Intuit Case Study: Top-Down & Bottom-Up Recognition Works Best

Recognize This! –Don’t limit options for recognition, but combine multiple into one program for easy governance and best results.

Last week, I had the honor and privilege of participating in a webinar (Spotlighting Recognition: How Intuit Has Reinforced a Culture of Innovation and Elevated Employee Engagement, now available for download) with Jennifer Lepird, Senior compensation business partner for Intuit.

We’ve worked with Intuit for many years now and have benefited from their culture of innovation as well. That culture is deeply ingrained across the company and supported from the top-down by Founder Scott Cook as well as from the bottom-up in a grass-roots movement of innovation that is an experience in itself.

Top-Down Culture Management through Recognition

For example, Jennifer shared how Scott Cook regularly brings in special guests so the entire company can watch and learn innovative programs and techniques to challenge current beliefs about what can and can’t be done. A culture of innovation is the core of how Inuit operates and how employees are evaluated.

There are also several formal innovation recognition and awards programs spearheaded by Scott Cook and senior leadership, including:

  • Scott Cook Innovation Awards: Only a few people each year receive this honor of placement on an innovation wall of fame, a coveted trophy, an all expenses paid trip for two, increased access to senior leaders and innovators, and more time to work on projects. Notice how this award caters to all aspects of our fundamental need for esteem – professionally, personally and directly.
  • Patent Awards: These are given throughout the year and are awarded for ideas submitted, patent submission, and patent completion. Note especially how these reward progress (the number one employee motivator) as much as final result.
  • Founders Innovation Award: I’ve written about this one before and I encourage you to read that post for the video showing Hugh Molotsi receiving this first new award from Scott Cook of a $1 million dollar prize. This is a powerful illustration of my point that cash awards only serve a useful purpose if their big enough to be easily differentiated from compensation. I think $1M meets that criteria.

Bottom-Up Culture Management through Recognition

As powerful as recognition from Founder Scott Cook is, equally as powerful is regular, timely and specific feedback and recognition from colleagues and peers across Intuit. That’s the beauty and power of Intuit’s Spotlight Recognition Program, the focus of the webinar. The goals of the program are to elevate employee engagement, build a globally unified culture of innovation and recognition, inspire employees, and help Intuit be an employer of choice everywhere.

Everything about Spotlight was a bottom-up effort, including the creation of the program name. Spotlight also made recognition easy by consolidating multiple programs onto one platform for easy access for leaders and employees alike who get a single, consistent recognition experience. Administrators also have a much easier time for program management, reporting and governance.

Included in this bottom-up recognition platform are programs for:

  • Performance, Milestones, & “Thanks” (on-the-spot recognition)
  • Sales contests
  • Wellness Incentives
  • Service Awards
  • CEO Sales Achiever Awards
  • Patent Awards
  • Employee Referrals

I’ve gone on long enough in this post and can only encourage you to watch the webinar for the full story. But I leave you with this image – the long-term double-digit improvement in engagement attributable to Spotlight recognition. (2010 reflects two things: the economy, and a shift in business strategy that took time for employees to adjust to.)

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

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