Sarah McVanel

International Recognition, Culture, and Retention expert

Sarah McVanel is passionate about guiding people to discover their own greatness and recognize the greatness in others. Her curated, customized talks explore why recognizing greatness is a fundamental key to improving morale, increasing top talent retention, and generating a positive corporate culture — all of which lead to sustained business success and a stronger bottom line.

McVanel is the founder of Greatness Magnified and the author of Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness and Flip Side of Failing. She has more than 25 years of experience in the field of organizational development, training, and communications and runs specialized training programs and certifications. In addition, McVanel is a Certified Senior Organizational Development Professional (CSODP), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL).

With clients including Resorts of Ontario, Horizon Utilities, Compass Group, and the Spark Women’s Leadership Conference, McVanel’s talks are perfect for everyone from teams struggling with low engagement to organizations experiencing high turnover. Through the power of recognition, she equips audiences with the tools needed to decrease burnout and increase employee retention, innovation, and customer satisfaction. McVanel is one of 1500 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) worldwide.

Whatever the challenges we face, McVanel shows audiences that when we practice recognition in all areas of life, it turns even the most difficult challenges and greatest tensions into opportunities to connect, commit, heal, and belong.


Recognition: The Great Resignation Solution

Superglue your culture through meaningful connection and abundant appreciation.

You’re not losing your best people to the competition and a bump in pay won’t stop the turnover floodgates. Gone are the days you have too many resumes, the Great Resignation is here. Welcome to the age of the employee experience.

Microtrends have collided to create a cacophony of confusion about how to retain today’s workforce. The good news is that employees’ needs haven’t changed… they’ve just started voicing them louder as they stomp out the door. Are you listening?

Are you looking to cultivate some serious FOMO (fear of missing out) with anyone not on your team? Are you ready to reimagine the workplace into a place that makes everyone feel more personally and professionally satisfied?

The solution has been there all along — recognition. Let’s turn today’s turnover tsunami into a comeback story; let’s make it so brag-worthy that it will impress the heck out of everyone.

Get ready to banish exit interviews, redeploy your recruiters, and free up your leaders. After all, no one ever left a job because they were too appreciated.

Learning outcomes:

  • Explore retention through a today’s employee experience lens.
  • Develop intentional recognition practices that sustainably attract and retain.
  • Understand what microtrends are causing you to lose great talent.
  • Understand the data and evidence substantiating the exponential power of recognition from a neuroscience, behavioural economics, and work psychology lens.
  • Explore what retention-rich organizations do that transform their employees into an army of recruiters.

The Exponential Power of Recognition

Superglue your culture through meaningful connection and abundant appreciation.

If you had the easiest, fastest, simplest, and no-cost strategy to engage, unite, and retain everyone in your organization, would you want to know about it?

Many passionate, brilliant, hard-working people want to do their best yet feel unappreciated and overworked. Similarly, there are well-intentioned leaders who wish to show appreciation to their people, but they’re busy and unsure if their efforts will make a difference. Add to that a stale and misaligned corporate recognition program, and what you have is the perfect recipe for disengagement and turnover!

How do we bridge the gap between what employees need and what organizations are prepared to do?

Recognition is the answer. And it’s easy! All you need to know are the three universal strategies that work instantaneously. As a result, you’re going to raise trust, boost satisfaction, deepen a sense of belonging, and you will go down in history as the best boss and colleague ever!

This session will introduce you to a proven process for self, team, and organizational recognition called F.R.O.G. — Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness. You will walk away ready to take action to shift your culture immediately.

Tap into this universal need that everyone has and isn’t getting enough. Join Canada’s recognition expert, Sarah McVanel, in creating a recognition movement that will be so contagious it will cascade through your event and beyond.

Learning outcomes:

  • Develop greater confidence in giving and receiving sincere and authentic acknowledgments.
  • Understand where your organization is wasting time and money on recognition programs that do not work (and what to do about it).
  • Be inspired to apply simple recognition habits at home and work.
  • Understand the data and evidence substantiating the exponential power of recognition from a neuroscience, behavioural economics, and work psychology lens.
  • Explore what retention-rich organizations do that transform their employees into an army of recruiters.

Recognition in a Virtual World

Rebuild connection and deepen engagement across the digital divide.

Contrary to popular belief, remote workplaces are NOT disconnecting your people. The problem is not slow wifi, or videos turned off, or people in sweatpants. The problem is that before the rise of remote workplaces, we did not have authentic recognition practices hardwired into the cultural fabric. What we know today is the need for clarity and conviction to make recognition practices strong, authentic, sustainable, and owned by all.

The good news is that recognition is one of the most practical, accessible, and cost-effective ways to fuel healthy working relationships, trust, and retention. It allows your people to connect across the digital divide to participate, voice their opinions, brainstorm, and collaborate.

And guess what? You can do it from anywhere!

Consider recognition to be your cultural glue — whether you’re in-person or online. Let Canada’s recognition expert, Sarah McVanel, walk you through her three key remote recognition ingredients: nutritious, delicious, and luscious. Never has recognition been more important and as digestible.

Learning outcomes:

  • Learn the most practical, virtual-friendly ways to appreciate an individual, team, and organizational level.
  • Hear what the most recognition-rich remote workplaces are doing to boost collaboration and deepen the connection.
  • Develop greater confidence in giving and receiving authentic virtual compliments.
  • Transform your face-to-face rituals that worked and amplify them into virtual practices that are sustainable and infectious.
  • Understand the data and evidence substantiating the exponential power of recognition from a neuroscience, behavioral economics, and work psychology lens.

Recognition: Your Customer Retention Superpower

How to fuel customer retention with a forever philosophy.

How can you retain, delight, and exceed client expectations when the bar is continually raised? How do you bring your whole team along with you to fuel this exceptional customer experience? How will this enable you to maintain a healthy lifestyle while growing your heart-based business?

It’s actually simpler than it seems. Every person needs to feel heard, valued, and appreciated. There is one overlooked, yet simple and powerful customer-facing strategy that every team member can execute on, regardless of tenure, role, or seniority — recognition.

We give a lot of lip service to “customer satisfaction” and spend money measuring it. However, do we truly seek to form the deepest, most meaningful connection with our customers through micro-moments and long-term rituals? Do we truly value our customers and continually earn their trust and loyalty — even when we don’t have to?

What does it take to cultivate a raving fan base? Customers who are as passionate about you as you are about them. Imagine what it will look like when your customers have an insatiable need to tell everyone how great it is to work with you.

This session is designed for business owners and sales associates who have a deep desire to delight customers for life. But wait — everyone has a customer! This session is also for those who are working inside organizations and are committed to a collaborative, harmonious, and mutually satisfying relationship. In other words, anyone involved in the customer journey (internal or external) who wants to retain, elevate, and enhance the relational customer experience will walk away with boundless ideas and actionable possibilities.

Learning outcomes:

  • Build your customer retention and recognition approach with a forever philosophy.
  • Better understand the importance of knowing where you fall on the Relational to Transactional Continuum.
  • Identify micro improvements for customer delight that create a substantial return on investment.
  • Discern where appreciation can be hardwired into your customer experience journey.
  • Plan your next steps to elevate your customers (internal or external) to create a deeper connection.

Solution-Focused Greatness

How to amplify collaboration, resilience, and positivity in others.

Sick of people fixating on problems, focusing on issues beyond their control, pointing fingers, and casting blame? Do you feel like you’re constantly firefighting a revolving door that churns negativity?

Isn’t it more productive to identify solutions and, in turn, fuel connection, awaken creativity, and elevate appreciation? And what if you weren’t the only one doing it?

Here’s the secret — everyone has greatness; they just don’t all believe it.

People want to do well and have a desire to contribute. What if we see their greatness even when they’re not operating at their very best? How might you lead differently? How might you show up with greater curiosity? How might you do less “telling” and more “asking” to co-create possibilities?

When you embrace the belief that people are already “greatness”, it acts as a wedge in that negativity revolving door. You don’t lose hope, your best people, and your most innovative ideas.

This session will empower you to leverage the five most resourceful questions (that you’re not currently asking) to access the solution to any problem.

Learning outcomes:

  • Practice the five most effective, solution-focused coaching questions that address negativity, gossip, and a problem-fixated mindset.
  • Understand how to foster an environment that’s rich with curiosity and continuous improvement.
  • Increase your team’s hopefulness, resiliency, and well-being through easy to implement tactics.
  • Notice the signs that you’re firefighting, micro-managing, and behaving unresourcefully.
  • Create collaborative and innovative solutions, even when no easy answers seem to exist.

Unleash Your Inner Superhero

Tap into the five secrets that will ignite your greatness.

What if you were a superhero and you never knew it? You may think you’re just doing your job and it’s “normal.” Whereas, to others, the work that you’re doing is extraordinary.

Let’s uncover and explore your unique gifts, strengths, and talents. Here’s the opportunity to refill your greatness gas tank, recharge your resiliency batteries, and activate your superpowers.

Now, imagine doing this together! Imagine the influence, a shared sense of purpose, and cohesive collaboration that comes from activating your collective superpowers. BOOM!

This session is not a “rah rah,” Instagram filtered, #MotivationalMonday, artificial platitudes, lollipops, and unicorns-type session. This session is designed to reveal the truth, facts, hard evidence, and reality about your undeniable greatness.

You know you want to unleash your inner superhero if:

  • You are a team that is committed to remaining resilient despite struggles.
  • You’re a leader who wants staff to be energized and work to their fullest capabilities every day.
  • You’re an organization that knows that happy and engaged staff are those who stay.
  • You need a delicious and engaging experience at your next recognition event.

Stop minimizing your greatness. Start getting inspired and take action so you can make the biggest impact.

Learning outcomes:

  • Tap into the five secrets that will clarify and mobilize your unique strengths.
  • Apply the three-step process to dream bigger and decide your next action steps.
  • Determine your most important priorities and decide between a “heck yes” and a “no way” attitude.
  • Solidify what brings you joy, resiliency, and energy so you can be productive and satisfied.
  • Unleash your inner superhero and flex your greatness muscles (gym membership is optional).

Flip Side of Failing

How unconditional recognition ignites resilience, relationships, and retention.

Failure is a tough nut. Either we treat it like the other “f-word,” or we’re espousing its virtues for learning. Let’s face it. We don’t have much resilience when failure comes crashing into our lives and careers.

Most often, we play it safe. We avoid it or feel shame or blame when failure inevitably happens. We’ve had plenty of experiences that tell us to avoid failing at all costs.

Before you think this is your “unmotivational” speech, trust me when I say that this is empowerment personified. We will be challenging the very definitions of success and failure that we’ve blindly accepted, and it’s sabotaging our well-being, performance, and satisfaction. What does failure mean to you? Does it define you? Can you give yourself permission to fail?

In this session, you will truly experience and absorb the F.L.I.P. framework: Fail, Learn, Ignite, Praise. Each dimension of FLIP allows you to harness the power that comes from failure and let go of ego or judgment.

Learning from your failures creates your path to greatness. These lessons will forever change you and help you become more decisive, confident, and action-oriented.

In this energizing and entertaining session (with a few fun twists), you will awaken possibilities, deepen connections, source solutions, and improve individual and organizational performance by recognizing greatness in a whole new light. Rather than kryptonite, let failure be your superpower.

Learning outcomes:

  • Develop greater failure resiliency by deconstructing unhealthy failure resistance.
  • Identify how to best share, explore, and leverage the inevitable failures to fuel performance and innovation.
  • Experience the flip side of failing firsthand and reflect on its relevance personally and professionally.
  • Create a failure resiliency intention at a self, team, and organizational level.

ROCKSTAR: Magnify Your Leadership Greatness in Times of Change

WANTED: Leaders who can handle it all. Leaders are busier, more overworked, and under-resourced than ever. At the same time, they’re expected to be everywhere, do everything, handle anything. JUST when you think you’re in control and have everything handled, BOOM! Something unexpected happens.

Whether you are in a senior leadership role or manage a team, it’s time to banish the burnout blues, ditch the doubt, and grow greatness. Learn how you already ROCK as a leader and can get STAR results through our powerful and proven ROCKSTAR formula.

What if you could be more resilient, resourceful, and effective through practical tools you will use for the rest of your career? Get ready to apply strategies that will help you and your team ride any inevitable change.

It’s time to be the ROCKSTAR you are… it’s time to fall back in love with leadership.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Explore a novel and practical approach to navigating change as a leader.
  • Identify the ROCK leadership behaviours and team practices that already work for you and what can be enhanced.
  • Learn specific ROCK strategies — recognition, organization, communication and kindness — that can get you STAR results — satisfaction, teamwork, achievement, and retention.
  • Construct an action plan with clear next steps.

Ditch Burnout: Reduce Stress, Boost Compassion Satisfaction, and Encourage Self Care

What happens when the helper also needs help? Exhaustion has become the norm for caregivers and frontline professionals. Perhaps scarier still, they often feel it’s their fault.

This is the catch 22 of helpers: caring for others can burn you out, and when you’re burnt out, it’s harder to care for others.

Stress may be “part of the job,” however it’s not the job. Don’t let burnout morph into an array of harmful physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Don’t let an entire team of generous, kind, and compassionate helpers find themselves in a downward spiral of distress together. Don’t let stress leaves, sick time, turnover, and even incivility result from the sustained team strain. Resuscitate hope with some CPR (Care, Prepare, Repair).

In this engaging, high-impact, practical, and hope-infusing session, you will apply the CPR strategies to proactively cultivate healing and rebound from burnout. You will leave with a better understanding of the differences and intersections between stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue so you can have control over it versus it having control over you.

Get back to your greatness. It’s the least selfish thing you can do for others.

Learning outcomes:

  • Explore retention through today’s employee experience lens.
  • Develop intentional recognition practices that sustainably attract and retain.
  • Understand what microtrends are causing you to lose great talent.
  • Understand the data and evidence substantiating the exponential power of recognition from a neuroscience, behavioural economics, and work psychology lens.
  • Explore what retention-rich organizations do that transform their employees into an army of recruiters.

Leading Through the Tough Stuff: Managing Conflict, Performance, and Difficult Conversations

Think about your best boss ever. Were they firm yet fair? Clear yet compassionate? Reflective yet action-oriented? It’s almost like they had leader ninja tricks to get that balance just right. Or did they?

From the “every day” to those awful days, great leaders demonstrate that it’s not accountability or compassion. It’s a both/and.

Expectations with empathy equate to excellence. Lack of clarity, consistency, and challenge for the sake of harmony does more harm than good. Ironically, difficult conversations can create both short-term gains as well as avoid long-term strains.

Leading effectively through the tough stuff is about having tough conversations in a way that builds relationships. It’s about leaning into conflict in a way that demonstrates respect. It’s about expanding your toolkit to tackle stressful topics in a way that eases tension.

Here’s the good news: where there is tension, there’s engagement. Where there is engagement, there’s greatness. Let’s get great at navigating the inevitable tough stuff, together.

Learning outcomes:

  • Practice strategies and tools for preparing, having, and following-up on difficult conversations.
  • Understand the five conflict styles and identify when each is most effective (and when it’s not).
  • Learn tools for identifying and managing emotions when preparing for difficult conversations.
  • Utilize practical frameworks to shift from emotionally driven to fact-based conversations.