Your strategic plan and KPIs give you a way of tracking progress towards shared goals. But what happens when you start moving the needle? Too often, organizations forget the critical final step: Celebrating Their Wins.

Here, we’ll share why a culture of celebration is so important—and how to foster one in your organization.

A culture of celebration motivates your team


Recognizing specific employees and teams demonstrates them that their contributions make a difference. It also shows their peers that good work is both noticed and appreciated.

Stopping to acknowledge a win can reinvigorate staff by lifting them out of the day-to-day. These pauses provide a chance to reflect and refocus on the work ahead.

Celebrations also help bond teams together and make work more fun.

What's the best way to celebrate employee accomplishments? 

Ask them what is important to them! Showing appreciation can take different forms—it’s a matter of what is most relevant to that individual or team. You may consider:

  • Events, such as after-work drinks, karaoke nights or barbecues that include spouses and families;
  • Physical tokens, such as thank you cards or decorating someone’s desk with balloons;
  • Informal recognition, done verbally, by email or in a common chat thread;
  • Formal recognition, including awards or programs or posting an employee’s photo on your website or social media;
  • Taking a moment during meetings, especially meetings devoted to tracking progress, and single out those that have overdelivered. Some companies start meetings by opening the floor for employees to give shout-outs to peers.

Develop habits that encourage employees to recognize one-another. A true culture shift comes from staff as well as leadership.

Three companies who do it well

SpaceX: Elon Musk’s aerospace company is famed for its long work days as well as a culture of appreciation for its hard-working staff. SpaceX provide free meals, coffee and frozen yogurt, and put on special showings of space-y movies like Gravity and The Martian. There are holiday parties with indoor beaches, adult-sized ball pits and walls of donuts. Most meaningful of all, however, are the moments of collective pride when employees gather together for launches to see the culmination of all their hard work.

Vanderbilt University: Vanderbilt has prioritized employee appreciation, with a team working year-round to plan programs and events. These reflect the school’s culture, from football tailgate parties to tours of the university’s celebrated observatory. At an annual awards ceremony, leaders recognize employees for their length of service, leadership or performance—and hand out cash rewards.

Southwest Airlines: Southwest takes the happiness of its employees seriously and has a robust recognition and awards program to prove it. Employees are encouraged to recognize one another, and they do: the company receives thousands of commendations each year. Employees are also often featured in the airline’s internal newsletters and intranet, as well as publicly in the company’s magazine and commercials.

Remember: cultural shift is a marathon, not a sprint

Some organizations intent on changing culture plan one-off parties right out of the gate. While some quick improvements can be a great way to signal a shift, it's important to remember that consistency is key when it comes to changing culture. Ensure that no major milestone or project completion passes without some form of acknowledgement.

While it will take some effort, a culture of appreciation is key to keeping staff engaged—and it has serious positive effects on the success of your organization.

Looking for more? Check out our webinar on the role of culture in strategic planning.