How Ninjas and Dinosaurs Set the Culture at HCP

A simple idea turned out to be surprisingly effective—and the story might hold a lesson for the home care industry at large.

Everybody needs a dinosaur now and then.

At least that was the idea behind Home Care Pulse’s employee recognition program—an initiative that uses ninjas, dinosaurs, and a variety of plastic animals to strengthen ties between employees and contribute to creating a dynamite culture of recognition at our company.

Here’s how it happened.

A Little Background

It’s no secret that giving consistent recognition is an important element of any company, whether it’s in the home care industry or elsewhere throughout the business world. Employees who feel appreciated for their work tend to stay longer, do better work, and feel happier at work.

In addition, recognizing employees helps contribute to building a strong company culture—one of the most important intangible assets any company can have.

Employee recognition was heavy on Aaron Marcum’s mind when he was CEO, and he’s instilled its importance in Erik Madsen and the rest of our current leadership team. We’ve tried various recognition programs over the years, and members of our leadership team frequently give public shout-outs and other rewards to team members when they do outstanding work.

However, when our leadership team decided they wanted a program that did more to encourage team members to recognize each other for achievements (rather than all the recognition coming from the top leadership) as well as keep the company focused on our core values, our finance department stepped up to the plate with a novel idea.

How It Works

The idea is simple: when someone on the team does something that you feel exemplifies one of our Core Values (we’ll look at those in a minute), you give them a little figurine from a stock that we keep in our office.

After you give them the figurine during the week, they bring it to the company Lunch and Learn we hold each Monday where you give them a certificate for the specific core value they showed.

We change the figurines every month or so. So far, we’ve used—you guessed it—ninjas, dinosaurs, and miscellaneous plastic animals. When you give a colleague a figurine, you can always just hand it to them, but most of us prefer to hide the figurine in their office somewhere.

(Try going for a drink out of your water bottle and finding a dinosaur figurine shaped like the Loch Ness monster floating inside.)

We All Need a Dinosaur Now and Then

Where some of our recognition programs have struggled to get off the ground, this one was more or less immediately embraced by our team. You can chalk it up to the simplicity, the warm-and-fuzzy-element, or the fact that it’s just a little bit quirky and weird.

Whatever the cause, it’s been a highly popular program whose total cost to the company has been about the same as a Big Mac with fries—and it’s contributed noticeably to what was already a strong, positive company culture.

The program doesn’t replace other forms of recognition, like performance bonuses or merit-based compensation. What it does do is fill the important niche of cheap, everyday validation. Sometimes, you just need an atta boy.


Our Core Values

Building culture isn’t much use without values or principles to lay the framework for the kind of culture you want. These are the core values we live by at Home Care Pulse; we hire, fire, recognize, and reward by them.

  • Service Minded – A can-do attitude. Generous with our time. Selfless.

  • Passionate – Contributing. Positive attitude. Shared WHY.

  • Driven – Ownership. Forward thinking. Pro-active. Committed.

  • Problem Solver – Resourceful. Collaborative. Attentive. Data-driven.

  • Continuous Learning – Teachable. Humble. Vulnerable. Insightful. Self-improvement.

The Home Care Industry’s Lowest Score

Our employees aren’t the only ones who appreciate a good dinosaur now and again. At Home Care Pulse, we survey thousands of clients and caregivers each month. One of the most frequent comments we hear from caregivers is that they want more appreciation for their efforts.

In fact, in the 2018 Home Care Benchmarking Study, recognition was the industry’s lowest caregiver satisfaction score. We’ll see whether this has improved when the 2019 Home Care Benchmarking Study comes out in a few months—but for now, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of room for improvement in this area.

Caregiver Appreciation Ideas


50+ ideas for recognizing your caregivers and increasing caregiver retention.

Your caregivers (and office staff) want to be recognized for their hard work. The resource above can get you started–but don’t stop there. Listen to what your caregivers want and keep looking for your own creative ways to reward your employees and create a culture of recognition.

Sometimes, a little ninja goes a long way.