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The idea of being named employee of the month has been a part of pop culture for decades. This staying power is no surprise: who doesn’t find the feeling of having been singled out as exceptional appealing? Organizations in any industry can use an employee of the month award program to highlight the great work team members are doing and show genuine appreciation. But if employees don’t buy into the selection process or find the rewards offered worthwhile, an employee of the month award can quickly turn into an empty accomplishment.
When done right, employee of the month awards are a fun, effective way to provide recognition. Get started with impactful awards at your company with this easy-to-follow guide.
What is an employee of the month award?
An employee of the month award is any way your organization recognizes team members on a monthly basis. The traditional image of hanging a new employee’s picture on the wall every month doesn’t exactly mesh with today’s increasingly remote workforce, so modern employee of the month award programs have evolved. Awards can now take the form of everything from a place of prominence on your company’s website to a healthy serving of reward points provided through your organization’s employee recognition platform. As long as your program adopts criteria that employees view as fair and meaningful while providing team members with incentives they actually value, it’s on solid footing.
The goals of an employee of the month award program
Employee of the month awards are a powerful form of recognition that can pay dividends across an organization. Here are a few reasons to start awarding employees at your company.
1. Promote employee recognition
Employee recognition includes all types of appreciation team members receive at your organization. It’s a key factor in organizational success, as employees are much more likely to give their all when they know they’re valued. Employee recognition is the top driver of employee engagement, and organizations that practice frequent social recognition see increased employee productivity.
Employee recognition should include social appreciation together with monetary rewards, and employee of the month awards are a great way to deliver both. They offer an opportunity to provide personalized messages of appreciation for the employee being recognized combined with an incentive appropriate to the honor. Ideally, an employee of the month award will serve as a capstone to an employee’s recognition experience at your organization.
2. Improve organizational culture
Employee of the month awards help make recognition part of your company culture. A public, genuine display of appreciation each month lets all team members know that expressing thanks for each others’ contributions is important. Frequent, personal recognition helps foster mutual trust, collaboration, and an environment of psychological safety.
3. Boost employee retention
Employees are more likely to stay with an organization if they feel valued, while those who see their accomplishments go unrecognized have one more reason to head for the door. With the Great Resignation in full swing, retaining your organization’s best talent is more important than ever. Two-thirds of job seekers say that they’d be less likely to hunt for a new position if they felt recognized. With employee of the month awards and other forms of recognition, your organization incentivizes team members to grow and contribute where they are instead of seeking greener pastures.
The drawbacks of employee of the month awards
Employee of the month awards can make a real difference, but they’re not a cure-all, especially when not implemented with forethought. Take care to note these potential challenges before starting to award employees at your company.
1. Only one part of effective employee recognition
Naming an employee of the month is a powerful recognition tool, but it’s not a substitute for a comprehensive employee recognition program. If employee of the month awards are the only form of visible recognition at your company, team members are likely to feel unappreciated on a day-to-day basis. Instead of saving recognition for special occasions, encourage all team members, from the C-suite on down, to show appreciation whenever an opportunity arises.
2. Lack of employee buy-in
There’s little point in giving out employee of the month awards if employees don’t believe they mean anything. Team members may lack confidence in the process or criteria used to determine the recipient of the award, or they may simply feel that the awards are overshadowed by other significant issues at the organization. Understanding and addressing these concerns is a must to ensure your company’s employee of the month awards have a positive impact.
3. Failure to provide meaningful rewards
Imagine hearing that you’ve been named employee of the month and that the award comes with — drum roll — a branded company t-shirt. Not exactly thrilling, is it? It’s not solely about the value of the reward, either. An employee might be a bit more thankful for a gold watch, but, without much use for the gift, it’s a quick trip to the pawn store. The reward then becomes just an addition to that week’s paycheck, quickly forgotten.
Delivering memorable rewards employees actually want doesn’t have to be hard. You can always ask them, either directly or by using a modern employee engagement solution. Fun experiences, new professional development opportunities, and delicious treats are just a few options most employees will appreciate. Of course, the best option is to simply let team members pick what they prefer themselves by redeeming points in your recognition platform’s filled-to-the-brim rewards catalog.
5 steps to impactful employee of the month awards
There’s no need to simply hand out awards and hope for the best. Take the time to develop a winning employee of the month award program with these helpful tips.
1. Establish a transparent process with fair criteria
How can you get employees excited about an employee of the month award? It starts with a process they understand, trust, and even participate in. Select criteria for the award after hearing from stakeholders across the company, from staff to the C-suite. Aim for something that won’t result in the same employee winning the award month after month or team members engaging in unhealthy competition. Instead, the criteria should be flexible enough to open the awards to the entire organization while remaining clear and straightforward.
The same is true of the nomination process: let all employees participate in selecting the recipient and keep the rules simple. Limiting nominations or voting to management means that employees have much less of a stake in who receives the award each month. And they’re less likely to believe the process was fair if they don’t have a say in it.
2. Don’t limit the types of awards available
An employee of the month award will get stale quickly if it’s always based on the same criteria and has only one theme. To change things up and keep employees engaged, adopt new, fun award names and concepts from month-to-month, or give out multiple awards each month. Call out those who live by your values, take the time to coach their direct reports, or recently reached a professional development milestone. You can even double down on recognition by awarding those who have shown or received the most appreciation in a given month.
3. Prioritize communication from start to finish
If your employees don’t understand the criteria underlying your company’s employee of the month awards — or worse, if they don’t know the awards exist — the initiative will be hobbled from the start. Communicating the purpose, criteria, and other fundamentals of an employee of the month award program starts from the top down, with executives, HR, and managers clearly and enthusiastically explaining these details. Use channels from company-wide emails to manager-led team meetings to ensure your message connects with as many team members as possible.
Your organization should continue to focus on communication throughout the awards process. Keep everyone updated as the window for nominations opens and closes, and ensure the actual announcement is communicated throughout your organization with appropriate prominence and fanfare. As your company continues to refine aspects of its award program, be transparent with team members on the how and why behind any changes so they can see your organization is committed to listening and continuous improvement.
4. Change your program for the better with employee feedback
Even if your company has meticulously crafted its employee of the month award program, there’s always ways to make it better. HR professionals and company leadership may be able to identify a few of these on their own, but many opportunities to boost impact and increase engagement will go unnoticed without collecting and acting on honest employee feedback. As employees are understandably less likely to reveal their true thoughts when asked directly than when they can remain anonymous, setting up confidential channels for feedback is a must.
Establishing these always-on avenues for feedback is simple with an employee engagement platform. Look for a solution that includes versatile, powerful feedback tools like pulse surveys and intelligent HR chatbots. Ensure your platform is also compatible with the mobile devices your team members use every day so they can share their thoughts whenever and wherever the urge strikes them.
5. Involve all team members with a culture of recognition
It’s inevitable that an employee of the month award will exclude team members deserving of recognition, even if you provide the award to multiple employees in different departments or based on separate criteria. Instead of leaving most employees on the outside looking in, incorporate employee of the month awards as part of a comprehensive employee recognition program.
Making recognition a core part of your company culture is much easier with the right employee recognition solution. Instead of having to draft an email or chat, find a team member in the office, or wait for an opportunity during a meeting, employees can quickly and easily provide social recognition at their convenience using a centralized, intuitively designed platform. And they can back up their messages of thanks with reward points that take the impact of recognition to another level.
Deliver meaningful employee of the month recognition with Achievers
What’s the quickest way to start awarding employees of the month at your company? Simple: adopt an employee recognition platform that’s easy to use for all team members and includes a rewards catalog filled with fun gifts and experiences. That’s just what your organization will get with Achievers Recognize, a science-based recognition and reward solution that’s tailor-made to accelerate the growth of a culture of recognition. As part of the Achievers Experience Platform, Recognize integrates with Achievers Listen, an end-to-end employee engagement solution that can power a truly impactful feedback program at your company.