How to Start an Employee of the Month Program in Your Organization

Mar 24, 2022
How to Start an Employee of the Month Program in Your Organization
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The Employee of the Month award is the most popular type of corporate method for improving employee recognition. It's an award program for exceptional performances every month. The company sets specific standards, and the best-performing employee receives the award.

A robust program can bring high returns for the business. It promotes healthy competition among employees and boosts morale. The award itself acts as an incentive for workers to work harder and be more productive.  A report suggests that 82% of employees feel happier when they’re recognized at work as it gives them a sense of accomplishment, and they tend to stay longer.

However, the program needs to be appropriately conceptualized. If it isn't conceived or executed properly, it won’t be effective.

Below we discuss seven strategies you must focus on while designing an effective employee of the month program.

7 Things To Keep In Mind While Starting An Employee Of The Month Program

1. Define clear objectives

Most corporate leaders are unclear on what goals they want to achieve with their employee recognition programs. Is it more engagement or higher retention? Sometimes, the objectives are not aligned with company values. This contradicts the very aim of the program.

Before you implement your employee of the month program, you need to be clear about what you want to achieve with it. If you want a collaborative work environment, then reward the teamwork and if you wish to promote innovation, you should encourage new ideas.

Also, it is important to set your program's objectives in line with the company's mission. If teamwork is one of your core values, focus on team-based rewards. When you recognize a particular behavior, it becomes more likely that they continue to do it.

2. Specify criteria

Sometimes, companies don’t make the criteria for public recognition. In worse cases, they don’t have any specific standards. The award goes around arbitrarily and the program becomes meaningless.

It is important to specify the set of behaviors that you expect from your employees. They must know the program guidelines beforehand. They should be aware of what they need to do to win.

Keep the winning criteria clear and the nomination process transparent. Ensure there are no biases in the rewarding system. This way, employees will follow the right direction and work hard to fulfill those criteria.

Here are some behaviors you can recognize in your program:

  • Reliability

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Teamwork and social skills

  • Consistency in performance

  • New ideas

  • Commitment to work

  • Quick learning skills

  • Mentoring skills

  • Regular attendance, etc.

In addition to specifying the criteria, remove gray areas by addressing all doubts about the recognition award. You may prepare a Q&A to go with the reward announcement.

Moreover, you must be fair while selecting the winner. Everyone should feel like they have a shot at winning. Guidelines should be clear on who can vote for, when to vote, and how to vote.

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3. Get creative with the names


An employee of the month award can, sometimes, limit the true potential of effective employee recognition. For instance, say you have several deserving employees doing great work. In such cases, having multiple types of awards will be beneficial for you to not overlook any worthy candidate.

The solution to this: have multiple awards and know which employee rewards to avoid. It isn't necessary to call it the Employee of the Month award. You can get creative with the award titles. Get as specific as you can with the traits you want to value in your employees.

Here are some examples of unique award titles:

  • Champions of Change Award — for the risk-takers who best adapt to changing situations.

  • Best Mentor Award — for those who motivate others to give their best.

  • Problem Solver Award — for those who come up with creative ideas to solve challenges.

  • Ultimate Team Player — for those with an immense collaborative spirit.

  • The Engagement Champion — for the highly engaged.

  • Standout Performer — for those who give above and beyond performances.

  • Culture Champion — for those who keep the company culture vibrant and alive.

4. Set attractive awards

Awards need to be attractive so that your employees feel motivated to strive for them. You can combine monetary and non-monetary benefits to reward employees.

Make sure to consult your employees before deciding on the rewards. Here is where personalizing the staff recognition tool comes into play. Each employee is unique. What might motivate one won't necessarily motivate others. You can use employee feedback tools to ask for reviews of previous recognition programs. Check out our other blog about how to reward employees who go the limit.

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5. Involve peers

Employees bringing their A-game to work is always beneficial. However, an award program that acknowledges only individual effort may promote a spirit of unhealthy competition. Workers start seeing their team members as competitors which can sabotage the team spirit. It is necessary to keep the working environment competitive yet free from workplace negativity.

A peer-to-peer recognition program is an effective way to handle concerns of favoritism. It also ensures fairness with the democratic participation of employees in the program.

Peers notice efforts and understand employee contribution more than managers. When they nominate their teammates, it strengthens work relationships. Employees develop trust towards the reward system as well as the company. Also, knowing that peers nominated them can amplify the impact of the Employee of the Month award to another level.

6. Make announcements memorable

Make the award announcements loud and public. Social recognition can make the Employee of the Month award genuinely worth pursuing. People like getting appreciated for their work. Calling out the star employees publicly for their achievements makes them value such moments for a long time.

The announcement can be through a social media post or a team meeting. You can feature the winners on a Wall of Fame. With Workmates - the employee recognition and communication software, has a newsfeed so that all employees can see the updates.

Also, giving a gift card or a certificate might not be enough for impactful recognition. You need to personalize the employee experience with a meaningful note. Refrain from using standardized messages and include the specifics about their contributions and why they deserved the award.

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7. Measure impact

Your employee of the month program is up and running. But such a program might fall flat if you don’t assess its performance.

Is it impacting engagement levels positively?

Are your employees motivated and productive?

Do they like the staff reward system?

The employees might be looking for different kinds of recognition. They might not be clear about what to do to receive the award. There may even be cases where deserving candidates didn't get the reward.

Such challenges need to be evaluated and made right. To find out if your employee of the month program is working towards its objectives or not, follow up on how employees feel about the program. Get feedback from employees about their recognition experience and ask for suggestions.

Employee surveys can be of enormous help to assess the program's impact.

The Employee Of The Month Award Ideas


Some reward ideas for your employee of the month program:

  • Social media appreciation posts through online engagement platforms;

  • Personalized gifts like coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc;

  • Merchandise and gifts based on their hobbies like music, gardening, or cooking;

  • Paid vacations and days off using work schedule apps;

  • Monetary rewards like bonuses, cash awards, gift cards;

  • Subscriptions to OTT platforms, club memberships, food, and restaurant coupons;

  • Tech and work equipment upgrades;

  • An exclusive feature in the Wall of Fame, or the company website or newsletter;

  • Certificates, tokens, or plaques.

In conclusion

An employee of the month program is a step in the right direction for employee recognition. The best way to start is to ask your employees and take their input while designing a holistic employee recognition strategy.

There can be no one-size-fits-all approach to what an employee needs. So put yourself in the employee’s shoes and think about how you would like your company to recognize you.

Reward behaviors that align with the company goals. And make recognition regular, bias-free, and genuine.

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Author Bio: Saurabh Wani is a digital marketer at ZoomShift, an employee scheduling tool. He has worked as a human resources (HR) recruiter for over three years, where he defined the recruitment life cycle that helped employees find the right job.

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