Revitalize Employee Recognition

One of the most enduring types of employee recognition is the Employee of the Month program.  This is an important aspect to your motivational portfolio, but like anything, it can get boring and ineffective if you don’t constantly re-energize it.  Most companies’ employee of the month recognition consists of an award certificate presented at a staff meeting, a special parking place (which may be very significant in the North during snow storms but is less important in Florida’s balmy weather), and a one-size-fits-all type gift card.  Because the whole purpose behind an Employee of the Month program is to recognize and encourage behaviors you want emulated, the more desirable you can make the award, the more your employees will strive to achieve it.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Ensure that you now how each employee likes to be recognized. Remember that not everyone is like you! Being clear about each employee’s recognition preference is essential.
  2. Involve (or at least notify) the employee’s family about the recognition. This could be through a phone call from the employee’s manager, a letter, or by inviting them to the presentation ceremony. (Everyone likes to look like a hero to family.)
  3. Put the employee’s photo and a brief write-up on the company website.
  4. Take out an ad in professional media or trade journals recognizing the employee for his or her superior performance, and thus use the ad as a recognition but also as good public relations for your business.
  5. Put a short notice of recognition on your company’s telephone system. Ex: “We are proud to recognize Joe Doe, sales clerk, as our Employee of the Month for October because of the Outstanding Customer Service he gives.â€
  6. Place a sign of recognition in your business’s lobby.
  7. Especially if the employee has a lot of contact with customers, have the recognition attached to the name badge.
  8. Especially in large companies, access to the “big boss†can be a coveted benefit, so have the “big boss†take the employee out for lunch or for a sports event or maybe even a private suggestion session.
  9. Personalize the reward by giving gifts that the individual employee will really like. This requires that your managers know their people. For example, instead of the one-size-fits-all gift certificate, give the bookworm a certificate to a bookstore, give the movie buff movie tickets, and the food connoisseur, a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant.
  10. Give some paid time off – time is a commodity everyone appreciates.

Remember that in order for your incentive program to work, you must clearly identify the behaviors you are rewarding and that you want emulated by others.  During the recognition, therefore, be sure to articulate the actions that garnered the honors and share specific examples.  Allowing peers and customers, in addition to managers, to nominate promotes involvement and decreases the chances that your workforce will see your program as just recognizing management favorites.  Finally, because managers are usually the judges of theses awards, they are often not eligible to win themselves.  Therefore, be sure you have designed a good recognition program for them, too.

In order for incentive awards to be successful motivation keys, three things must be true:

  1. The reward must be something the recipient values. Do not assume everyone has the same tastes you do.
  2. Employees must trust that they will indeed receive the reward if they perform as desired.
  3. They must feel there is a reasonable likelihood they will be able to achieve the goal put before them.

If any one of those three factors is lacking, the incentive program will be unsuccessful.

Finally, remember that Employee (singular) of the Year or Month awards generally encourage individual behavior rather than team effort. If, therefore, you seek to encourage teamwork, team awards may be more conducive to establishing that kind of work culture.

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