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Exceptional incentives.

During a recent interview with a prospective employee, I indicated that at the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry (TAPPI), Atlanta, we spend a lot of time celebrating staff achievement. I began a list of activities and was surprised at how celebratory we've become. Here are a few of our best.

The healthy beech. Several years ago we began having a luncheon in January for employees who never missed a day because of illness the previous year. The first year, I took the group--about 6 percent of our staff of 75--to lunch. These days the healthy bunch is honored at a morning coffee. At last year's event, I presented 47 percent of the staff-- now 97 people--with a $100 bill and an extra day off.

To those who maintain their membership in the healthy bunch, we present a crystal bowl at five years. We have several people approaching 10 years without a day off because of illness.

Bushwhackers. When TAPPI moved into a new headquarters building in 1983, we needed to do some last-minute gardening to be shipshape for the formal dedication. I asked who on the staff would like to spend a day outside in work clothes, moving sand and planting bushes--and the bushwhacking spirit took hold with a real vengeance. Now we have Bushwhackers Day twice a year, and more than 25 percent of the staff participates each time. After people participate five times, we present them with the Bushwhackers Award, a trophy of a bucket, broom, and mop. After 10 times, they receive a bushwhackers jacket. We're not quite sure what to present after 15, but several people are getting close.

We have landscaped our building to the nth degree; in the past two years, we've planted more than 500 azalea bushes and look forward each spring to a splash of color surrounding our building. Another benefit of this activity has been teamwork development. During an early bushwhackers session we had to cut down a very large tree. When the tree was down, all 30 of us picked it up and carried it down to the refuse area. Moving it was something no one could have done alone. The staff take real pride in our building and landscaping, because they have a sense of ownership. Litter is never a problem and vandalism is nonexistent.

Employee exemplar. Twice a year, an employee who sets a benchmark of being helpful that we should all emulate is chosen as an employee exemplar. The five most recent recipients make the selection based on nominations received from all members of the staff. The honored staffer is presented with a $100 check, his or her name inscribed on a plaque in the break room, a round-trip ticket for any domestic location in the United States on Delta Airlines, and a reserved parking place in our garage under the building for six months. It's high praise and great incentive.

Customer service awards. TAPPI's customer service committee has representatives from each department who meet periodically to seek new and better ways of serving our customers, both potential and current, internal and external. The awards are one mechanism for encouraging better service to members. Periodically the committee nominates a staff person to receive a plaque at a staff presentation where they recount the episode that warranted the award. For example, a member called to complain about receiving the wrong document. The staffer realized the member was in the neighborhood, made a copy of the right document, jumped in his car, and delivered it by hand.

We're grateful to TAPPI staff who keep track of our successes as well. Once we honored the customer service committee itself with an ice cream party on the association's outside deck and presented each member with a monogrammed beach towel.

W.L. Cullison, CAE, is executive director of the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry, Atlanta.
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Title Annotation:Good Ideas.
Author:Cullison, W.L.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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