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Building a Culture of Peer-Based Recognition

by Kendall Shepherd

Employee recognition is a key ingredient to any successful company. Maintaining an effective program can help support a collaborative company culture, increase employee engagement, improve retention rates, maintain morale and encourage innovation.

Positive reinforcement and a sense of appreciation is something that we as humans crave from a very young age.  We first look to our parents for meaningful affirmation, shortly followed by our teachers, friends, peers, and eventually our colleagues. Recognition not only feels good, but it inspires the continued output of great work. 

Here at Opal, peer-based recognition is the cornerstone for positive reinforcement and celebrating a job well done. It paves our foundation for a culture of recognition that drives employee engagement, trust, and positive growth. 

Here’s an inside look into three approaches we use to encourage peer-to-peer recognition:

The Opal Cup

Standing nearly six feet tall in stature, the Opal Cup is one of our most esteemed employee recognition awards. Presented on a rotating basis at the end of our all-hands bi-monthly meeting, the recipient selects a colleague who they believe has made an outstanding effort worth celebrating. 

Each new recipient then adds a small, meaningful memento to the cup, such as a sticker, figurine, or ornament, to mark their contribution to the Opal legacy. 

And the tradition continues as the Cup makes its way to the next worthy Opalite.

Shoutout Cards

A Shoutout Card is an award given by an employee to another coworker for living out one of (or multiple) company values. Shoutouts are presented publicly at the start of our all-hands meetings, followed by recognition in our internal Opal newsletter.

Every January, Opalites are given a set of seven Shoutout Cards; one for each of our corporate values: Passionate, Steadfast, Intentional, Professional, Empathy, Creative, and Helpful.

The intention is that, over the course of the year, Opalites will shoutout seven fellow peers for going above and beyond, working hard, and living out our company values. Here at Opal, we believe strongly that regular recognition serves as a powerful reminder of who we are, what we strive to be, and that our efforts are noticed and appreciated. 

Here are some examples of recent Shoutouts:


“During our last project you kept the team laser-focused and productive. Thank you for doing what you do with grace and intent. You truly are our teams’ North Star.”

Freddie Carthy, Engineering Manager to Clara Luneke, Product Manager


“Your high level of emotional intelligence and exuberant personality come together seamlessly, resulting in top notch support for both customers and employees.”

– Johanna Wyers, Customer Education and Services Specialist to Allison Park, Customer Success Manager


“You have been beyond helpful in onboarding me at Opal, getting me connected to the team, and helping me navigate the processes. I am grateful and in awe of what you do every day.”

– Donna Schultz, Senior Director of Growth to Kelsey Chan, Customer Success Operations Manager

Summit Awards

The Opal Summit Awards are held once a year to honor seven standout individuals who have served our customers and each other in accordance with Opal’s core values.  Each award winner is hand selected by their peers when awarded a Shoutout Card. The value winner is the individual with the highest number of Shoutouts (in said category) at the end of the year. 

The awards ceremony takes place on the final day of our annual, week-long Summit conference. Each honorary recipient is presented with a plaque, and treated to a special event and dinner with the Opal co-founders.

A Culture of Peer Celebration

Recognition is essential in creating a workplace culture where employees feel engaged, connected, and part of a winning team. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated or expensive to express meaningful gratitude for doing great work. 

From the way we support each other to the thought and craft we put into all our work, Opal’s culture of peer recognition is what makes our workplace where employees thrive. Now that is something worth celebrating.

Sound like a place you want to work? We’re hiring!

About the Author

Kendall Shepherd

Director, People & Culture

Born and raised in Portland, Kendall loves to read, work out, and venture through the Portland food scene with her wife and son.

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