Giving a lifetime: It’s bigger than a gift card!


dawn blog 3

This blog is prompted by three separate stories I’ve heard over the last month or so and all to do with retirement – stories that have left me sad and wanting more than anything to be able to do something for this generation of our workforce who have given 40+ years to the same organisation.

This is SO important as it is unlikely ever to happen again. The world has moved on and only in rare occasions will we see people staying in the same organisation throughout their whole career. That’s why on the one hand when we talk to HR Directors about re-framing long-service awards, we’re going out there encouraging companies to recognise the earlier milestones. We do this because it creates the opportunity to talk about an individuals’s contribution much earlier on in their career – to communicate that they matter and hopefully instill in them a sense of loyalty and pride even if they do move on somewhere else.

But let’s not forget about those long-servers too…just imagine the amount of change they have experienced in the last 50 years or so – changes so significant that the way that we work has completely evolved and become something that employees in their early 20’s just wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

The first story comes from a financial services company in the city. A colleague had worked their 41 years and in the couple of weeks running up to his retirement he sent out an email to the people he’d worked with in that time to let them know. It was a group email and the responses were over-whelming. The group then rallied together to do something for him. Nothing would have happened if he hadn’t have pro-actively done this himself. After 41 years, he would have walked out not knowing the difference he had made. How would that make you feel? I’ll say it again 41 years!

I saw the next story on Facebook and you can see the write up here:

For those that don’t have the time to read the whole article, the story is similar to the first one. A woman retires from the NHS after 54 years and her local supermarket surprises her with flowers. She gets more recognition from kind-hearted supermarket staff than the organisation she has committed 54 years of her life to. Now I don’t know the facts around this so I’m hoping that it’s not this at all but still. Our people are out there making a difference for us every day and the very least we can do is say thank you. Thank you for your loyalty, thank you for sticking with us through all the changes, for passing on your expertise to new people joining us and for being part of who we are.

The final story came from a recent conversation in the pub. A chap I got into conversation with had retired that day after 52 years and he sat there looking genuinely sad with tears in his eyes. He’d been given some  vouchers as a parting gift but with no final presentation, no gathering of people to say thank you. He was sat in the pub with his friends who had rallied together and bought him a nice bottle of scotch. His exact words were, “I just wanted some reminder of the time I’ve given to ‘x’ company. A watch or something like that, something I can look at and be proud of everything I achieved. Something to show my family, something to show off to my mates in the pub.” We are sentimental creatures us human-beings, we create emotional connections to the organisations we work for despite the highs and lows.

Our founder Obert Tanner once said this:

“One could say we sell two values: the value of beauty and the value of kindness. The kindness is a company’s willingness to recognize, with dignity, an individual for what he or she has given to that company. After all, giving the productive years of one’s life, the daylight hours of each working day – this is the ultimate that an individual may give to any company.”

Think about the experience you are creating for those people reaching their retirement. What can you do to make sure their parting feeling is one of pride? What can you do to make sure that they feel part of something truly special and that they walk away on their last day, content that they committed their working life to you!

Find out more about service awards here at

Unpacking my suitcase…how appreciation helped me on my journey!



I know I go on about it all the time but appreciation really does change everything. I often think the most powerful way of getting this across is by telling my own story.

A few weeks ago I celebrated my first year with OC Tanner. It was a great year, a challenging year, a scary year, an emotional year and lots of things in between. I’d moved from a company where the focus was always on ‘what you’re not doing’ to a company that really does focus on the positive. This was an amazing shift and exactly what I hoped it would be but I also didn’t quite trust it. I always had the fear that at some point, the truth would reveal itself and I would be in the grasp of another company who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.

“Unpack your suitcase’ said Ian

The amazing @Kingfishercoach (Ian Pettigrew) very kindly gave me some strengths coaching recently and he perfectly described how I felt…”I’d found my home but hadn’t unpacked my suitcase”! What a great analogy…there was a part of me holding back, a part of me just waiting a bit longer just to make sure it was right, that I fitted in, that it was the perfect company in every way. Ian’s suggestion to me was to go away, unpack my suitcase and be my big-hearted positive self! So I have and the positive reinforcement from my peers has helped me get there much faster.

Celebrating one year with OC Tanner

These are some of the things that people said at my one year anniversary…

“The most refreshing thing about you is your motivation and drive to really make a difference in the work place. You really DO want to create a better place to work for people and your passion for this is truly inspiring to me and the whole team”.

“I have to say you are one of the most passionate appreciateologists I have ever met. Your passion shines through every time you speak about our company and what we do. I am sure you have all seen the movie Miracle on 34th street where the little girl manages to get the whole of America to believe in Santa Claus one by one. This reminds me of Dawn and I picture her in a meeting speaking about OC Tanner and eventually everyone round the table saying ‘I believe’!”.

“Your energy and enthusiasm knows no bounds and I love the fact you’re so full of great ideas even if sometimes slightly on the wacky side and you’re always willing to go out of your way to help others’.

“You have only been here for one year but it feels like you have always been here. You are the glue that keeps this team together, always good for a hug, a coffee and a chat. I know you were right for OC Tanner when you kicked me under the table when I interviewed you!”

How do you think I felt when I heard these amazing things being said (and also printed off so I could keep and remember them!)…yep that’s right, on top of the world. I felt valued, I felt noticed, I felt that people really cared about me too and also that I fitted right in.

We do walk the walk here. We do practice what we preach. We are not perfect but what is perfect. What we are though is driven to make a difference. To get companies to go out and appreciate their people. To recognize what great work looks like and to tell people when they see it happening. To value the contributions that people make not just once but throughout the course of their careers. If I can help companies on that journey through my amazing job then that makes me happy!

How has appreciation made a difference for you?

Re-frame long-service awards…make 2014 all about ‘celebrating careers’!


Yesterday we ran a great session at an organization to challenge their current thinking about long-service awards. I loved it because the group were so participative and open to ideas. Before the session, we asked the group to come up with 3 words to describe long-service awards and it was lovely to see such positive words used…


In lots of companies, people have lost sight of why they are doing it. Programmes are inherited and there is no real understanding of why it was created in the first place. Yesterday, we hope we got the thinking back on track. We hope we got everyone thinking about the objectives of ‘celebrating careers’ and brought it back to the simple truth that career celebrations give us a unique one-of-a-kind opportunity to focus on an individual and their entire history of contributions rather than any one single event.

When we listen to someone being appreciated, we internalize it. We want some of that for ourselves. Sharing stories from the workplace gives us all something to aim for, something that is easy for us to understand. It turns career achievers into role models. Last week I listened to my lovely colleague James reach his 5 year milestone and it still makes me smile now. People were invited to speak from across the business and it was lovely to see how proud James felt. It was funny, it was real and it was genuine. I want some of that too!

This is not the golden nugget to talent retention or anything else, however, as part of your overall recognition and communication strategy, it reflects the value you as an organization place on your people and the contributions they have made over the years. It reminds people that they work in a great team, that they love their company (hopefully!) and that what they do gets noticed.

Have a think about what you do for long-service and why? It may be time to challenge the legacy and re-define your own objectives…bring it back to your people and how much you value them! Get some people together from across the business today and I guarantee you will find some inspiring stories of amazing recognition moments that are happening across your business as we speak…think about how you can create more through the simple re-framing of long-service awards and the image of a carriage clock to the powerful message that ‘we celebrate you’!

2014 is all about celebrating what makes us human!


Wordle: What makes us human

I’ve had a bit of a blogging block over recent weeks so as I wrote my ‘to do’ list today, I put a blog post on there as I am definitely one of those people who gets a lot of satisfaction from ticking things off my list!

To try and inspire myself, I googled ‘inspiring quotes to start 2014’ and never letting me down, there were LOTS out there! We all tend to get a bit philosophical as we come to the end of the year and see the New Year as a way to start afresh, to change things we’re not happy with and to be the positive people we know we (mostly!) are!!!

A quote for 2014

The following quote really got me thinking about a fascinating show that Jeremy Vine has been hosting on Radio 2 over the last few months about ‘what makes us human?’

 “To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.” – Bernard Edmonds

What makes us human?

Jeremy basically asked a selection of artists, thinkers and academics to consider what makes us human and they all came up with their own stories. I just wanted to share some of this with you today…

  • Esther Rantzen believes altruism and caring for people we don’t know is what makes us human.
  • General Richard Dannatt, Britain’s leading soldier, believes our humanity is in our selfless commitment to others.
  • Columnist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris reflects on his life and why ‘playfulness’ makes us human.
  • To love, to be loved, to be accepted and respected: Disabled artist and campaigner Alison Lapper thinks these qualities make us ‘human’.
  • Robert Peston – the BBC’s Business Editor – talks about his late wife Sian Busby and how his love for her is what makes him human
  • Eminent philosopher, writer and huntsman, Roger Scruton believes asking questions is what make us human.
  • Leading economist Lord Robert Skidelsky says it’s the opposite of economics that makes us human: following our hearts and intuitions, rather than our heads.
  • Former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson talks about why she thinks ‘self-awareness’ is part of our humanity.
  • Brian May – rock star, astrophysicist and animal rights campaigner discusses how kindness and cruelty is the key to what makes us human.
  • Libertarian commentator Brendan O’Neill believes that humanity is all about change.

The challenge companies have…

If I think about the articles I’ve read across all forms of media recently, companies all over the world are attempting to address all these things and more that make us human. It’s not an easy job…although we are all human! We are all unique individuals with our own values and our own interpretations of the world. We all have a unique set of circumstances, a unique set of experiences and our own unique way of dealing with them. I know my lovely husband constantly battles with my unique way of thinking!!!!

What we can all do though is celebrate all the things that make us uniquely human and focus on the positive things and the great work that people bring to our companies every day. Every positive has a negative and every negative has a positive. If we try in 2014 to tip the balance so that the majority of conversations we have in 2014 are positive then surely all the great things that make us human will triumph: commitment, self-awareness, to be accepted, to be respected, to create emotional connections, kindness, playfulness, giving something back, the ability to handle change and build trust!

Appreciation changes everything!

Every blog I write talks about the difference appreciation can make and that’s genuinely because I believe it to be true based on not just my beliefs but for most people I come into contact with. Recognition done right in a timely, genuine and sincere way helps us tip that balance towards the positive – how can that be a bad thing! Our founder Obert Tanner once said: “One could say we sell two values: the value of beauty and the value of kindness. The kindness is a company’s willingness to recognize, with dignity, an individual for what he or she has given to that company. After all, giving the productive years of one’s life, the daylight hours of each working day – this is the ultimate that an individual may give to any company.”

May 2014 be the year for us to celebrate and recognize everything that makes us uniquely human!

Wishing you all a very happy 2014!

Here’s a link to the Radio 2 website where you can listen to the ‘What Makes Us Human’ series!

Building a culture of recognition is for life…not just for Christmas! A festive tale with a case study!



How could I not exploit the festive season to talk about appreciation! I don’t know about you but I get this warm, tingly feeling in my tummy at this time of the year and embrace December and all the best things it brings out in our lives….family, friends, community, thinking about the absolute right present to put a smile on the faces of loved ones, celebrations and parties. It got me thinking (always dangerous…)

When reading one of our case studies recently about a global recognition programme for Informatica, these are some of the words I pulled out:


A recognition programme done right enables you to create these festive feelings on a daily basis not just at Christmas. It takes time, it takes effort and an on-going strategy to ensure it has longevity and impact.  How great would it be to create that tingly feeling in your tummy because you’ve reached a career milestone and your company has cared enough to recognize the individual contribution you have made, to shout out about a time when you’ve gone above and beyond individually or as a team or simply because one of your peers noticed the on-going effort you’ve been contributing to live the companies values!

So I leave you with two parting messages:

Tis the season to reward and recognize!


Building a culture of recognition is for life not just for Christmas!