Breathing new life into your employee of the month program

Does your company have an employee of the month program that is falling short of your expectations? Or worse yet, it appears to be a complete failure? Don’t give up on it! It may just need a few tweaks to get it back on track in 2012.

First, think about what’s not working and why you’re struggling with running an employee of the month program.  Here are some suggestions on how to address some of the more common shortfalls:

Not enough nominations each month -- Your program may be lacking the awareness, and constant reinforcement, it needs.  Display fun, promotional posters in lunch and break rooms, send out reminder emails to submit your nominations, talk up the program and why it exists at regular department meetings, and give each winner his or her moment in the spotlight through coverage in newsletters, on the intranet and in announcements at company-wide meetings.

Perception that program is a popularity contest or unfair -- Certainly, some employees are “negative Nellies” and will find fault in anything you do to improve employee morale and motivation. But what about the well-meaning employees who dismiss your program because they think it’s based on favoritism? The best way to prevent (or counteract) this perception is to clearly state the award criteria to your staff, and make sure everyone has a chance to nominate an individual -- not just coworkers or a narrow group of middle managers.

Employee morale remains low -- Understanding employee morale isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. What puts a spring in one employee’s step may leave another employee cold. That’s why your employee of the month program needs to be part of a company culture that treats employees with respect, encourages positive interaction between coworkers, and values regular, constructive feedback between employees and their bosses. Without this foundation, employees probably won’t rally around your program and may consider it a weak attempt to enhance workplace motivation when their other needs are not being met.

Lack of enthusiasm about the actual award -- What are the employee of the month awards you give out? Perhaps that’s what is falling flat, and not the program itself. It may be time to introduce a new award -- whether it’s a more modern plaque or award, a colorful candy jar or a snazzy, engraved pen. And don’t forget to attach the award with a special workplace perk, like a reserved parking space or extra time off. You may want to provide a few options, as well. Some companies offer a choice of, say, three retail gift cards with the recognition award so winning employees can pick what shopping excursion they’ll enjoy most.

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