Peter Hart's blog




People respond to something that costs little or nothing, and that something is called recognition. Ed Lawler

Click here for recognition quotes archives

Click here for Mark Twain recognition quote archives

  • Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey B. Mackay One of my Board Members recommended Mr. Mackay's book. It is an easy read but to be frank, I didn't really enjoy it. Let me explain why... Mr. Mackay is in the envelop business. I would imagine this is a pretty tough commodity driven business where a fraction of a penny can make a difference. While he gives many pointers on building relationships somehow they just don't seem to ring true. Yes I'd like to get to know my customers better... but I don't want to read a cheat sheet listing the clients' kids' names just before I visit them just so they are impressed and I'll make a sale. I don't know... perhaps I'm being naive but I do believe that relationships have to be sincere to succeed.


  • True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George I heard Bill George speak a couple of years ago at one of Jay Whitehead's CRO conferences. What a speaker... he spoke for about an hour with no notes or prompts on corporate ethics. I was really impressed but must confess that I was remiss in reading the book I bought that night. I finally got around to it and was not disappointed. Mr. George used real life examples and simple exercises throughout his book to make his case and teach how each one of us can find our True North. This is a very good book. Don't wait two years to read it!





My Photo Peter Hart,
Rideau President and CEO

Transformative. That single word defines the adventurous career of Rideau President and CEO Peter Hart, and the indelible impression he continues to leave on organizations because of his original approach to recognition. A recognition pioneer, Peter spearheads the vision of integrating recognition as a definable, measurable process that makes an impact on employee engagement, retention and performance. As a business leader, Peter has transformed Rideau and led the development of 5 separate corporate start ups. The approach has positioned Rideau among the world’s best recognition providers.



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People Artistry

For those of you who don’t know my good friend David Zinger, he is a very remarkable man. Based in Winnipeg, he founded the Employee Engagement Network. Please see Today, David hosts over 6,300 members on the Employee Engagement Network.

David has written 3 books on engagement and over 2,500 blog posts. Don Macpherson of Modern Survey called David “the Switzerland of Employee Engagement”, while Vetter ranked David’s site as the number one employee engagement blog, stating “this man is the Michael Jordan of employee engagement”. I consider David to be one of the world’s top experts on employee engagement.


Last year I got a call from David… “We should write an e-book together”. Normally, I would have laughed the idea off but this was David, and over the years I have learned to take him very, very seriously!

So we kicked around the idea and gradually, the book became a reality. The title, “The Ennoblement Imperative: People Artistry” comes from two terms that David and I have used for quite a bit of time. Both of us think that helping to recognize and engage people is a noble cause, hence the Ennoblement Imperative. Both of us firmly believe that managing people is an art, thus came People Artistry.

Our objective in writing this book is to provide 10 Practices and 8 Tools that everyone can use to bring out the best in people and themselves.
I hope you enjoy our little book and get as much pleasure out of reading it as we did in creating it!
The Ennoblement Imperative: People Artistry

Why You Need a Recognition Strategy

Having a well defined recognition strategy is the first and arguably the most important element of Recognition Professionals International’s (RPI) Seven Best Practice Standards.


Simply put, recognition programs which do not align with overall corporate strategies are impossible to defend and inevitably end up being considered an expense instead of an investment. In hard times, these aimless programs are among the first things to be cut.

Any well thought out recognition strategy that ties into your corporation’s business objectives or mission, vision and values is much more readily defensible because senior management can see the link between your strategy and their business objectives.

Corporations will always try and cut expenses, but most will do their utmost to defend investments they believe will help grow the business and deliver profits to shareholders.

RPI's second Best Standard is to have senior management buy-in and support for your recognition strategy. If your recognition strategy is linked to senior management’s business strategies, it makes it much more likely that someone in the C-Suite will act as your recognition champion.

So here are a few tips… take a hard look at your current recognition programs. Do you have a written recognition strategy? Does this strategy align and link up with your senior leadership’s business objectives? Do your leaders understand the strategy and its linkages? Do your leaders actively support your recognition programs?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, you should invest some serious time and effort on your recognition strategy, otherwise, you might find yourself considered an expense… and we all know what happens to expenses!

Dan Pink - Rethinking Carrots and Sticks

One of my favorite websites is

TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design.” The group started out in 1984 and has a loyal following because it organizes conferences that bring together some of the world’s brightest people who are challenged to make an outstanding presentation in 18 minutes!

Dan Pink, a lawyer by training and a former speechwriter for Al Gore is one of the bright people who accepted the TED challenge. He gave a TED talk last summer at Oxford University on “Rethinking the Ideology of Carrots and Sticks” in the workplace.

Everyone in the incentive field should watch the clip for no other reason than Dan challenges many conventional beliefs on workplace incentives. Basically, he says there is a huge mismatch between what social science has proven about extrinsic “carrot” incentives and what business practices. Dan states that carrots can hinder our abilities because we focus far too much on the incentive to the exclusion of everything else. In other words, extrinsic incentives can suppress and distort our innate intrinsic values.

Dan has a book called, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”.

Dan believes that “Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose” are key intrinsic motivation drivers. I understand where he is coming from and think Dan makes some very valid points!

We need a new paradigm that goes beyond the traditional carrot and stick approach. One that will unlock employees' intrinsic drivers and create environments that allow them to grow as individuals, because when they grow, so do our companies.

One of my favorite websites is

“Progress is Impossible Without Change” – George Bernard Shaw

Next year will mark my fortieth year as a CEO.  As you can imagine, during that time there have been many ups and downs in the business.  Some that took us to new highs… others that could have ended the business.
I like to say that the only thing that has remained “constant” throughout my long business career has been “change”.
Some of these changes have been because of external factors beyond my control.  For instance, there is little I or anyone else can do to change the world economy or the price of gold.  However, many other changes have been driven by internal factors that are entirely within our control.  For instance, taking on more space, opening a new sales office or launching a new product or program are changes that we drive.
There are two options that we can make when faced with change… we can embrace it or we can fight it.  Most of us are not comfortable with change and it is not always easy to manage. 

Sometimes I struggle with change too and because of this, I have kept the following quotation right in front of me. 

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”
- George Bernard Shaw

Over the years Rideau has evolved.  The company my folks bought in 1968 no longer exists… indeed the company my siblings and Cam Ferguson bought in 1978 no longer exists.  The same thing is true for the company we were in 1982... and that of 1989… and several times since. 
Many of our competitors are gone, but we are still here.  Why… because rather than fighting change, we embraced it and followed the opportunities that opened because of it.
Change has transformed us from being a manufacturer of costume jewelry and promotional products and given us the opportunity to become one of the world’s leaders in customer loyalty and employee recognition programs. 
But we are not resting on our laurels.  More changes will come as new markets open and our solutions continue to evolve.  Change dictates all of these things and never stops.
I’m proud of what we have accomplished over the years and am thankful that I’ve been surrounded by so many innovative and creative people who have not been afraid of change.
Over the years Rideau has evolved.

Cultural Diversity & Recognition

Rideau’s latest employee census puts us at 230 strong and we have a very diverse employee population.

Here are some interesting stats from our HR department:
• 50.2% of our employee base are women.
• 34.7% of our employees belong to a visible minority.
• We come from 39 different nationalities… from American to Vincentian.
• We are based in Montreal, the French speaking part of Canada. This means we work in French and English. But because our employees come from all over the world we have many employees who speak several languages at work and in the home. At last count, we speak 23 languages from Arabic to Vietnamese.
• We are also very family oriented… there are 26 different families representing 67 employees working at Rideau.
• I don’t have the latest stats on “best friends” working at the company, but I do know over 12% of new hires have come from our own internal employee referral program.

I believe Rideau’s makeup gives us a huge competitive advantage because we have to deal with cultural diversity everyday single day. Many of our client's struggle with this diversity but often, it is in distant faraway lands. At Rideau, it’s up close and personal. I’d like to explain how we deal with cultural diversity internally but first I’d like to turn to Dr. Geert Hofstede.

Dr. Geert Hofstede is a Dutchman who has done extensive work on how the workplace is influenced by culture differences. I learned a bit about Dr. Hofstede’s work when I took Recognition Professionals International’s CRP certification courses. But I only truly started understanding his work when I read “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell. This book details the tragic flight of Korean Airlines flight 801 which crashed into a mountain side on the island of Guam. Mr. Gladwell takes us step by step through the events leading up to crash and validates the quote on Dr. Hoftede’s homepage… "Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster." In this case, 228 people lost their lives.

In a nutshell, Malcolm Gladwell details how Korean culture inhibited the co-pilot and navigator from telling the pilot what they really thought he should be doing to avert disaster. What I found fascinating was how Korean Air put Dr. Hofstede’s work to practical use after the crash to prevent the same occurrence again and improve safety. They looked for something that would act as a leveler so the crew could speak freely and not worry about longstanding cultural norms. That leveler turned out to be English. Korean Air insisted that everyone speak English in the cockpit. This took everyone out of their “Korean comfort zone” and allowed people to speak freely.

Language is one of the levelers we use at Rideau to deal with cultural diversity.

The other is recognition. Here are some of the practical things that we do…

• We recognize everyone’s service anniversary annually. It doesn’t matter if you have 4 years or 26 years of service. On a person’s actual service anniversary, regardless of the number of years, department, position, nationality, location, language or position in Rideau you can be sure quite a few people are going to reach out and congratulate you.
• Likewise, we do the same for birthdays.
• We conduct internal Platinum Tours at Rideau. It is not uncommon to have senior folks and junior folks sitting on these tours. I once had a very senior 18 year employee sitting beside the cleaner who swept the floors and only been at Rideau for four weeks on a Platinum Tour. (Today that cleaner is a star in our call center)

Recognition is our great leveler…

Respect everyone. Appreciate everyone for who they are. Recognize everyone for what they do each and every day.

The beauty about recognition is that it can be used locally, nationally and internationally.

Embrace and celebrate diversity. Use recognition to level it out.

Rideau latest employee census puts us at 230 strong and we have a very diverse employee population.

Avoid Recognition Breakage!

Breakage is a term used to indicate gift cards that have been sold but never redeemed. Revenue from breakage is very profitable because companies do not provide any goods or services for the unredeemed gift cards. Breakage is also a factor in many point based programs where a company pays for points up front, however this post deals with gift cards.

Gift card breakage is huge…

TowerGroup, a financial-services research firm estimated that 10% or $8 billion of the $80 billion spent on gift cards in 2006 will never be redeemed! Consumer Reports estimates the amount is even higher! They say in 2005, 19% of people who received gift cards never used them.

Some gift card retailers have also imposed conditions on gift cards, such as expiration dates or monthly service fees that periodically reduce the value of the gift card. However, many States have passed (or plan to pass) legislation which outlaws expiry dates and fees or charges of any sort on gift cards.

How does this affect your recognition and reward program?

Well, if you hand out gift cards as a reward, realize that a significant portion of your recipients will never use them! I call this “reward breakage.” And while it’s not a good thing at least the recipient has the “value” of the gift card in his or her hands and it’s up to them whether to use it or not.

In my opinion, “recognition breakage” is much worse.

These are schemes whereby providers send out “recognition award certificates” that can be exchanged for a variety of gift cards. These “recognition award certificates” often have an expiry date attached to them… usually one year. While the law and legislation is much murkier when it comes to “recognition award certificates” one thing is clear… these providers are hoping recipients never, ever, exchange them for actual gift cards!

I find it ironic these “providers” call themselves “recognition experts” because the bottom line is they really do not want recipients to pick up their “rewards”!

We have come across several cases of companies who complain they don’t get reports from these providers. No wonder! Why would these providers want to reveal the fact that a significant portion of the “recognition award certificates” are not exchanged.

It’s called recognition breakage! Avoid it!

Gift card breakage is huge!!!

Let’s Hear it for a Recognition Bill of Rights!

I love history because it teaches us so much. Not only about the past, but about today as well as the future… who hasn’t heard the expression, “history repeats itself?”

One very interesting document I’ve read is America’s Bill of Rights. It contained the first ten amendments to the US Constitution and was introduced by James Madison. It came into effect in 1791 and became a model for many other countries that passed bills outlining individual rights.

That got me thinking… there ought to be a Recognition Bill of Rights for the workplace.

My Recognition Bill of Rights would start out with a preamble that states all employees should be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace.

It would articulate that employees should be appreciated for who they are and what they do.

It would go on to affirm that recognition should not be left to the discretionary whims of managers.

It would declare that recognition in the workplace is a “right” for everyone in the workplace!

My Recognition Bill of Rights

Recognition's Kiss of Death

Over 90% of all North American companies have recognition programs. Yet 60% of all employees do not feel recognized.

These stats speak volumes and are a powerful indictment against how we have traditionally approached recognition in the workplace.

I believe most companies are way too concerned with “what” rewards they give as opposed to “why” they give them in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. Rewards are very important. However, they must be strategically thought out. They must complement the recognition that is being given. Many times, companies will offer rewards that are inappropriate to a recognition program’s objectives.

What drives companies to include inappropriate rewards in their programs? Often, it’s simply a case of employees pressuring senior management. Program administrators should push back on “shot gun reward” requests by explaining the strategy behind their recognition strategy. Make sure that your senior management understand that their job is to explain “why” these rewards are being given in the first place.

Don’t let inappropriate rewards become your recognition program’s kiss of death!

Over 90% of all North American companies have recognition programs. Yet 60% of all employees do not feel recognized.

Recognition Training is Useless…

Yes, you read it right! But let me explain.

It’s a question of putting the “why” before the “how” in terms of the recognition paradigm.

All too often we try and train managers “how” to recognize employees before they fully understand “why” they are recognizing them in the first place!

Simply put, we must educate managers “why” recognition is important before we train them “how” to do it.

In my experience there are three broad categories of recognition education:

1. There are those managers who understand the why and “get it” completely. They make recognition a part of their daily lives.
2. The second category consists of the managers who do recognize others in the workplace but do not consciously realize it.
3. The last group consists of managers who do not recognize others. They believe recognition has no value and create a variety of reasons not to use this strategic tool. More often than not, they don’t understand why recognition is important because they never experienced it themselves.

Obviously, recognition education must be tailored to suit the needs of each group but it is CRITICAL to educate managers “why” recognition is important before you start training them “how” to do it.

I believe recognition often fails because we have trained too many managers to go through the motions without understanding the real reasons why we do it. This understanding leads to Real Recognition… a phrase my friend and colleague Roy Saunderson coined many years ago.

Yes, you read it right! But let me explain.

An Invitation to Join Me in New Orleans!

Recognition Professionals International's Annual Sharing Conference April 28 – May 1, 2013
Recognition Professionals International (RPI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to growing employee recognition in the workplace. The organization consists of both practitioners and providers. (Please see
Rideau has been an active member of Recognition Professionals International (RPI) since 2001 as well as a Platinum sponsor for a number of years now, the main reason being that we really believe in the organization. Many of my colleagues have served on the Board or on the various committees. I’m proud to say that over 60 of my colleagues have become Certified Recognition Professionals (CRP), which is the largest number of CRPs from any one company.
Every year, RPI organizes a conference and many of the world’s leading recognition experts come together to share industry best practices.  This year’s conference is being held in New Orleans at the Riverside Hilton from April 28th to May 1st and it is shaping up to be one of the best ever! 
Two of my colleagues; Roy Saunderson and S. Max Brown from Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute are speaking in breakout sessions. 
Roy’s session is taking place on Monday, April 29, 2013 from 3:30pm - 4:30pm. His topic will is “Decoupling Recognition & Rewards”. This is an important topic because all too often folks use the words “recognition” and “rewards” synonymously but they are two very different things.
Max’s session will take place on Tuesday, April 30 from 2:00pm – 3:00pm. He will be presenting with Steve Richardson who is the Manager of Recognition Programs for RBC Financial Group, a Rideau client since 1991. Their chosen topic will be on: "How Social Media Impacts Recognition Results."(maybe want to add time here as well?)
Please join me and my colleagues in New Orleans for the best recognition happening of the year!
Recognition Professionals International's Annual Sharing Conference April 28 May 1, 2013
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