Working on the agency side, it’s our job to listen to the client. We want to know about the objective, the desired results, and the competitive landscape. We then craft that information into a strategy brief. After that, the creative team takes over and gets to work. Normally, it’s our job to create and turnkey a finished layout, choosing fonts and images and writing copy.

But what would happen if you gave the client more ownership in developing the finished product? That’s exactly what we did for Hilton. For over 10 years, RSW has worked with Hilton to build and maintain an online recognition library. With more than 350,000 employees around the globe, Hilton understands the importance of employee recognition and it’s role in driving engagement.

In addition to program information and best practices, the website includes a vast library of printable certificates, thank you cards, and more. Originally, these materials allowed for little to no customization, in order to maintain a consistency of look and feel across the enterprise.

The materials proved to be extremely popular. However, we began to get regular requests for materials that would allow the user to customize the documents to fit his or her needs. In restricting the customization, we learned that the limitations of the materials stifled the natural creativity of the users. Based on the feedback we received, we recently transitioned the library to Microsoft Word and added artwork so users could create their own materials.

The results of the conversion were amazing. What we thought we lost in design control we gained tenfold in user creativity. Hotels were moving and customizing images, resizing documents, and using the pieces available in Word to create entirely new and exciting materials that we hadn’t even thought of.

For example, during their seasonal Catch Me at My Best peer recognition program, we saw that many hotels were replacing stock images of Hilton employees with images of employees at their hotel, putting a recognizable face on the materials. And as part of their International Housekeeping Week celebrations, hotels took the provided crown artwork and created their own crowns to recognize their Kings and Queens of Clean.

Since launching in 2016, many of these ideas from users have been shared and/or adopted as part of the recognition library, creating a grassroots swell of new ideas and ways to use the materials. One of many ideas that was recently added to the website was a customizable recognition coupon, good for a soda, lunch, or anything else the user might want to award.

The results of giving users more creative control has been profound. In 2017, hotels are on track to download more than 200,000 documents. In addition, year-over-year engagement scores in the area of employee recognition have risen.

So what’s the lesson learned from this story? Encourage and embrace your client’s creative side. Who knows? They may be the source of your next big idea.