We may be biased, but we think XMI is a great place to work. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that we ask employees to “enjoy the journey, have fun and remember nothing of significance in this world is accomplished alone.” That’s straight out of one of our favorite core values, which color our every action and interaction at XMI. By recognizing and celebrating our successes, both big and small, we’re able to make work feel a little less like work and a little more like fun. Here, Lane Fenner, SVP of operations for XMI, shares a few of his favorite ways to reward employees.

1. Daily recognition 

Fill-in-the-blank shout-out cards sit on the center of every meeting table, making it easy for team members to recognize each other when they demonstrate an XMI core value.

Once the meeting begins, the shout-outs are read aloud for all to hear. “It’s something small, but it has a big impact,” Fenner says. “The immediate value is the appreciation someone feels when they’re initially called out. But there’s a long-term benefit, too. Using our core values on a daily, meeting-by-meeting basis keeps us grounded in what we decided really matters.”

2. Hero of the month

Shout-out cards are collected at the end of the meetings and the number of shout-outs are tallied up each month. The team member with the most shout-outs receives the Hero of the Month award. Not only does the hero get a $100 cash bonus, he or she also has bragging rights all month long thanks to a glass cube inscribed with the employee’s name.

3. Social breaks

From birthday celebration “cake breaks” to monthly social hours, complete with a signature cocktail and mocktail, XMI employees get a regular opportunity to pull over during the workweek and just have fun with one another. Other recent examples include Ping Pong tournaments, Fantasy Football huddles and an offsite all-employee picnic.

4. Flexible schedules

Flexible work schedules are one of the most sought-after employee benefits and a favorite way to reward employees. In Nashville where traffic can be horrendous, the perk is particularly popular. New this year, XMI employees can work a day each week from home in a schedule they work out their manager. “For some of our employees who face a daily commute of one to three hours, it’s a real blessing,” Fenner says. “And the fact is we have the tools and the technology to make everyone as productive as they would be in the office.” To take advantage of it, employees have to be at XMI for at least 90 days and it can’t be a day they’re needed in the office, say, when a client is in town or there’s a team meeting.

5. Project-related rewards

Fall is an especially busy time at XMI, because it’s open enrollment season for most companies. That means it’s all-hands-on-deck for at least an eight-week stretch. This busy open enrollment season makes it hard for the benefits team to take full advantage of the work-from-home perk, but Fenner has already thought up other ways to shower them with appreciation. “I don’t want to give it away, but we have something special planned just for them, to thank them for their hard work,” he says.

6. The gift of service

The XMI team recently took a road trip to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, where they volunteered their time and talents on behalf of the 11 elephants who call the sanctuary home. Previous projects have been with the Nashville Public Library, Operation Stand Down and Susan G. Komen. While not a reward, per se, Fenner says the opportunity is definitely rewarding—both for employees and for the company. A study by Blackbaud found that employees who regularly volunteer tend to feel more loyalty to their company and feel proud of working for the company compared to employees who don’t volunteer.

7. Hand-written appreciation

Fenner keeps a box of thank you cards by his desk and occasionally pulls one out to write a personal thank-you note. It’s usually when an XMI employee does something extraordinary, like execute a new project flawlessly or take time out of their day to mentor a new coworker. Even though it’s meant for the employee, the reward cuts both ways, Fenner says.

“When you write a personal note, it’s more meaningful than almost any inanimate object you could give someone. It feels good to receive one and it feels good to write one, too.”


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