recognizing often spreads positivity, and with the ability you have through the Awardco platform to see all that recognition data in one place you can pull those stories from your platform and share them in your own company newsletter to spread even more positivity.

Q: What are the most common reasons for recognitions you’ve seen with your clients?

Steve: We’ve seen a lot of great service-oriented values being recognized. Many of the recognitions our clients see involve people reaching out and going out of their way to serve customers in extraordinary ways, even during the pandemic. It’s amazing to see employees sacrifice their own wellbeing to make sure their customers stay safe and are taken care of.

One of the other most common reasons for recognition we’ve seen is that organizations are wanting to keep their company culture thriving, even when many employees are working remotely. We’ve seen that with many companies participating in spot recognition programs as they work to ensure their employees feel supported and noticed.

Q: With the current economic climate, some monetary budgets are tight. What are the best tactics you’re seeing your clients use to recognize people without monetary bonuses?

Steve: Monetary bonuses are important, but many studies show that there is the same amount of satisfaction from social recognition without monetary value. Peer to peer recognitions have a huge impact too—and can show us that effective recognition doesn’t always have to be from a manager with monetary value attached. Recognition of any kind helps create a supportive, amazing culture, even in a predominantly work from home environment. In fact, remote work environments can encourage more recognitions because companies want people to feel noticed and supported.

One cool thing the Awardco platform can do is track recognitions. There’s an intuitive dashboard that lets you see all sorts of data like recognitions per period, redemptions per period, etc. This is a powerful thing because you can see how often recognition is happening and what values are being recognized. We use the platform internally and our recognitions have been going up steadily as well—and most of them are non-monetary.

One of the things I love most is seeing our own company values recognized with tags in the platform. It helps me see the stories that back up our values. Awardco helps tell the story—the heart—of engagement for any organization. It’s been a really positive thing for us and our clients, too.

Perhaps the best tactic to recognize others without monetary bonuses is when leaders recognize first and recognize often. We’ve seen that when leaders in our client’s organizations engage with recognition it motivates employees to do it too. Adoption goes through the roof when leaders engage.

Q: When the regulations are lifted around COVID, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

Steve: Well, honestly I’m excited to get back with our employees and figure out the new normal! I look forward to connecting with everyone in our office to see how best we can take care of them and continue to help us be effective in this new normal. The employees here are what makes Awardco amazing, and I look forward to getting back together with them to see how we can continue to succeed and bring rewarding recognition to more people even in a changing environment.