The Co-operators

How does a business model that puts people first deliver success?

Since 1945, The Co-operators has been guided by principles that balance profitability with meeting the needs of the people and communities it serves. Consistently listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt, this leading organization continues to win awards for its community involvement and commitment to sustainability. For this insurance and financial services co-operative, making people a priority has paid off.

Originally founded by farmers to take care of themselves, today this leading Canadian-owned organization represents 8 diverse companies. Diverse companies focused on delivering superior client experiences.

The challenge: Bring different sectors in different regions together to support shared values. Create a culture of consistent, meaningful recognition that reinforces key strategic behaviors. Adopt an organization-wide recognition solution that makes it easy to celebrate each other and help people feel engaged and energized at work.


Recognition at The Co-operators had always existed in different groups of companies, but it was applied inconsistently and lacked visibility. When recognition dollars were spent, there was no way to track the effectiveness.

30,000 eThanks have been sent and more than 2,200 BRAVO award nominations made since October 2012.


After an extensive search for a recognition partner, The Co-operators selected O.C. Tanner for their strategic approach. While other partners focused solely on the technology, O.C. Tanner combined technology with sustaining communication, training, and measurement strategies to better ensure success.

A team was put together and after an assessment and solution design process, the ‘BETTER Recognition’ program was launched. Now, team members easily recognize each other’s day-to-day efforts using fun, creative eCards and eButtons. When someone delivers outstanding results aligned to one of The Co-operators’ 7 core behaviors, they can be nominated for a BRAVO award and receive a gift that includes a note signed by the President and CEO.

The launch was supported with leader training to reinforce recognition best practices, educating managers on why it matters and how to recognize effectively. An extensive communication plan leveraging its intranet and internal communications further reinforced to all employees the power of meaningful appreciation. Finally, as part of the sustaining strategy, 50 recognition champions were enlisted—each one charged with bringing recognition to life within their teams.

Today, leaders leverage the program’s leader-reporting toolset to get immediate insight into who’s being recognized and who’s not. This makes it easy to spot trends and creates opportunities for continual improvement. Program administrators benefit from reporting capabilities as well, gaining oversight into recognition utilization and reach by team, department, location, and company.


  • In one year, there’s been a 3% increase to the Recognition driver on the engagement score overall for The Co-operators.
  • A recent pulse survey asked, ‘What energizes you at work?’ The number one response, ‘When we root for each other.”
  • In a survey conducted at the BRAVO award conference, recipients reported they ‘felt valued’ for their contributions.


  • Committing to a strategic solution design process from the outset involved executive management, enlisted their support, and helped integrate the program into the overall strategy.
  • Implementing a change management plan helped effectively transition existing programs.
  • Supporting communications reinforced the introduction of it being new and positive—while outlining all the benefits for each stakeholder.

“This program has provided us with an easy and effective way to celebrate and keep energy levels high. We’re beginning to see that energy and engagement impact our positive business results.” —Maureen Gillespie, Vice President Human Resources and Workplace Services

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