How rewards and recognition structures build ethical workplace culture


What you'll learn on this podcast episode

Rewards and recognition are key tools for building an ethical workplace culture. Leveraging these creates a positive feedback loop and reinforces stated goals and standards. But what does successfully engaging employees through rewards and recognition structures look like in practice? How can these efforts catalyze values in action? In this episode of the Principled Podcast, Dr. Arieana Thompson, ethical culture advisor at LRN, discusses rewards and recognition structures with Alyssa Menard-Szacilo, a global strategic customer success manager at Alteryx. Listen in as the two explore how effective rewards and recognition structures foster ethical culture and inspire values-aligned behaviors in the workplace.

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Guest: Alyssa Menard-Szacilo

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo – Grayscale

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo is an accomplished global customer success manager at Alteryx with extensive experience in data analytics and customer experience. She holds a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Colorado and a bachelor's degree in psychology and criminal justice from Norwich University. 

Alyssa has played a key role in driving customer engagement and delivering measurable value to clients. She is committed to helping others succeed and is highly regarded by her colleagues and peers. In the last year Alyssa has received the Rookie of the Quarter and the Global Newcomer of the Year awards. 

Overall, Alyssa is a highly skilled and dedicated global customer success manager, committed to delivering exceptional results for clients and helping organizations achieve their goals. She brings a unique combination of expertise, experience, and passion to every project she undertakes, making her a valuable asset to her clients. 

Host: Arieana Thompson, PhD


Dr. Arieana Thompson believes in positively transforming the modern-day workplace through thought-provoking, evidence-based insights.

Arieana is a subject matter expert in executive leadership, succession management, ethics and compliance (E&C), wellness cultures, and employee growth. Arieana has experience advising in internal and external settings and professional speaking. Arieana is a Certified Positive Intelligence Coach (CPQC), helping leaders and individuals to cultivate self-awareness, harness natural strengths, and reduce stress.

As a scientist-practitioner, Arieana researches and publishes well-being, culture, and leadership thought pieces in industry and peer-reviewed academic journals. These publications enable executives to create and sustain values-led, profitable, and creative companies.


Principled Podcast transcription

Intro: Welcome to the Principled Podcast brought to you by LRN. The Principled Podcast brings together the collective wisdom on ethics, business and compliance, transformative stories of leadership and inspiring workplace culture. Listen in to discover valuable strategies from our community of business leaders and workplace change makers.

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Rewards and recognition are key tools for building an ethical workplace culture. Leveraging these creates a positive feedback loop and reinforces stated goals and standards. Reward structures are formally established in performance management systems, but recognition could be delivered either formally or informally. Taken together, rewards and recognition can empower and motivate employees, and drive both job satisfaction and performance. How do we successfully engage employees and inspire principled performance through effective rewards and recognition structures? What does this look like in practice? How can these efforts catalyze values in action? 

Hello, and welcome to another episode of LRN's Principled Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Arieana Thompson, Ethical Advisor, LRN. Today I'm joined by Alyssa Menard-Szacilo, a Global Strategic Customer Success Manager at Alteryx. We're going to be talking about rewards and recognition and how it fosters ethical culture and inspires values aligned behaviors in the workplace. Alteryx may well be considered a leader in this space, recently named as an Awesome Company in AI 2022 by DBTA and one of the most innovative companies in data science by Fast Company. Alyssa, thanks for coming on the Principled Podcast. 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Thanks. I'm so happy to be here with you today. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: We are happy to have you. First, I'd love to help listeners understand a little more about Alteryx. Could you describe Alteryx's mission, values and culture in your own words?

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah, absolutely. At Alteryx, our goal is really to enable everyone to deliver breakthrough outcomes with analytics automation by empowering knowledge workers to become citizen data scientists. At Alteryx, our core values are customer first, accountability, equality, integrity, and empowerment. At Alteryx, our customers are always the first thing we think about when making decisions and stay top of mind in everything we do. We choose to hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards and work with integrity. We create a culture of equality and work to empower ourselves and those around us to succeed in anything they set their minds to. And we try to have a blast along the way. Alteryx has succeeded in creating a first in class culture for both employees and customers by living and working through our core values every day. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Wow. That seems like a great place to work. And from your LinkedIn post and the discussions we've had, I have been impressed with how Alteryx recognizes and rewards its workforce. Do you mind describing some of the ways that Alteryx supports and empowers employees? 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah. At Alteryx we actually have a quite robust reward and recognized program, so I'll just list through a couple of the different things that we do. Probably won't be able to cover everything, but we do have a really strong program. A few of the things that Alteryx does to support our employees is our employee resource groups. We actually have nine employee resource groups, and those cover a variety of different areas and allows people to really create connections and network across the organization, across different business units, and with people who you may or may not usually interact with. We also have our All-Stars Recognition Program, which is a peer-to-peer nominated program where you can assign points to people across the organization for excellent work or going above and beyond. And that's one of my favorite programs because it really gives us an opportunity to highlight the great things that others have done, and it doesn't have to be within your organization, so it allows for recognition across the entire company. 

We also have our Excellence Awards and our quarterly MVP Awards. These awards are specific to, again, performance has gone above and beyond reflecting our core values or delivering something special for customers or a new process internally. These are peer nominated and manager selected. In addition to these awards, we also have holiday celebrations, so for example, being a virtual employee, I'm not close enough to an office to actually participate in the onsite holiday celebrations. For Dia de Los Muertos, they actually sent us a craft kit where we could join a virtual call and we could decorate our sugar skulls and collaborate with other people across the organization as well as things like book clubs where they'll send you a book and then you can jump onto the book club meetings to participate with others, and really start to develop those connections. 

We also get health stipends from Alteryx, which allow us to support our physical health. And for mental health, they provide us mental health days or flexible time off, so that we really have the space that we need to take care of our mind and bodies. And lastly, I'd like to mention our Alteryx for Good Program. This is a pay it forward. This is going to be our volunteer opportunities. Alteryx provides us with 20 hours of paid time off each year to volunteer. It can be through Alteryx or it can be within our communities, really giving us the autonomy to support our communities wherever we see fit. Lots of different ways that Alteryx recognizes and rewards its workforce. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Thank you, Alyssa, for this description of all the different programs, it strikes me that Alteryx has a wide variety of ways that they are engaging employees. For some reason, I especially love the Dia de Los Muertos example where they're taking the time and have the intentionality to mail you a sugar skull and then get on a group session. I think that just shows in one small example how the company is going above and beyond. How do these programs make you feel as an employee? Do you believe that these efforts will support high employee retention rates for you and your colleagues? 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: I do, Arieana. It's interesting from my point of view as a remote employee, I think that sometimes when I'm considering the opportunities for engagement, especially cross collaboratively beyond my own business unit, Alteryx provides more opportunities than perhaps I've had in other roles when I was actually onsite. And so the entire organization from our executive leadership, they really embraced this reward and recognized culture, which creates an environment of gratitude. Before working at Alteryx, I'd never been in a workplace that genuinely cared about me, Alyssa as an individual. And so working at Alteryx really changed that for me. And as an employee, I feel that Alteryx genuinely values me and my colleagues because of how much effort they put into creating a fun and supportive culture for us. 

One way we do this is, in each of our all-hands, we celebrate major milestones like work anniversaries and our quarterly MVP Awards that I mentioned. Our leaders take the time to celebrate both small and large accomplishments, and they really create visibility for these successes. One example I'd love to point out is, a group of women recently signed up to participate as founding mentors in a new Power Up! Women's Mentorship program for customer success. And our CS director noticed on LinkedIn and he actually called it out to celebrate that on an all-hands meeting. He highlighted the value of mentorship and thanked these women for their participation, even though this wasn't a specific event that was being hosted by Alteryx.  

Dr. Arieana Thompson: That's amazing. 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah. It's been really fun working and seeing how much of an impact these types of initiatives and this culture improve the work experience. I think that to your question around employee intention rates, for me personally, and this is my view only, but I love working for Alteryx and I love all the things they do to engage us and to support us, and as well to give us opportunities to support each other. For example, with our quarterly MVP Awards, these are peer nominated awards for individual contributors who embody our core values. And each quarter we nominate peers. Usually there's four or five different categories, and one of the winners is randomly selected to shadow our VP of customer success for a day. And again, this gives our leadership more visibility to the hard work of everyone on the team, and it helps us celebrate wins together. 

And one of the things that's pretty cool is that even if I'm not the one who's winning an award, I'm always happy for the person who is. And again, it really lends itself to that culture of gratitude, where we're always looking for the best in each other and we're really excited to support each other. These types of initiatives really do help retention. When your work is recognized and it's celebrated, it's super motivating. It makes you want to keep up the good work, and especially when it's inclusive of both peer-to-peer and leadership recognition. And again, I can't speak for anyone but myself, but when I receive one of these rewards, it really motivates me to continue and to stay with the company. It's one of the things that makes our culture rock solid and we're all happy to be a part of it. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Absolutely. I love how much your company is emphasizing the peer-to-peer elements here, and it probably helps to tone back on competitive nature that it can be for award programs, so just in the workplace in general and create collaboration and everyone's on their own work journey and you get to support each other in it. 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah, absolutely. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: What about on a leadership level? How do your leaders reinforce company values through informal recognition? Would you say that how a job is done is recognized just as much as the outcome that's achieved? 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah, that's a great question, Arieana. One of the things that our leaders do is always on any call that we have, any team call, we always start with our company values, and we went over those in the beginning of the call here. But those are really important and we try to keep those front of mind, so that as we're doing these things, we're always trying to live through our values. Some of the ways that our leadership really create awareness through this, especially through informal recognition, is across the customer success organization. Each team manager does a weekly employee spotlight. This is a pretty informal recognition program, but the manager does an employee spotlight for someone on their team highlighting some of the good things that they've done. And this isn't something that's necessarily going to get you one of those MVP Awards or one of those Excellence awards, but just highlighting the work we do on a day-to-day. And they send that to their manager and so on, and that goes all the way up to the chief customer officer. 

And so in these spotlights, managers can highlight the success of an individual who's done something that embodies our core values or if they've gone above and beyond in their role or perhaps supports our customer first values or develop an innovative way of doing something. And while this is a more informal process of recognition, it really provides visibility into the work that people are doing, all the way up to that chief customer officer. That really provides ongoing informal feedback about what's happening in the field. Now, our leadership team also values a job well done, of course, especially when it drives impact for the company. But more than that, they're constantly looking to the team to help identify how we can innovate to create new and scalable resources that will drive success for us and our customers. 

One of the great things about working in customer success is the variety of backgrounds and unique experiences our team members bring to the table. We've got people with backgrounds like data science, engineering, audit, marketing, sales, and many others that I can't list here. But with this, everyone has a different set of superpowers or skills, and this really helps make it so that we can lean on each other and crowdsource specialty knowledge that will help us help our customers. Given that we all have different skill sets and different knowledge base, when someone does a great job building something like a new process or creating a resource that could be leveraged by others on the team, we also have a deliberate process of raising it up through leadership and sharing that. And that's through a program we call our Account Innovation Program. This program gives everyone a voice no matter their title or level of seniority. 

If you've been with a company for one day or 10 years, you can still submit your ideas through our Account Innovation Program, and we encourage anyone to submit an idea that could improve a process or develop content that would have a big impact for the entire team. And once that idea is approved, we set up enablement sessions where other members of the team can come learn about that new process or get a deep dive into that collateral. Usually, if you're the person who comes up with the idea, then you'll be able to lead the enablement session for your peers. And this really creates opportunities for peer-to-peer leadership and again, reinforces this informal process of recognition. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: That's an amazing example, Alyssa. I love how this is a process in which Alteryx supports innovation. And it also really supports this concept of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a range of people with many different backgrounds are included of any title or seniority. And anyone can come up with an idea and if it's a good idea, the company's going to take action towards it. That's incredible. I love to hear that. But switching gears a little bit, I'm also interested in your performance management system. Would you say that the people you see getting promoted are role models of ethical behavior? 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah. That's a great question. In my experience, every time I've seen someone get promoted and my tenure here, I'm always in agreement with management's decision. The individuals who are promoted often have received several peer nominations for some of the awards we've already discussed, and they consistently demonstrate Alteryx's core values in ways that everyone can see. Because of the types of visibility and transparency and the celebrations of small and big wins, it's never a surprise when someone's promoted. From my point of view, every time I've seen promotions among my peers or in the leadership team, I'm always like, "Oh yeah, that makes sense." Because the way our team elevates people's achievements and contributions in our day-to-day business, the people who are being promoted are individuals who you aspire to be like and are certainly role models of Alteryx's core values. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: That's great. All too often we see organizations that only provide feedback or recognition in the once a year performance management check-ins, and you might not have a sense of what other people in the organization are doing, what kind of contributions they're making, why they might be a good candidate for promotion. I think it's incredible that Alteryx is creating through these different rewards and recognition programs, this sense of, "Oh yeah, of course that person's getting promoted." That's really healthy for the culture. It allows you to support the other person, but also it helps create some career development pathways that you can envision in your mind as you see people living out the values and then getting promoted accordingly. 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah, absolutely. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Do you feel that the rewards and recognition you receive supports a higher level of motivation and performance? And if you had to guess, what are the tangible outcomes of these employee investments? 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah. I'll speak for myself here, but I definitely feel more motivated when my hard work is recognized. We all try to put our best foot forward, but when that happens, it really can have an impact. I've been very fortunate to receive a few of the awards that we've discussed, and as a recipient of these awards, it really makes me feel seen and appreciated. And especially the peer nominated awards, it's always nice when a leader recognizes you, but when you're recognized by your peers, it has a little bit more, I would say, a little bit more of an impact. Because we work with our customers, but we get to work with each other too. And having that support makes a big difference. I also hope and believe that others at Alteryx feel the same way. We really have a strong one team approach at Alteryx. And to me, even if I'm not the recipient of one of these awards, I'm still motivated to perform at a high level when I see other members of my team receiving appropriate recognition. 

Something my manager says to us is, "I don't expect perfection, but I do expect excellence." And this reward and recognized culture that we have, it really supports that. We work hard to support our customers and each other along the way, and great work is recognized and it makes a big difference. I'd also say if I were to guess, the biggest tangible asset for Alteryx as an employer is employee retention. And when I say retention, I'm not talking about just retention for the sake of retention, but really retention of high quality, happy, and engaged and motivated employees. In our role where we work directly with customers, this makes a huge difference and it's contagious. What I mean by that is, our customers have a better experience overall because of the quality of employees Alteryx retains. 

Another tangible impact that I see is how we can support our customers. As a part of customer success, we support the onboarding, enablement, adoption and excellence of customers who use our software. And as a part of this, we can share these experiences that we have at Alteryx with our customers to help them develop their own reward and recognized programs. We've actually seen this be very successful across other organizations and have a big impact with the organizations that we work with. Lastly, while perhaps difficult to measure quantitatively, this reward and recognize culture gives us the ability to develop trust and respect for our colleagues. And in my experience, when you trust and respect the people that you work with, you're willing to go the extra mile for the team. And we really are a team here at Alteryx. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Alyssa, I love how you describe this whole rewards and recognition program and structure that Alteryx has and how you talk to how it supports performance, but also just happiness. I think that we're seeing a trend in our workplace cultures where we're recognizing the importance of keeping our employees happy and how that touches all areas of the business, including customer interaction. But then you're also taking it that step further by modeling these types of programs with your customers so they can see how it's working for you, and also learn from your personal developments and what has worked well and not, so that's incredible. Based on these experiences, what best practices would you recommend to other companies that want to improve in this area? 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's actually a few things that really drive the biggest impact. Three things come to mind immediately, and again, this is just my opinion here, but the first thing is really creating that culture of gratitude. Secondly, support from executive leadership, I think you've got to have that top down approach. And then that peer recognition is the third aspect, which is that bottom up approach. Really having all three of those working together to support the culture. First of all, the creating a culture of gratitude through reward and recognized programs, it brings out the best in people. Building that mindset of gratitude, it generates a continual motivation for the employees. For example, when I'm working with somebody and they do something really great, my first reaction is, "Let's elevate this." And I'll go right into the All-Stars dashboard and publish a recognition. 

That recognition gets seen by their manager, and it's also posted for the whole company to see. For me, when I get those notifications that say, "You've received a recognition," it inevitably brings a smile to my face and makes me want to keep doing awesome work that has an impact. In addition to that, these initiatives do really need to be supported by executive leadership and given visibility all the way down the chain to the individual contributor. I would recommend that these programs be set up in a way that they're inclusive of all employees from new hires to senior staff, to help motivate employees and drive higher levels of employee engagement. And lastly, that peer-to-peer aspect of that, peer-to-peer programs really allow colleagues to recognize the great work of their teammates. And by giving your employees a voice and a way to celebrate each other through peer recognition, we're always looking for the best in each other. 

Also, sometimes managers may not have visibility into some of the day-to-day things that their employees are doing, and that peer-to-peer recognition is a great way for managers to hear about it. And we've actually seen, or I've seen recently on my team where this is seeping out beyond our organization. We just had somebody recently who did an excellent job hosting an analytics event, and one of her peers posted it on LinkedIn. And instead of just putting the feather in her hat, she actually put together a playbook that will include steps in the process, communication templates, timelines, key links and resources, so that if in the future someone else wants to do it, then they'll have a guide. 

We're starting to see this culture seeping outside of our organization, not only with customer interactions, but even through social media posts like LinkedIn. We also see things like where another one of my colleagues was recently awarded what we call the Hotshot Quarterly MVP Award, and she told me that it was a really big deal to her, just because the people who had gotten this award before her were role models and mentors. And that left her feeling honored to be recognized and to find out how much her team valued her contributions enough to nominate her. And she's still doing great work with a positive attitude. We just see that these three aspects, creating a culture of gratitude, support from executive leadership and that peer-to-peer recognition cumulate into a really excellent employee experience. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Excellent. Thank you so much for these actionable tips for organizations. I love the way that you describe it as the culture, the leadership, and the peer-to-peer creating that system of interactions at the organization level that really engages everyone, sets the tone for expectations, but with that motivation and inspiration of supporting each other and recognizing each other, and then even seeing how that can go outward and we can see that recognition occurring with clients and people who you're interfacing with. That's really incredible. Additionally, everything that you're saying actually aligns with the research that we've done here at LRN. According to LRN's Benchmark of Ethical Culture, which we published last year, the most ethical companies outperform others by 40% across key business metrics, including employee loyalty, customer satisfaction, innovation, adaptability, and business growth. I absolutely love hearing how your organization validates and exemplifies these findings. 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Thank you. It's pretty incredible to work for an organization that supports us individually and supports us supporting each other. It makes work certainly more rewarding and it makes our colleagues more like friends and family. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Absolutely. Well, I think we could talk about rewards and recognition all day, but we're out of time. Alyssa, thank you so much for joining me on this episode. 

Alyssa Menard-Szacilo: Thanks for having me on today, Arieana, it was great to talk to you. 

Dr. Arieana Thompson: Yes, agreed. My name is Dr. Arieana Thompson, and I want to thank you all for listening to the Principled Podcast by LRN. 

Outro:   We hope you enjoyed this episode. The Principled Podcast is brought to you by LRN. At LRN, our mission is to inspire principle performance in global organizations by helping them foster winning ethical cultures, rooted in sustainable values. Please visit us at to learn more. And if you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And don't forget to leave us a review.


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