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Cumbria County Council - Together we can say… Thank You!

Cumbria County Council launched an innovative peer-to-peer reward system that resulted in more than 1,200 powerful messages of thanks being received by employees from their colleagues.

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Local authority staff have worked harder than ever throughout the pandemic. They’ve adapted, taken on new challenges, learned new skills and in many cases been the glue that has kept communities functioning.

But with national and local lockdowns limiting contact and thousands of people working remotely for the first time, how do you ensure that staff going that extra mile are seen and their efforts recognised?

Cumbria County Council launched an innovative peer-to-peer reward system that resulted in more than 1,200 powerful messages of thanks being received by employees from their colleagues.

The challenge

Cumbria County Council is a major employer with circa 6,100 employees dispersed across the second largest county council area in England.

Keeping communication open with employees, many working in their communities rather than being office or centre based is a challenge at the best of times. Amid a pandemic, that challenge became ever greater – and even more necessary.

Through insight and intelligence we were well aware of the phenomenal efforts of our workforce to keep services open and residents safe.

We wanted to keep the council’s whole internal community ‘in touch’. More than that, we wanted to continuously reassure employees their hard work was being seen and recognised.

The solution

The reaction to two other staff focussed events demonstrated a desire on behalf of our employees to stay engaged.

Our annual staff Excellence Awards had to be taken online, however, that created an opportunity for more colleagues to be involved. From their homes they and their families logged on to the virtual celebration with close to 1,000 people watching or participating. This was by far and away our biggest ever audience and there was also an 18 per cent increase in nominations.

Secondly, the response to pulse ’How are you?’ surveys was strong. The first survey in April 2020, had a reach into the headcount of 17 per cent. By the third survey in February that had grown to 41 per cent.

Therefore we had clear evidence that employees wanted to engage, wanted information and wanted to feel part of a team.

While recognising the power of a thank you from an organisation’s leader, such as at the Excellence Awards, we also wanted to create an opportunity for colleagues to acknowledge each other.

Our vision was to spread some joy around the authority - and treat everyone as a winner.

Our aim was to shine a light on them for their dedication, hard work and commitment.

We encouraged inclusive peer-to-peer recognition by creating opportunities where colleagues could acknowledge, reward and celebrate one another in five different categories.

They could send colleagues a personalised message – praising them for being an exceptional colleague, frontline and essential worker, community champion, outstanding team or inspirational leader.


  • Created a new webpage and simple interactive online form where colleagues could choose which category and write a short message to a colleague who they felt deserved recognition.
  • When an interactive online form was completed, automatically an email would be sent to the nominee to congratulate them with their message and a copy would come to us.
  • Circulated web link which frontline employees could access on their own personal devices.
  • Distributed postcards to all fire stations, care homes and highway depots to encourage frontline staff without regular access to computers to send a thank you to their colleagues and return it to us via a Freepost address so that we could circulate.
  • Used a range of internal communication channels to promote and encourage staff to celebrate their colleagues. This included introducing a new council-wide screensaver, using the more social reach of Yammer, the CEO’s blog, department updates, newsletters and intranet slider.
  • Those receiving a thank you were encouraged to download a new email signature recognising their contribution and frontline staff received a badge to wear on their lanyards/uniform. They were also entered into a prize draw for some Cumbrian gifts.
  • We set ourselves the target of messages representing 20 per cent of staff across our four directorates - Corporate, Customer and Community Services; Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service; Economy and Infrastructure, and People.

The impact

The one-month campaign - time limited to create impact and foster a ‘do it now, don’t delay’ response - immediately caught on across the council as soon as the first communications strands went out.

Numbers grew steadily throughout June and in the closing days of the month we achieved our target of 20 per cent - that’s more than 1,200 thank yous sent colleague-to-colleague across the workforce.

How is the new approach being sustained?

We launched a call for feedback from Survey Monkey looking for 10 per cent of the staff who sent/received a thank you message to take part. This will be used to inform our thinking of its value and usefulness in the eyes of employees. From there we can assess the value of repeating the initiative or creating another means by which we can ensure the great work being done by our employees is regularly recognised and acknowledged.

To keep colleagues inspired, we’ve published a selection of the messages in the ‘thank you’ web section and encourage people to take a look.

Lessons learned

  • ‘Thank yous’ do not always have to be bold, or expensive gestures, or come from the leaders of an organisation.
  • Peer-to-peer gratitude is powerful and empowering.
  • Employees are proud to display their ‘badge of honour’ on their email.


Suzannah Walker, Communications Officer

[email protected]