Pro HR

Celebrate your people and team successes

Let’s Celebrate! In the face of inflationary pressures, interest rate rises, cyclones and uncertainty, it is challenging to rise out of the mire and celebrate the good in our organisations and people. Too often it’s the loudest voice, the trickiest staff member or the latest crisis that takes all our time, attention, and energy.

If morale ever really needed a boost, it is now! It is therefore timely to reflect on how we celebrate the wins and the good performance in our organisations. Unfortunately, it seems a natural and accepted Kiwi trait to not sing praises. We are stingy or subtle with our “thank-yous” and praise and are risking becoming a “thankless” work culture.

A recent HR Trends 2023 survey suggests that more than a quarter of employees believe that they aren’t rewarded or recognised for good work. This statistic is surprising in the tight talent market where finding skilled people is such a challenge. Employers should be pulling out all stops to keep team members motivated and engaged.

Moreover, in a world where New Zealand now sits at the bottom of the OECD in terms of productivity, keeping high-performing teams and employees motivated and recognised needs to become a priority.

Why Celebrate?

According to Gallup, both meaningful public and private recognition are bigger motivational perks than being given a promotion, bonus or raise.

Evidence also suggests that employees feel encouraged to do better work if they receive personal recognition and people who feel recognised are more than twice as likely to innovate and bring forward ideas. It also has a strong correlation with retention. There is also now strong scientific evidence behind the benefits of giving gratitude – it increases happiness, reduces depression, increases resilience and it has proven health benefits such as lower blood pressure and better sleep. Gratitude rewires our brains and it kickstarts the production of dopamine and serotonin, our feel-good hormones – effectively it’s an antidepressant.

So let’s Celebrate… Great leaders take the time to notice and reward great work, but we need to celebrate more than just a job well done or a project completed. Celebrate what you value – look to a situation well handled, organisational values demonstrated, a significant first, courageousness demonstrated, truly exceptional work, consistently good work done, when someone made a difference to someone else, or even a major mistake or failure where it revealed a key learning (see TedTalk The unexpected benefit of Celebrating Failure).

How to Celebrate…









Say “thank you”! It’s free and it feels great for all concerned.

✓ Start meetings with a quick acknowledgment of wins or achievements.

✓ Build a feedback culture. Don’t wait for an annual review – have regular one-on-ones with team members. The same equation for negative feedback works well for positive feedback and makes it more meaningful (see the accompanying diagram for more detail).

✓ Create platforms for crowd-sourced feedback and celebration. A shared platform allows leaders to hear great stories they may not know about.

✓ Invest in development – it acknowledges a person’s value and is a key retention strategy. Your high performers should have a tailored development plan that is revisited regularly and includes a range of development initiatives from mentoring, coaching, shadowing and secondments through to more traditional training programmes.

✓ Encourage the innovation and input of high performers
by increasing responsibility and autonomy as a means of investing in development.

✓ Have some fun. Our staff spin a wheel to win prizes after various achievements. This can include serious and fun prizes.

✓ Take a break – celebrate during the workday with short breaks as a team – summer ice-creams in our office are a big hit.

✓ Use social media to share success stories.

✓ Move after-work events into the workday. There is a major shift in workplace culture where employees no longer want to use their after-hours time for workplace events as it impedes on time with family, friends or recharging. Use lunch breaks or finish work slightly early for a celebratory social occasion.

✓ Lastly, if it’s all about the bottom line in your organisation, then now is the time to put bonus structures or profit share schemes in place.

All of this points to being more considered in your approach. Its more than just having a programme, but sometimes having one in place will mean you are active and conscious about your initiatives. A final word to the wise – don’t overdo it. Good recognition should be natural and authentic.

For assistance with human resources initiatives including teams, leadership, investigations or facilitated meetings, please contact