The Thoma Ten Commandments of Reward and Recognition

Gateway Rewards research reveals a big disconnect in perceptions around reward and recognition within companies. While about 90 percent of senior decision-makers believe their companies are sufficiently recognizing people who demonstrate organizational values, more than 60 percent of employees believe that managers and leaders should be acknowledging their colleagues more.

“By inspiring employees at all levels to recognize colleagues specifically for actions that directly relate to corporate values, companies have a great opportunity to ensure better alignment with those values,” says Rob Boland, Group Product and Client Success Director.

We couldn’t agree more! At Thoma, we’ve helped clients develop reward and recognition programs that are truly working, and employee surveys support this assertion. 

We present the Thoma Ten Commandments of effective R and R programs proven to connect that disconnect and drive perceptions across the organization.


1. Make it simple

The program should be straightforward, easy to understand, and easy to implement. At Thoma we eat our own cooking — our R and R program utilizes a simple online form (or a tear-off pad) with just a handful of questions. Fill out the form, submit it, and the coworker you choose is recognized.

2. Make it visible

Thoma makes both our core values and our core values program very visible with a wall decal centered in the heart of our offices. We have also utilized fun, funky vessels for capturing the Core Values form. Here is Corey Values, our office pet living in a Mr. Coffee. The core values forms are deposited into the pull-out coffee receptacle.

Southern Bancorp utilizes this wonderful graphic to communicate the programs along with these wonderful scrabble-inspired tiles that are earned each year.

3. Make it short and sweet

Research supports that the reward doesn’t have to be big to be meaningful. It might be a tchotchke, a small monetary gift, a coupon. But the sentiment behind it is what matters most. So say thanks and deliver that pat on the back that we all need.

4. Tie it to your mission, purpose, core values

This is crucial! And this is where the magic happens. Require the reward to be tied to behavior that is in alignment with your core values. Encourage the awardee to name the behavior and describe how it aligns with company values. (See our form here for a clear example of how to do this).

5. Make it universal

Employees report the highest satisfaction in programs that enable participation across the board. So don’t limit R and R to management down, allow anyone to reward anyone and you’ll build a more meaningful program.

6. Make it public

At Thoma, we announce our core values winners every week at our firm-wide meeting. Larger entities can publicize R and R on their intranets or on walls in break rooms, etc.

7. Don’t wait

Again, research supports rewarding in a timely manner — within days of the event that evoked the recognition. We find weekly works best for us!

8. Encourage participation

Sometimes long-running programs can lose steam, so make a point to encourage participation in a lighthearted manner. Some of our clients create simple videos, make posters, or perform a funny skit to encourage and renew participation.

9. Make it fun! 

There shouldn’t be anything heavy-handed about the program. Instead, participation should be a pleasure, so don’t shy away from making your program funny, corny, lighthearted — as long as you keep the recognition heartfelt.

10. Make it specific

But sure to tell a complete story about why the person is being recognized, and again, the core value they were living at the moment. This is key to propagating the message about what behaviors are in alignment with the core values, bringing them to life for employees.


So reflect on your own organization. First, do you have a recognition program? If so, does it align with your core values? Finally, are the Thoma 10 present in your program? If so, congratulations, you are on your way to a vibrant, engaged workforce. If not, consider how to make the development of a program imperative within your bank.

Author Melissa Thoma

Melissa Thoma co-founded Thoma Thoma in 1988, following her experience as a graphic designer. While her focus has evolved to mostly high-level strategy for Thoma clients, she is still not afraid to get her hands dirty and her right brain engaged as the constant creative catalyst of the firm.

More posts by Melissa Thoma

Leave a Reply