A new approach needed to employee awards

Hi fellow people geeks. I’m reviewing our annual employee awards as we want to make them more exciting and engaging, and more connected to how we want our values and culture to be felt and expressed.

Does anyone have a programme in place which has more innovative and exciting categories but without it feeling cheesy or patronising? Or any examples from elsewhere? Any best in practice?

Thanks :slight_smile:


Hi Georgina - At Zocdoc we the ZVAs (Zocdoc Values Awards), which is an annual awards/variety show where we recognize Zocdoc’rs for living each of our six core values (we say it’s our version of the Oscars, though it’s probably somewhere between the Oscars and the Dundees - for The Office fans). It’s evolved into quite the production and is one of the most beloved Zocdoc traditions. I’d break it down into a few sections and what makes it work:

  • Comedic intro: We typically have two “hosts” who help all of the elements flow together - if this is the Oscars they’re like Jimmy Kimmel. They usually have a starting section where we make fun of all of the blunders from the year + some bits throughout the show. We work really hard to ensure these bits are laugh out loud funny. It makes for a really cathartic moment for the team to all laugh at the happenings of the past year together.
  • Singing and dancing: You read that right, we have a number of performances (2 - 3) where we change the lyrics to popular songs (think Beyonce’s Formation, Adelle’s Hello, Justin Beiber’s Go and love yourself). Somehow we have an insanely talented group of team members who come together to lyricize and sing these live + for some we choreograph dances and team members perform alongside the singers.
  • State of the company: Our CEO gives an approximately 20 minute state of the business. The content varies year by year, but by in large the feedback is positive and the team enjoys hearing his perspective on where we’re at and where we’re going.
  • The awards: Last, but certainly not least, we have our Core Values awards. For each value, there are 5 nominees and 1 winner. They’re peer-nominated and we pick the nominees and winners based on a combination of the quality and quantity of nominations, which are approved by our board. Our Executives are then paired up and create funny intro bits for each award and announce the winners.

There are a few reasons why I think this works:

  • Our willingness to make fun of ourselves. Though we definitely have some cheese, combining it with the sarcasm has worked really well for us and leaves people feeling light and optimistic about the year ahead.
  • It’s by the people, for the people. I produce the show, but all in there are somewhere around 50 Zocdoc’rs involved in the production. It really feels special because of that. Also, people are simply blown away by their colleague’s talents.
  • The actual awards are coveted. Only 30 team members are nominated and 6 win, so actually winning an award means a lot to people.

I hope this is helpful! Happy to discuss more and would love to hear about what others do. We’re actually thinking about how we can find other ways to throughout the year to recognize team members. Would be great to learn what other folks do year-round.


Hi Shoshana. Many thanks for your reply. It sounds like you all have a lot of fun with this! It must help to create and reinforce a feeling of ‘togetherness’ for everyone.

You mention your Core Values awards. Is each award named after the value it represents, or something different? I’m really interested to see what categories people are using for the awards. Best Customer Service, for example, feels rather ‘old hat’. I want to make sure that we put employees at the heart of the awards and make them about them!!


We do have a lot of fun with it! Yes, each award is named for each Core Value, so for example, our number 1 Core Value is Patients First, so we give out a Patients First award.

I recommend connecting the awards back to your Core Values, or similar framework. it helps reinforce those values, but also brings them to life.