Editor’s Note: The full 2012 Top Places to Work rankings, top company profiles, and more will be featured in a special 44-page magazine available in the Boston Sunday Globe and at www.bostonglobe.com/topplaces starting Sunday.
The large monitor in the lobby of Globoforce is filled with a cascading stream of recognition for employees who go the extra mile: working late, delivering a project early, lending a hand, sharing knowledge.
Each recognition is followed by a string of congratulations from fellow employees, a veritable Twitter stream of affirmation.
For a company in the business of employee appreciation, Globoforce does indeed practice what it preaches: It is the number one small business in this year’s Top Places to Work. Appropriately enough, Globoforce scored especially well in making employees feel appreciated and in making them feel part of something meaningful.
“This company is unlike any I’ve ever worked for,” said Jen Sartor, 43, a product marketing manager, who singled out Globoforce for its “culture of recognition.”
Sartor was recently recognized for the way she delivered product training, her work on a large proposal, and contributions to a new sales tool. That latter achievement prompted congratulation messages from 18 colleagues displayed throughout the Southborough company.
Sartor is a repeat honoree, her name is up in lights at least once every few weeks. She receives rewards worth between $50 and $100for each recognition, which she can save up towards a larger purchase — in her case, a trip to Disney World.
“I’m not one to search for the limelight,” she said, “but it really is nice to know that my work is recognized, that it’s appreciated and is having an impact.”
Here’s how the system works: An employee can nominate a colleague for laudable behavior, and a company manager has to approve it for an award. The honoree receives an e-mail explaining the award — in the words of the nominating colleagues.
Employees can save up their awards and redeem them through Globoforce’s global rewards network, which offers thousands of options, including gift cards to Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Legal Sea Foods.
Globoforce started in 1999 as a service to manage gift-giving across countries. Soon after, it focused on multinational companies, which could use the company’s gift card relationships with thousands of merchants to distribute employee gifts.
“What we discovered when we launched the service,” said cofounder and chief executive Eric Mosley, “was that companies not only needed help with the gifts, they needed help figuring out how and when to distribute the gifts.”
So Globoforce expanded its mission to help companies manage employee recognition. Today, clients include Amgen Inc. and JetBlue Airways.
Globoforce’s approach differs from traditional employee recognition programs.
“The problem is that when you choose three people out of a hundred for the winners circle, that leaves 97 people in the ‘losers’ category,” said Mosley. “Our idea is to expand the winners circle.”
Globoforce does that by dramatically increasing the pace of recognitions. A high-performing employee at Globoforce, or at one its customers, can receive nominations every few weeks. For some, the rewards can add up to thousands of dollars a year.
The rewards can’t be used for everyday items — for a reason.
“No grocery store gift cards or help paying your utility bills,” said Mosley. “We want it to be something special.”
Globoforce has around 200 employees in the United States and Dublin, with about 50 in Southborough.
Alice Ferguson, 40, director of Globoforce’s account management team for North America, was recognized twice recently for helping out on new business pitches. She averages about one recognition every month; in turn, she generally nominates at least one colleague weekly.
Last year she used her rewards to pay for a weekend in Florida for her and her sister.
“It’s all about the praise,” she said. “That makes this a positive place to be.”