Corporate employee recognition awards. Plastic paperweights are proven motivators?

I was cleaning out my house and I came across an acrylic award plaque that I ended up throwing in the garbage.

Being curious about its value, I looked through a catalog of similar trinkets for awards of recognition/achievement. Items like these:

Here’s my GQ question: are there any empirical studies on workforce productivity, or employee retention, etc that proves the benefit of these paper weights?

Without knowledge of such studies, the rest of my post is a cynical rant…

I was surprised at how much these things cost. $20 to $30 for individual pieces! Why do we junk up our employee cubicles with these plexiglass objects? Is this one of those favorite shopping list items that Human Resources loves?

It seems like there are dozens of other better ways to recognize employee recognition.

For cheaper cost, you could have colored stars next to the employees name on big board in a common area. This is similar to what how teachers recognize students in elementary school. Or you could highlight the employee on a sidebar of the company’s internal web portal page. These methods add a lot less to the landfill.

If we have $20 burning in our pockets that we MUST spend on each employee, how about a $20 giftcard to Home Depot or Target stores?

Or a $20 t-shirt with the company logo. At least the employee can use it as a rag clothes to paint his house with.

Or the company donates $20 to a charity in the employee’s name.

Is there really a class of people that are motivated by pieces of acrylic on their desk? This seems like nonsense worse than a Dilbert cartoon. If plastering your living room with Bradford Exchange figurines and plates is tacky, why is pyramid stack of acrylic awards on the desk not tacky? If an assortment of plastic squares signifies a successful employee, should we make a smaller scale set for kids too? I see make-believe ovens and doll houses for girls – so shouldn’t toy manufacturers make a similar set of plastic award cubes for the kids desk in their bedroom? Seems logical.

I’m fully aware that there’s undeniable value in recognizing employees in a tactile way. I agree with that premise. However, if we had to invent the worst possible artifact to show it, I can’t think of a more pointless candidate than acrylic squares. Are we insane?

If the company is being truly honest, they should buy from here.:smiley:

people like shiny things just like monkeys.

I really like the idea of a $20 gift card to somewhere, actually…but the thing is, while the item may have cost $20, you can bet the company didn’t pay anything like $20 for it (usually).

My company, when I got to 5 years, gave me a certificate, which I hung on the wall (had to buy my own frame!) and I got sent a catalog to look through and get something. I ordered coffee mugs, since they would be useful. They came sans logo! I don’t even get a logo?

I get another option after 10 years; let’s see how that one goes.

But at least $15.95 per picture can be divided and amortized up among the hundred employees.

The $30-per-plastic cube -per-employee that no employee would even repurpose as a Christmas ornament is beyond comprehension.

Who?!?!?! What do these people look like? Can we round them all up and have them committed to asylum under state guardianship?

You wouldn’t believe how competitive people can get. When I worked in a hotel I was voted employee of the year TWICE in a row. The second time people were complaing how unfair this was.

I was like, in the first place I was VOTED in. It’s not like they picked me. I know darn well why I was voted in. I was the computer guy at the hotel and I helped a ton of people fix their computers for free. I even volunteered on Saturdays to teach people computer programs. I didn’t do this to win employee of the year.

But people complained. So what was my prize. A silver key chain from Tiffany’s. You know what it cost? $17.00. I got TWO of them. They second year they couldn’t even give me a new one.

What was really funny is I had not one boss but six bosses. So come Christmas, everyone got a $25.00 gift certificate from their boss. Of course the company paid for it, but it was “from” your boss. Since I had six bosses each thought the other had given me the card and I got nothing, EVER for Christmas.

So ironically I never got any kind of perk, like a Christmas bonus card, taken out to lunch on my birthday or anything.

But it was really about the recognition not the token prize.

At least the the certificate is made of paper which (if necessary) one could use to wipe his ass with and it’s also biodegradable when it’s eventually thrown into a landfill. The coffee mugs are also obviously useful as a pen holder.

But plastic squares?

I’ve gotten stuff from a catalog also for anniversaries. The problem is that most of the stuff is junk. For my 10th anniversary the stuff I was interested in was a telescope, a digital camera, and last, an MP3 player. I searched the web for reviews. The telescope had the minor problem of moving if you touched it, not so good for actually looking at something. The camera worked on AAA batteries, and could not be recharged. I finally settled on the 2 Gb MP3 player.

The best thing I ever got was from AT&T - an Executive Outing Kit (:smiley: - I kid you not about the name.) It had a reasonable set of binoculars in it.

However, in general, my spirit took a nosedive when I saw what crap I got offered.

I agree about the uselessness of plastic paperweights. I suspect what really does the job is recognition in front of ones peers, not the thing, or immediate feedback. One place I worked had a drawer with movie tickets, cups, and t-shirts which you could give to someone outside your immediate group for service or support above and beyond the call.
But there are so many ways to screw it up, it needs to be thought out a little better than assuming a plaque will make someone happy.

It’s not just corporations-- federal government offices give out these things all the time, too.

In fact, it’s a hallmark of good leadership (IMO) when a new boss (or a departing old boss) speaks out against giving more schwag that’s just going to clutter up a desk or a wall. Especially when working with the military-- you’re leaving a job every 2 to 4 years, you end up getting lots of framed signed pictures & paintings along with all the glass and acrylic schwag. Unless you’re a senior executive, you have no room to put this stuff anywhere-- no inclination, really.

To disagree slightly with Markxxx, there’s not always necessarily anything wrong with being competitive for the award– it’s being competitive for the physical crap that comes with it. The former I can understand, depending on the award and the significance of it to your company/organization. The latter, alas, is pretty silly.

Unless you’re talking the highest possible award in your industry-- an Emmy, an Oscar, a Nobel-- odds are, it’s just crap on your desk (or more likely, your drawer, or a box in the attic).

Right… which made me ask the GQ question. Coffee mugs, t-shirts have more utility than plastic paperweights so I was wondering if there was some “hidden” advantage to the plexiglass that was not obvious. I mean, real corporate buyers in Human Resources or other departments actually buy these things so what the hell is going through their heads?

Gee whiz, I hope somebody can throw me a useful bone about these tacky paper weights that justifies their cost and deskspace usage! Do the remnant fumes from the plexiglass boost memory retention? Does the reflection of flourescent lights from the polished plastic aid visual cortex processing?

There doesn’t seem to be any logic. It’s like these plastic paperweights are laughing at us because we’re acting out a Dilbert comic strip of buying them, displaying them, and then throwing them away. I take solace that archaeologists of the 23rd century will dig these up and write all sorts of academic papers explaining their significance to human commerce in the 21st century.

Last fall I received a service award for being at the company for 15 years. Part of that award was one of those plastic items you are talking about, although in my case it contained a clock. Even though I didn’t find much use for the item myself, I was still happy to receive it, because it showed that the company recognized my many years of service.

Monkeys aren’t all that shiny.

I think the theory is that the lucite cube is a semi-permanent token of recognition, where a gift card, while more practical, will be almost immediately forgotten.

It could have been worse. My last office gave out “magic wands” (crappy glass wands filled with viscous liquid and glitter) to the employees of the month. I think they got them from the 5-year-old girl section of the dollar store.

You know, it got me thinking some more.

To encourage mice to solve mazes, or hamsters to run on wheels, or chimpanzees to learn sign language, we give them morsels of food. If we gave them plastic awards, I’m quite sure it would not improve the productivity of any of those animals.

The human species has gotten so sophisticated that we dare not give comparable food items to other humans such as Hershey’s chocolate, a box of cookies, or sticks of beef jerky. No, we provide PLASTIC awards that no other animal would bother trying to chew. They would sniff it and see it has no nutritional value at all.

Damn, these plastic paperweights prove we humans are actually dumber than hamsters and chimpanzees.

It’s a tropy. Some people find tropies motivating. Others don’t. Personally, I was thrilled this year when a day of recognition got me some extra PTO instead of a certificate or a thank-you email.

I’m finding this response disproportionately hilarious.

It’s not the paperweight; it’s the recognition. It doesn’t hurt to have the recognition in a lasting form that can be seen.

The rest of the OP’s rant is just silly. Think of how much time, energy, and money goes into birthday parties and holiday celebrations. Wouldn’t all that time, energy, and money be better given to charity? Why don’t you suggest that to all your colleagues? And your family as well? Why ever send flowers or a card or even show up at a wedding? Tell them strangers are far more important.

And while you lie there in your hospital bed, start thinking of how important it is for people to be recognized as individuals and given physical reminders of their existence.

As I said in OP, I totally understand the recognition part.

C’mon, who are we kidding here? This is not a piece of granite that’s integrated into a wall of a museum with a patron’s name on it. It’s not an Oscar statuette that has at least a layer of gold plating on it.

It’s just a crap piece of plastic that people throw away.

There’s got to be a hundred other “lasting forms” that makes more sense: coffee mugs, golf shirts, fancy pens, etc.

I (and I’m sure many others) can at least see the value of birthday parties, roller skating outings, and corporate BBQs. To equate these activities with worthless plastic is stretching it.

I don’t send paper cards that cost $30 dollars unless it has a music chip inside it and I don’t even think those cost that much. Flowers at least offers something for the olfactory senses.

ETA: Forgot to ask… do you happen to buy these plastic awards for your employees?

Plastic square manufacturers have to eat too, you know.

I won some contest for being the top salesman one month and the prize was a $100 gift certificate for a spa. I didnt want it but wanted some new running shoes instead.

My boss actually went to the running store and got me a gift card for them. I couldnt believe it.

That was the best gift i ever got from my work.