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How to Start an Employee of the Month Award

There's always room for employee recognition activities that can build positive morale in the work environment, especially if they have a chance to earn a reward. An Employee-of-the-Month program can boost morale and motivate workers to try harder - yet this program can backfire on businesses if the award isn't well conceived and executed properly.

Our article "Creating a Meaningful Employee-of-the-Month Program" explores how to implement an employee recognition program in a way that doesn't accidentally decrease morale by making the program seem unfair to members of your staff. When you set your goals, lay out your parameters and communicate the program properly, publicly recognizing the outstanding efforts of a key employee each month can boost spirits and productivity.

Employee of the Month Wall Plaque

Set Program Goals

Discuss with management why you want to institute an Employee of the Month Awards and then discuss it with employees. You may wish to increase sales or productivity, decrease spending or create healthy competition among departments.

Objective goals for the program should be tied to a sense of accomplishment, so there is no perception the award is given based on favoritism . If you have many workers, only 12 awards will be given out each year, potentially causing hard feelings. Consider offering multiple awards and trophies covering different performance types, or naming an Employee-of-the-Month in each area of your company.

Lay Out Parameters

Employee of the Month Lapel Pin

Set the bar for an employee reward high, but not too high, and make fairness a key component. Focus on what employees need to do to earn the reward and create a fair program that allows all employees to equally vie for the reward. To determine how you will choose the winner each month, establish a performance measurement with team input:

  • Create mutual agreement as to how performance is to be measured
  • Determine what constitutes a reasonable target that balances the requirement for improved performance with a fair chance of attainment
  • Make rules and measures that are understandable, easily produced and verified
  • Maintain a degree of flexibility should circumstances arise that warrant a change

Go beyond simple criteria such as positive attitude" or "team spirit" and establish specifics. If your goal is to build teamwork, consider factors such as interdepartmental contributions or an employee voting process. If your goal is to boost productivity, set performance levels, such as an increase in output or sales. If the goal is customer service, issue customer service cards or create website comment links to generate feedback.

Communicate the Program

Employee of the Month Award

To motivate employees and allay any concerns about favoritism. Communicate all aspects of the award program early and often to your team. Release your first draft of the program and ask for employee feedback. Communicate the final program to every worker, stating the goals and parameters for winning. When you announce a winner, give the specific reasons for winning so co-workers know it was earned and deserved. Carefully monitor the winners of your Employee-of-the Month program to make sure they don't appear discriminatory.

Award Meaningful Prizes

Decide what each month's winning employee will receive as a reward. Consider workplace and public recognition, as well as a personal non-cash reward. Offer a recognition plaque or engraved cup for the winner's home or office; you could also include a day off, reserved parking space for one month or a desk accessory, framed motivational artwork or gift card. Send news releases to the local media, including the employee's hometown newspaper. Include the specifics about why the employee won the award and background on their role and tenure at the company.

Assess Your Program Periodically

Employee-of-the-Month programs fail when there are obvious flaws: it's not clear why someone wins or everyone indiscriminately gets a turn. A bad or meaningless program is worse than no program - but that doesn't mean that a well-run program can't have a little magic! After a thorough analysis, you can conclude that the program is in fact worth doing when people seem to look forward to it - they say they like it - and you think it helps reinforce the mission of paying meaningful attention to people trying to operate in a quality driven, efficient manner.

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