Employee Spotlights: Expanding the Reach of Employee Recognition

Go Back
leadership icon Leadership

Below is an article by Kelly Parker, Vice President and Chief People Officer, Avanir Pharmaceuticals, about the importance of employee recognition.


Employee recognition has taken many forms over the years, from presenting engraved plaques on stage, to virtual congratulations and mailed certificates. While the details might change through the decades and across cultures, what’s important remains the same: that incredible work, and the employees behind it, get the attention and applause they deserve.

Few would argue against the importance of maintaining a robust employee recognition program, but I think there’s a case to be made that traditional recognition programs, by themselves, may be unnecessarily limiting.

Spotlighting Employees

For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as both chief people officer and head of corporate communications for Avanir Pharmaceuticals, and this dual role has given me a unique perspective on the impact good storytelling can have on people management. Managers today seem to be faced with a constant demand to produce new and engaging company stories for their social media channels, intranets and company newsletters, and while the volume of stories these channels call for can feel intimidating, they also present unique opportunities to spotlight high-performers.

At Avanir Pharmaceuticals, we’ve learned the value of incorporating employee spotlights into a wide array of mass communications, and have found that doing so can lead to benefits far beyond what plaques and certificates can bring – benefits for the employees being recognized, the audience, and the company as a whole. In this article, I offer two examples of how employee spotlights have served our company both inside and outside our recognition program.

Changing Careers Without Changing Companies

Every quarter, our leadership and development team puts together an internal webinar called the Career Exploration Series. In each series installment, an employee shares their personal journey of how they’ve arrived at this point in their career. The stories are often rooted in the challenges and successes inevitable in every career advancement, but rarely shared with wider audiences. In the end, the audience is given a tour of what the employee’s career, department and responsibilities look like today, and is offered the opportunity to freely explore similar career paths within the company.

This main objective is to open windows and doors to those employees who might be thinking of making a career change and encourage them to explore new opportunities without having to leave the company. By combining a celebration of an employee’s career with the resources audience members need to discover in-company career change opportunities, we’re able to send the message that we care about the growth and development of our people as much as we do our company.

Bringing Company Values To Life

At each all-company meeting, we take time to recognize a few employees who exemplify each of our company values. This is one of my favorite kinds of recognition, because it extends appreciation beyond what our employees do, and into who they are. The value these awards bring to the organization goes far beyond what comes from encouraging the behavior of a single employee; when coupled with a compelling narrative, these awards serve as billboards to what our values look like in action.

When we recognize our values award winners, we ensure that we pair their announcements with detailed and concrete employee performance stories that are rooted in action. It’s through these examples, read aloud by the person who nominated them, that other employees develop a living example of what these values look like when incorporated into daily behavior, what they mean to the company and what they mean those the mission serves. Values are active things and these stories help bring them to life.

There’s room in every organization for the occasional thank-you gift card, the ten-year anniversary plaque and the monetary recognition, but so long as managers are called upon to fill communication channels with new and engaging stories, there will also be new opportunities to spotlight top talent. In the world of employee recognition, we shouldn’t need reasons to celebrate success, just platforms, and as we’ve discovered at Avanir, these employee spotlights can bring surprising benefits to not only those being recognized, but also to the larger organization.


Kelly Parker, Vice President and Chief People Officer joined Avanir Pharmaceuticals in June 2015 and leads the Human Resources and Corporate Communications functions. In this role Kelly provides leadership, strategic vision and functional expertise to her team and the company.

Prior to joining Avanir, Kelly worked at Allergan as Senior Human Resource Manager. In that role Kelly provided support and guidance across several U.S. commercial business units in which she collaborated and partnered on strategic initiatives to drive key business objectives. Kelly championed talent management programs through the introduction of performance assessments and talent acquisition strategies in support of three successful sales force expansions. She fostered a high-performance team environment, enhanced communication throughout the organization, recommended process improvements to overcome challenges and developed approaches to continuously build talent.

Prior to Allergan Kelly served as Human Resource Site Lead at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development, where she managed the recruitment process, conducted interview training, managed compensation programs, executed performance management programs and coordinated training and development programs.

Kelly earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from San Diego State University.



Stay Connected

Who We Are
Leadership Team
Avanir Pipeline
Company History
Join Our Team


Media Downloads
LOGO - Avanir


You may use the multimedia material provided in this section only for your personal use or for purposes such as news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research. The images may not be modified and must display a copyright notice in the name of Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Copyright © Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc)