Creating an Employee Recognition Program Fit for Atomic

We just launched an employee recognition program to honor Atoms who do something noteworthy, and to recognize ongoing hard work and dedication. Check out the new Recognitions section on each Atom’s bio to see which honors they’ve received.

The program has two types of awards:

  • Protons recognize an Atom for doing something that exemplifies one of our six values. Any Atom can nominate a colleague for a Proton. For example, an Atom might receive an “Own It” Proton when they’ve gone above and beyond to create value for a client. Or they might present a “Give a Shit” Proton when a peer organizes an event to give back to our community, etc.
  • Neutrons recognize tenure or participation in significant Atomic milestones. They are given out by managers. We’re starting with a small set of Neutrons—recognizing years of service, significant company anniversaries, and attending Atomic Con. And we expect the collection to grow over time.

We present Protons and Neutrons in company standups. Atoms receive the admiration of their colleagues, a certificate detailing the award, a custom-designed coin to commemorate the event, and a digital rendition of the award on their website bio.

Program Goals

The recognition program has three main goals:

  • To help us express appreciation for our colleagues’ hard work. Atoms are often so excited about the next project or the next challenge that we don’t take time to celebrate success along the way. We’d like to do more celebrating.
  • To keep our values front-of-mind by identifying and sharing noteworthy examples. Atoms hear about and get inspired by the great things folks are doing around the company. The program creates a discovery mechanism to hep new Atoms learn how we apply our values in practice.
  • To recognize distinguished Atoms who’ve helped build the company over long, successful careers. Because of our flat structure, veteran Atoms who’ve honed their skills over a decade or more share the same job title with folks who are just embarking on their careers. We want to formally call out their contributions and achievements.

Program Guidelines

It’s easy to design a recognition program that folks don’t find very meaningful, so we started our design process by identifying key principles. Three stood out as the most important:

  1. The program must reflect Atomic’s culture.
    Programs like these don’t change culture, so they must provide an accurate reflection of the existing culture. The program has to feel Atomic in its process, aesthetics, and intent, or Atoms will rightly reject it. Incentives created by the program must be aligned with the goals we really have for each other.
  2. The process must be simple.
    Atoms have to be excited to engage with the system if it’s going to be a success. This means that the model must be easy to understand and use. We’re looking forward to learning what works and growing the set of awards over time, but it’s important that we can always explain it to a new Atom in a few sentences. It also needs to be simple to manage, so that it’s a joy for the folks running it.
  3. The awards must be available to all Atoms.
    Every Atom is essential to our success as a company. It’s really important to us that we don’t reward a particular set of skills and marginalize Atoms in specialized roles. Value-based awards present a nice way to include all of our Atoms.

So there we are. We hope you enjoy reading about the cool things Atoms are doing and that the awards provide insight into our interests and values.