Company: Federal Realty Investment Trust.

Location: Rockville.

Employees: 450.

Several years ago, around the onset of the economic downturn, Federal Realty Investment Trust decided it wanted to overhaul its employee recognition program. Instead of simply rewarding an employee who performed high-quality work, the company opted to recognize people who came up with outside-the-box ideas for solving problems and getting work done.

Amid leaner economic times, “We wanted to just really encourage that thinking and kick it up a notch,” said Laura Houser, the firm’s senior manager of human resources and benefits.

The revamped prize was dubbed the Find A Better Way Award, and it’s given out each quarter. The recipient receives a $2,500 MasterCard gift card and a framed certificate. Those who work in the firm’s Rockville headquarters also earn privileges to use a prime parking spot for the quarter in which they win.

Kira Mass, an office manager, is one employee who won the award after she realized that some built-in cabinets in the chief executive’s office were buckling under the weight of heavy files. She wanted to get them fixed, but she didn’t want to shell out for help from an outside contractor. So she took action.

“I taught myself how to solder so I could essentially make a brace to keep that panel up,” Mass said.

Within a week, she had fixed the cabinets on the cheap.

“I know we’re always looking at our budget and trying to keep costs down, and it just seemed the most cost effective” to do it herself, Mass said.

Mass said she was surprised when her efforts won her the quarterly prize, especially since she’d only been working for the firm for about a year at the time.

“It never occurred to me that someone at my level could win,” Mass said.

She put the gift card toward the purchase of a painting by a Hawaiian artist, a keepsake she said allows her to remember her travels to the islands.