Why Getting A Recognition Award from Your Peers Is Pretty Special

Last week, my colleagues at the IMA Summit Awards Event in Snowbird, Utah, honored me by giving me the Recognition Professionals International’s 2022 Harkins Education Award. 

The RPI Board of Directors gives this award to recognize members who have provided leadership and commitment to RPI’s education initiatives. The Board Executive Committee nominated and approved this behind my back, as I sit on the board as a director.

I was privileged to have my wife, Irene, with me and to sit with colleagues from the field of employee recognition at our dinner table in the front row.

Presentation of a Peer Nominated Award Is Important

David Klein, our current RPI President, stood on the ballroom stage and read the following from the teleprompter:

“Now for our final award. Our Harkins Education Award recognizes members who have provided leadership and commitment to RPI’s education initiatives. 

This year’s recipient of the Harkins Education Award is Roy Saunderson. 

Roy has dedicated his career to being an educator, speaker, and consultant on employee recognition. He founded the Recognition Management Institute in 1996 to show leaders and managers how to give “real recognition for real results.” Through acquisitions, Roy is now the Chief Learning Officer at Engage2Excel. He has also been an active RPI member, leading many webinars and breakout sessions at conferences. Roy is an active member of the RPI Recognition Committee, always providing great feedback as a judge, and offering to mentor or coach any companies that submit and did not meet the standards.”

As I received the crystal award from David, we embraced and he said in my ear, “So well-deserved.” When you receive such an award, you recall every memory of the experience and treasure it. 

It felt very validating for all the work I have done for the past 26-years trying to show people how to give Real Recognition™, the right way, wherever people work. Teaching, writing, and consulting on employee recognition, has allowed me to travel the world. This night was a special moment in my life.

Unlike the Oscars, but similar to many association awards events, there was no opportunity given to say a few words or express thanks. But people took lots of photos from the stage and near our dinner table with my wife and friends. They extended many words of congratulations to me.

Do your homework and capture a contribution summary of the recipient that is fitting for the award being presented. 

Your Peers Understand You and What It Takes 

Speaking of the Oscars, I recall the 88th Oscar’s back in 2016. 

The Academy nominated for the Best Actress Award Brie Larson, for her role in the movie “Room”, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, Cate Blanchett, and Saoirse Ronan in their respective movie roles.

The day after she received the Oscar award for Best Actress, Brie Larson told the Good Morning America hosts, “The nominations mean so much because it comes from your peers, it comes from fellow actors. I was home-schooled and I never really felt like I was part of any group. To be included with people that I respected so much since I was a kid is just absolutely incredible.”

Likewise, receiving the Harkins Education Award from my peers of recognition practitioners and recognition business providers who sit on RPI’s board, was special to me. I have known them for over 16-years now. I love and respect all of them and value their insights on employee recognition practices and programs. This award represented their acknowledgment of my contributions to RPI and to the recognition industry.

Theresa Harkins-Schulz and Roy Saunderson

My friend and fellow RPI board member, Theresa Harkins-Schulz, for whom the award is named after, later posted this comment on social media. Theresa said, “Congratulations Roy! You have challenged me, shown me new ways, and always been willing to help with recognition educational content. You are a wealth of knowledge and a dear friend. Congratulations on all you have accomplished in your career.”

There is deep meaning in this written expression that triggers recollections of work performed, impressive projects completed together, and friendship.

Receiving a formal award nominated by peers who you know well, admire, and enjoy working with is a wonderful experience. It is pretty special being recognized by your peers because:

  • Honored: Your peers are truly honoring everything you have done in your work, for the organization you have served, and you’re being shown respect by the community you are a part of.
  • Celebrated: you are being esteemed as a noted and highly regarded individual by those who know you best in your field for what you do. 
  • Respected: You are admired and highly thought of for the work you do, for the person who you are, and in helping others learn and understand all the things that you know.
  • Valued: You are receiving this award because your peers feel that what you do is important enough that it needs to be acknowledged more broadly.
  • Appreciated: Your peers are grateful to you for all that you have contributed to others and perhaps to a particular organization. 


Receiving a peer nominated award can be and should be one of the most significant and exciting recognition moments in a person’s life. 

  1. The award itself should be regarded by all involved as prestigious and have a clear purpose with well-articulated criteria so people know there’s no favoritism going on.
  2. Whoever is presenting the award should do so carefully. The presenter must be prepared to honor the recipient and respect their wishes and preferences for how they want to be recognized.
  3. Provide opportunities to share the award out through press releases and social media posts to allow comments and commendations from the broader community of the award recipient.
  4. Share the award event internally within your organization for everyone to see the video recording of the award presentation along with any professional photos taken.

Recognition Reflection: How are you magnifying the value and prestige associated with peer nominated awards?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.