Employee of the Month Recognition Programs: We Can Do Better

As I was waiting for my meal at a local PNW burger restaurant, I glanced to my right and noticed a “Wall of Fame” displaying various employees of the month. There was a picture of each employee with their name underneath. There was no description of why they were nominated for the award, what they did to go above and beyond, etc. I thought to myself, “Do companies still use this outdated program and think it is effective?” One of two results happen with this type of program: 1.) The same employee keeps getting nominated over and over and the program ends up hurting morale or 2.) Everyone eventually gets nominated even if they don’t necessarily deserve the award and the program loses its value.

We can do better than employee of the month programs to engage and recognize our employees. Everyone likes to be recognized for the work they do. Working in an environment where employees are appreciated provides a sense of community and promotes retention.

These are steps to help you create an effective employee recognition program:

  1. Develop your vision. What is the goal of the program? Why are you creating it?
  2. Ask employees what kind of recognition they prefer. HR and management may have a completely different idea of what will inspire employees than the reality. You can send out a quick survey to poll employees.
  3. Create a recognition committee. Market the committee throughout the company and ask for employee volunteers. Based on survey responses, this team will develop the types of awards that will be given. They will also choose vendors to automate and manage the program.
  4. Develop clear criteria for the awards. It should take more than “being a good team player” or “always coming to work on time” to be nominated for an award. Award recipients should have accomplishments that are above and beyond the daily responsibilities of their job. The process should be audited on a regular basis to ensure the award levels are consistent with contributions.
  5. Involve supervisors and managers. Awards are much more meaningful when they come directly from your boss as opposed to HR.

There are many types of awards that can be given. Spot bonuses, free vacations, prize catalog programs, plaques, extra PTO, free lunches, gift cards, company swag, and educational seminars are a few options. Keep in mind that there are tax implications to some awards, so make sure to check with your accounting/payroll department.

Whether you are recognizing employees for work anniversaries, major accomplishments, birthdays, and so on, ensure that employees and managers alike are involved in the process so you know that the program is effective. Do not create the program in a vacuum and it will be much more successful.

What is the best recognition program or award you have encountered?