Employee of the Month Programs Fail to Work

Employee Engagement / Employee engagement speaker / Employee Recognition / Free Business Articles / Human Resource Management / Job Satisfaction

Employee of the Month Programs Don’t Work

Here is a question someone sent to me:

I attended your session in Philadelphia called, “The Care and Feeding of Staff: Energize, Engage, and Motivate Your Work Force.” It The timing was just right. Our firm is beginning an ‘Employee of the Month Award’. We hope this will be a morale booster.

I wanted to know if you could give me any pointers. Can you suggest some criteria for such an award? Also, should the employees decide what criteria will be used?

Our law firm is relatively small. We have five attorneys with a support staff of ten. Several employees have over fifteen years service with the company. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You, Richard

My reply:

Most of the Employee of the Month programs I have seen rarely work as intended. The results fall short, and in some cases the program can do more harm than good. Why?

Fairness is the main problem. Any program that selects only one winner is bound and determined to make others feel like losers. Also, employees must be nominated to be considered. But what happens to people who deserve recognition, but work for managers who do not take the time to nominate anyone? What happens to people who maintain nontraditional work schedules such as those who telecommute or work remotely? Honoring one person a month also defeats teamwork. Instead of only recognizing one employee, many of my clients recognize the “Team of the Month.”

The goal of any reward and recognition program is to encourage, recognize, and show appreciation to those who work in your office. However, the most important reason is to align behaviors with the goals making your organization successful. Most organizations miss this important point.

Since you are a small firm, your candidate pool is very limited. You will fall in to the trap of giving the EOM only to a few people–your top performers. Or on the other hand, you may be forced to rotate the EOM award from person to person, whether they deserve it or not, just to meet the requirement each month. Is this your intention?

One organization we worked with was unhappy with the results of their EOM program. Every month managers nominated one person for selection. Part of the difficulty was that person had to compete against people working in eight different locations. A committee of eight senior managers, one from each building, selected only one winner. The winner was awarded a savings bond.

There are several weaknesses with this program. First, the winners felt uncomfortable winning the award. They realized there were coworkers just as deserving as they. Second, there were others in the organization who were never considered or nominated. They felt “ignored” and not appreciated. Then there were those who felt the managers were playing favorites–you had to “brown nose” your boss in order to win. The program generated more negative feelings than good. Something had to change.

The organization followed our recommendation to allow the employees themselves the opportunity to redesign a better system. We convened a problem-solving team consisting of one volunteer from each location. At the first meeting, we outlined the options they could consider. Then we let them go to work.

An hour or two later they came up with a brand new program. They decided to create a peer selection process. They did not want management to make the selection. Each building would run a separate Employee of the Month program. Then they decided to collect money to buy a plaque for each building to display winners’ names. Finally, the staff would take the winner out for breakfast each month and provide them a reserved parking space near the front door of their office.

We have compiled over 200 reward and recognition ideas in our book, Dynamic Ways to Reward, Energize and Motivate Your Teams.

Greg Smith helps create high performance organizations that attract, keep, and motivate their workforce. As President of Chart Your Course International he has designed and implemented professional development programs for hundreds of organizations globally. As a business growth consultant, he has helped business owners reduce turnover, increase sales, deliver better customer service, and reach long-term prosperity. Greg is published in hundreds of trade publications. He is also the author of Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High Turnover to High Retention, the New Leader, and several other books. For more information, visit http://www.chartcourse.com or call (800)
821-2487 or (770) 860-9464.

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