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1,676 moments of recognition for Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day. It wasn't a day we'd celebrated internally before. Appreciation should happen every day, but this year, nothing has been normal.    

The brief from my CEO Doug Butler was to create an event 'that really stands out and puts RG on the map for Employee Appreciation Day. Let's do something really special. I want it to push the boundaries and show the world what recognition really looks like.'

I’m happy to say that we accomplished our mission. We delivered an event that put a smile on our 450+ employees, and made a permanent mark in our wider community about how to make recognition a company-wide priority, with us smashing our initial goal for moments of recognition within the business and bringing people together across the world for a shared experience. 

The what: Thank You Festival - a lineup of four bands to appeal to a wide demographic, taking the ‘Recognition Pyramid Stage’ (which was actually a quaint farm, complete with goat friends!) for our audience. 

The when: Thursday, March 4th during the UK and Bulgaria’s afternoons, and kicking off the morning with our U.S. team. We replayed the day for our Australian teams, who celebrated on March 5th. 

The impact: Nearly 87% of employees receiving or sending moments of recognition, totalling more than 1,600 eCards sent in one day.

But it didn’t happen overnight. I’m excited to share with you our planning process and take you behind the scenes of how we put on our first-ever Thank You Festival. 

Visit our Employee Appreciation Day hub for resources to recognise employees »

Our headliner, Miss Baby Sol. 

First, define your objectives

My idea – to put on a virtual music festival for our hundreds of employees and use it as a catalyst to drive a big WOW for Employee Appreciation Day through hundreds (if not thousands!) of moments of recognition – was a big one. It could very easily get too big to wrap my arms around, and that’s why defining objectives before I even made the first call to our performers was critical. Here’s what we defined as our own objectives: 

Create a unique, memorable, COVID-19 safe, shared experience

The experience needed to be deliverable in an entirely digital format that would be possible under strict COVID-19 legislation. If any geo currently not in lockdown was to switch to lockdown the day before (i.e. a Melbourne 5-day lockdown), the show must go on.


Give Leadership opportunity to recognise 

Our Leadership Team wished to share recognition moments that showed how every team is connected at RG. One team’s success is always linked to the actions of others. We showed how we were all part of something bigger than ourselves, living our Think Global value through specific shoutouts from the Leadership Team members throughout the Thank You Festival.


Increase use of MORE! recognition 

We knew how important recognition was for employee wellbeing, particularly as improving employee morale continues to be a focus in changing lockdown conditions, but it had been a long time since we had any real focus on our own employee recognition programme, MORE!. This event needed to reignite excitement around MORE! and show how we always push the boundaries of employee engagement and excellence in employee experience.

Learn more about Peer-to-Peer Recognition for your business »

Reduce use of Slack for the afternoon

Company-wide, we use Slack for our internal messaging, and it can be a very noisy place. For this, we invited employees to turn off Slack for work messages, and recommended rescheduling meetings so that nothing work-related was planned during the event. We encouraged all employees to only use Slack to focus on social connection using our #wfhtipsandtales channel (originally created during lockdown) with one another and tune into our live stream of music and moments of magical recognition for employees.

Support employee wellbeing

Positivity, fun, connection and your pure enjoyment were at the core focus of our event. 

Recognition is a big way to boost serotonin and dopamine for both the senders and receivers of it. A boost here would mean a big dose of mental wellbeing goodness for all. 

Music is medicine. It connects, soothes and heals the soul while many of our employees were unable to enjoy each other's company in person, we enjoyed it together virtually by having an incredible RG Celebration.

Support our local community and diverse talent

It was important to us that we worked with a community-based venue and that our team supported a diverse range of talent.

thank-you-festival-stageA plan for action regardless of any last minute lockdown announcements or changes.

How we launched the Thank You Festival

The six objectives became our ingredients for creating RG's first ever virtual Thank You Festival. The event included:

 Recognition moments from Leadership Team
 Musical acts from RG talent and external talent
 Slack focus directed to #wfhtipsandtales
 Recognition goal shared
 New eCards launched
 Wellbeing-focussed content
 Social Media Competition for best dressed
 Celebrity Cameo Videos to drive MORE! engagement
 Social Enterprise venue
 Inclusive of BAME/LGBTQIA+ crew and talent
 Hosted by the People Team

To drum up excitement for the event, we planned a communications campaign via our internal communications platform, boom! with a mix of videos playing off of the ‘Thank You’ theme, blog posts offering more information about the headliners and the events of the day (including an internal social media competition for best-dressed).

The set from Handsome and the Breadcrumbs.

You can see that the blogs were read by more than half of our employees, with many commenting and reactions to show us their excitement for the upcoming day. 


What was critical to the success of the event was getting our managers and Leadership Team on board, so we encouraged them to talk to their teams and schedule out their time on their calendars so that this was seen as a real priority within the business and remind employees as we led up to the day.

The big theme of the Thank You Festival was to find new ways to bring our RG community together. One way we did this was by featuring a few RG stars as our performers, which surprised and delighted our employees who may not have known about the hidden musical talents within our company! 

plamena-singingThe Thank You Festival saw the talents of Client Support Specialist Stoycho Popov on guitar
and People Technology Specialist Plamena Andreeva on vocals.

The Festival arrives

On the day of the festival, I bundled up in my sparkly jumpsuit and off I went to Oasis Farm in Waterloo, to be the host of the day. A risk-assessed, COVID-19 safe, outdoor venue. We had a few special surprises for our employees in addition to the Leadership Team shoutouts and incredible headliners planned. 


We were thrilled that the event increased our #wfhtipsandtales by nearly 10%. A virtual fun-filled space with almost 60% of the RG actively involved over the course of the two days. 

A low-budget WOW moment was adding in a few celebrity (and ‘celebrity’) Cameos urging our employees to go to our Wow Wall and send each other eCards. Though it was a silly video, we saw higher engagement during these viewings as our employees made their way to boom! to recognise one another, and it gave the crew time to clean the stage and make sure it was COVID-19 safe for the next act. 


Our festival was all a teaser to the real Employee Appreciation Day, where we set a goal of 1,000 recognition moments. 

Normally, we send around 1,000 eCards per month. For this special occasion we challenged our employees to send 1,000 recognition moments in one day! 

The results of the Thank You Festival

Could we do it? 

Well, as I mentioned, yes we did. Here’s a look at the final stats of the day I pulled from our own recognition analytics dashboard: 

Learn more about our reward and recognition solutions »

eCards galore through MORE!

We were thrilled to see above-average manager participation – one of our Leadership Team members sent a record-setting 162 eCards during his afternoon – which showed the impact our teaser campaigns had had. During our wrap-up boom! post we were able to shine an extra spotlight on our top 10 senders for the day as well, which I was able to quickly note through our Recognition Leadership Boards.  

Though we did have a goal to hit, we wanted to make sure our employees understood how and why to recognise, so we also strategically had reminders from Managers for how to recognise using the AVI Method (Action, Value, Impact) so our recognition moments were thoughtful, but also strategic for the rest of the business to learn from. This was reiterated during the Thank You Festival in my opening monologue and midway throughout the event, and from our managers on our instant messaging channels.  

Manager vs. Non-Manager Recognition saw 62% of recognition being sent by Managers

Adding to our Employee Value Proposition

As we expand our company and keep in mind our future growth, how we position ourselves to candidates continues to be top of mind.

Recognition is a key piece of our own Employee Value Proposition (EVP), so this festival served as a way to showcase how critically important we believe recognition to be in the success of our company and to candidates who are looking for a culture of appreciation. 

Even better, it was our own employees creating content and advocating for us. For our newest starters, what a week to onboard! 


Many businesses are trying to find ways to solve wellbeing challenges at this time, whilst thousands of musicians, artists and creative individuals are seeking work.

By providing wellbeing events focussed on recognition, music and empowerment of employees, I do believe the two challenges can support one another and make both worlds a better place to work.

For those reading, I’m happy to share that this was a low budget and ROI high. The great thing about virtual events is that this cost only decreases as the company grows. 

The biggest ROI on the event though for me personally was the emotions I could see pouring out of our employees, no matter where they were. At the conclusion of our event, here were some of the many comments that were shared by RGers around the world: 

"Thanks to everyone who put this one. Super cool!"

"That was epic! Thank you"

"Thank you so much! That was incredible! Best first week ever! WOW"

"Can only imagine the effort that went into this. Thank you team!"


"This was AMAZING!! Thank you so much for doing this for us"

"This afternoon made my year, thank you to everyone involved"

"Thank you, hvala, shukran, grazie, dziękuję, gracias, благодаря"

"Sensational. Feeling very grateful to work here. Everyone involved should feel proud of that event."

"Incredible, exactly what we all needed."

And that leaves me with just three more Thank Yous to wrap up the virtual festival. My own personal thank you to all of our employees, Doug Butler and the rest of the Leadership Team for being such a great audience. A huge amount of gratitude to Miss Baby Sol, Terra Viva, Handsome and the Breadcrumbs, Smiley Sound, Jumbo Productions and the Artful Podger for helping make our creative vision come to life. Lastly, a big thank you to Robert Hicks for empowering me to push the boundaries on what a HR team believed could be possible for a remote workforce in the middle of a pandemic. 

Catrin Lewis

As Head of Global Engagement and Internal Communications, Catrin's main focus is to make Reward Gateway a better place to work. Using the Engagement Bridge™ model, she drives our mission, purpose and values while adding sparkle and creativity to our internal communications.

Head of Global Engagement and Internal Communications

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