Why We Need to Get Real and Get Rid of “Employee of the Month” Awards

123RF Stock Photo
123RF Stock Photo

Is it too late for “Employee of the Month?”

The “Employee of the Month” concept has been in existence for decades as a way to reward employees for exceeding performance expectations.

The concept is simple – you wait until the end of the month to pick one employee who stood out the most, and then you reward that one person. You might give them special privileges, such as a dedicated parking space, decorated workspace, or their name on a plaque. You may even give them a physical trophy to display and a monetary reward. Then you do it all over again the following month.

That format may have worked for years, but with the advent of social media and a younger generation steering it, waiting a month to reward someone may be too late.

Waiting a month is waiting too long

A month might have been a justifiable waiting period back in the days when nominations were submitted on paper and physically passed around to multiple people for approval. But thanks to the immediate sharing of information possible with social media platforms, several people can approve a nomination submitted only moments earlier.

And, younger employees expect immediate feedback and recognition so waiting even two weeks could result in disappointment, and even worse, disengagement. That’s why the concept of Employee of the Moment is so appealing. This immediate and repeated recognition practice will certainly leave a more lasting impression than larger, more formal programs that happen perhaps once a quarter or annually.

By creating a social media platform on Facebook, Hang Outs on Google+, or a blog on WordPress for example, your HR department can develop a system that immediately rewards and recognizes employees for day-to-day accomplishments that go above and beyond the norm.

Why wait until the end of the month to reward one person when you can reward multiple people throughout the month? Not only does this solve the timing issue, but it also encourages better behavior on a more regular basis.

“Employee of the Moment” won’t cost any more

But let me guess: You’re wondering how you can afford to recognize more than one person in a month, when your budget is already stretched? Remember that recognition does not have to be accompanied by monetary or physical gifts. This is especially true with younger employees who are not necessarily looking for a gift card or a check, but want to be recognized for their work. Making an announcement or producing a simple certificate of recognition can accomplish more than having some kind of formal ceremony, producing a plaque or cutting a check.

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OK, so money isn’t an issue. Now you’re thinking it’s already an awful lot of work to recognize one person each month, so you can’t possibly imagine having to do it many times. But, a simple, yet effective “Employee of the Moment” program is possible!

Only one site is needed, either on the existing company intranet or on a third-party platform such as WordPress. Employees subscribe to the blog so they’ll get updates sent to their email. Whenever an “Employee of the Moment” is determined, an update is uploaded to the blog and everyone who subscribes gets the email. Moreover, other employees can chime in and offer their congratulations to the recipient which fosters great internal support.

Use social media to help

As an added benefit, the buzz created from the program and will increase the traffic to the HR blog, which means HR can utilize it to reach more employees about official business as well. The company can basically turn the HR blog into a kind of virtual recognition site and a forum for employees to leave suggestions and encouragement.

Considering most blog platforms, such as WordPress, and nearly every social media site, are free, the cost is negligible unless you decide to outsource the technical and creative part to a recognition provider who is versed in the strategy. But once it’s up and running, the sites are extremely user friendly. The tricky part is picking a platform that is right for your organization and will best engage your workforce.

During these crucial times, when employers want to hang onto gifted and talented employees, new methods need to be considered. Why not incorporate the immediacy of social media into your rewards program to create an even more effective method for acknowledging the hard work those talented employees put in on a daily basis?

Jennifer Vecchi is the Manager of Individual Incentives and Recognition Programs at Atlas Travel in Milford, MA, where she is responsible for supporting her client’s recognition programs and sales contests.

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6 Comments on “Why We Need to Get Real and Get Rid of “Employee of the Month” Awards

  1. Great idea Jennifer.

    To leverage it to the max, here are a couple of thoughts:

    1. Have people share the story with enough detail so people know specifically what the person did that made them rock. By providing details, it communicats  to all employees:

    – “People notice-and appreciate–the seemingly little things that you do.” This message promotes mindfulness as well as the knowledge that “What I do matters”–a huge source of motivation.
     
    – “These are the behaviors we value” – This is an example of what Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick call storytelling’s ability to provide “Inspiriation and Simulation”: they inspire people AND provide them with metaphorical training videos of new–or desirable–ways of acting. So by giving specifics, you reinforce important cultural values and desired behaviors.
    2. Give people the option of recording a short video, telling their story.–This will obviously make it easier–and therefore more likely–for people to post a story, and…given that we live in a visual world, will make it more powerful.

    Also, another reason why implementing Jennifer’s recommendation is worth it:

    I’ve found over the years that peers celebrating peers is one of THE best ways of building esprit de corps, which in turn builds organizational resilience.

    When  people “Spread Goodwill” by noticing and appreciating good works and great work, they build stronger relationships throughout their organization. This leads to less “Us vs. Them” between departments and more “We’re all in this together.”

    Building relationships across departments and disciplines not only makes things run more smoothly, it also increases your employees’ ability to handle the pressures, demands, and uncertainties of today’s work world.

    Research on resilience shows that relationships play a major role–if not the #1 role– in people’s ability to withstand traumatic events and difficult times…sort of like what we’re going through now.

    Thus, this simple tool will also help you build organizational resilience…and therefore a more determined, resourceful, “Bring it on!” workforce.

    1. Thank you for this additional insight – I agree that celebrating your peers is the best way to foster a supportive corporate culture. And I couldn’t agree more with your comment about being detailed in your recognition – not only does it enhance the experience for the person getting it, but it also demonstrates to the rest of the company what leadership team, management, etc. deems worthy qualities to recognize so that they can work on those skills as well.

  2. Having an employee of the month is still a good idea.  Interestingly, that does not preclude any of the ideas here for “instantaneous recognition.  Football players get game balls right after a game and they can still win the MVP award and/or the Superbowl.  This is not an either/or world.  Leaders need to do one thing before all others — THINK.

    1.  I agree with you, Guy — well said. We tell the employee at the moment AND have a monthly company lunch where we laud outstanding employees and pick a Warrior of the Month (operations employees) and Sales Viking of the Month (sales). Lots of fun.

      Jim

  3. While recognition is  one of people’s needs, not everyone NEEDS recognition…some of us have work ethics that enable  us to always do our best and better, and often no one else is aware of our efforts…

  4. Such kind of recognition may work for businesses with 100
    employees or fewer.  Once you go beyond such
    numbers with multiple departments it simply becomes a parochial situation
    whereby the selection committee is coerced to select and vote for a candidate rather
    than for their achievements more so what is political expedient.  Our firm employs more than 300 employees and we
    have discontinued the Employee of the Month practice years ago now everyone is
    content.

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