May 13, 2008

Intuit's Successful Employee Recognition Strategy


Southborough, Mass., and Dublin, Ireland – May 13, 2008 – It takes more than the occasional pat on the back, “thank you,” or even a gift card to create a successful employee reward and recognition program. It takes a strategy.

A new case study developed at the Stanford Graduate School of Business proves this with the first-ever examination of how a strategic, employee recognition program can go beyond rewards, and help companies create a performance-driven culture and motivate thousands of people around the world.

In the study, the Stanford Graduate School of Business teamed up with Globoforce, Inc., to evaluate the successful strategic employee recognition program at financial software and services provider Intuit, Inc. Globoforce is a leading worldwide provider of on-demand, global, strategic employee recognition solutions.

The case study found that Intuit’s employee recognition program “Spotlight” helped create an exciting performance-driven culture in just three years. “Spotlight” also helped motivate Intuit’s workforce of 8,200 global employees through relevant, meaningful, on-the-spot rewards that are tied to company values. Globoforce provided strategic guidance, as well as the technology behind the program.

"The ‘Spotlight’ program nicely brings into focus two related issues: is recognition valued when it is scarce, or does it work better when it is frequent, and whether recognition works best when it is a 'surprise' or when it is expected by employees," said Hayagreeva Rao, the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The study demonstrated the effectiveness of Intuit’s strategic “Spotlight” program, which produced:

  • More rewards: Awards given at Intuit jumped by 400 percent within the first three months.
  • More recipients: 85-90 percent of all eligible Intuit employees received an award within two years.
  • Immediate recognition: Company wide rewards immediately recognized a job well done. Rewards were linked to business outcomes, uniting employees behind a common goal.
  • More choices: “Spotlight” provided a variety of gift card options, which were preferred over cash, enabling employees to choose from thousands of desirable, locally relevant gifts in the categories of stores, restaurants, entertainment and travel outlets – even charitable donations.
  • Widespread acceptance: By the end of 2007, the program was ingrained into Intuit’s culture.

"Saying ‘thank you’ in a meaningful way is a powerful lever as part of an organization's overall performance feedback mechanisms," said Jim Grenier, Vice President, Human Resources, Intuit. "Having the right tools that are easy for employees to use can increase adoption of a rewards program. Most importantly, however, is how the different pieces of a program are all connected to drive the right messages to teams and individuals, while building momentum for success and growth."

The Intuit “Spotlight” business case, used as a teaching tool in a new course at Stanford Business School on managing employees for competitive advantage, is designed to help graduate business students understand how employee recognition can positively influence a company’s culture and bottom line.

“Employee recognition may seem easy to implement, but most companies wrestle with the how,” said Eric Mosley, CEO, Globoforce. “This study illustrates the power of employee recognition done right. Intuit’s program united employees around core values, empowered its workforce to publicly recognize others, and rewarded employees with desirable gift cards. Moreover, it was championed by management and reinforced through ongoing communications. These are the keys to widespread adoption and shaping a performance-driven culture.”



Intuit’s management viewed employee recognition as a major opportunity to create excitement and momentum within the organization’s culture and ultimately impact the company’s performance. However, while Intuit’s “Spotlight” program was highly successful right from the start, it was not the company’s first attempt at employee recognition. Three years earlier, Intuit launched a catalog-based rewards program that saw strong initial success but stalled within the first year. Plaguing the program was employee feedback that catalog items were too expensive, electronic gift items were outdated and delivery time on gifts was too long. The program remained at a static, ineffective level for three years, with 5,000-5,500 awards given in the organization annually.

Management revamped the program, largely based on manager and employee feedback. Intuit selected Globoforce to provide a strategic, on-demand solution, and the two created Intuit’s program to spotlight performance, innovation and service dedication at Intuit. “Spotlight” was an immediate success, with 20,000 rewards given in the first year and 26,000 the following year. Eighty-five percent of Intuit’s employees received awards each year, and employee opinion surveys showed that employees felt their accomplishments were recognized by the company. By the end of 2007, the program was embedded into the company’s culture.

To download an executive summary and brief of the study, please visit

Full text of Case Study HR31, titled "Employee Recognition at Intuit," can be purchased from the Stanford Graduate School of Business ( for $6 per copy ($2.95 for academic use). Or contact the Stanford Business School Case Writing Office by e-mail at or by mail at:

Case Writing Office
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Stanford University
518 Memorial Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015


Press Contact

Jenna West
Public Relations


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