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Overview – Employee of the Month Program

Every day one of your employees does something extraordinary!

How are you recognizing them?  Are you recognizing them?

Did you know that 40% of employees said they are willing to work harder after being recognized by their employer?  Imagine how much more efficient your business would run if each employee gave 40% more effort?  One of the easiest ways to recognize outstanding employees is by creating a structured employee of the month program.

Building a strong team is essential to the success of your business.  You build a strong team by recognizing outstanding employees.  By recognizing employees based on their actions, attitudes and performance you will begin to develop a company culture that breeds further success.

Your employees will work together for the good of the organization and will be proud to work for your company.  Research has shown that 63% of employees who are recognized within their jobs are less likely to leave and look for another job.  This simple step of creating an employee of the month program will help reduce turnover and retain quality employees.

Incorporating a successful awards program into your business is a great way to motivate your staff. Not only do they these programs help to showcase what traits you are looking for from your employees, but it also helps your team to feel appreciated and valued.

 Many businesses can be reluctant to institute an Employee of the Month program, believing it would be open to ridicule or be seen as a gimmick. However, a well-executed program will actually transform the success of your company. In this article, we will take a closer look at how you can start and implement a successful Employee of the Month awards program TODAY.

What is an Employee of the Month award?

Before taking a closer look at how to implement a successful awards program, its important to understand what an employee of the month award is – and is not. Employee of the month programs are exactly as they sound.  They consist of a monthly award given to an outstanding employee.

 The initiative is designed to encourage employees to work harder and more productively while also helping create a closer connection between the employees and their employers. The award can be given to anyone within the company and for a number of reasons, but typically it is based upon employee performance and attitude.

 This honor typically comes with a personalized award, trophy, or plaque, alongside a small reward such as leaving early on a Friday, a gift card to a local restaurant, or a preferred parking space. Whatever it might be, a successful Employee of the Month award helps to create a feel-good factor for the recipient.  It helps builds loyalty, and establishes good working habits.

How to Start Your Employee of the Month Awards Program

To maximize the results from your Employee of the Month program, it’s important that the rewards align with the employer’s expectations. A recent study from Deloitte found that over half of employees felt their current rewards did not align with their employers expectations. This is an essential part of a reward strategy; if employees do not feel rewards align with their values, they will be less motivated and will disengage from your company.

 Here are simple steps to help you implement a successful Employee of the Month program:

 1. Identify your goals

The first thing to consider are the goals that you want to achieve from your Employee of the Month program. This could be to increase sales, improve customer satisfaction, boost productivity, or generate new leads. Whatever it might be, make sure that you clearly understand the goals that the program should achieve.

 2. Create your parameters

After defining your goals, you then need to set the parameters for how your staff can achieve the award. You should also consider the rules for the award.  For example, do part-time staff have to meet the same criteria? Can an employee win it twice in a row? Are managers eligible for the award?

 Having these guidelines in place will ensure that your team knows exactly what is required and will push them to work harder to reach the requirements.

3. Decide how you will choose the winner

Once you have the goals and criteria, the next stage is to decide how you will pick your winner each month. This could be based on core, quantitative factors, such as the number of sales an employee has made.  Qualitative measures should also be considered for employees who show fantastic customer service, are particularly innovative, or show team spirit.

 In order to get employees to buy into the program, think about incorporate a nomination process. This allows your employees to put forward the person that they believe is most deserving each month.  By doing this you can help cultivate a culture of recognition within your organization.

4. Create an event

The final stage of creating a successful Employee of the Month program is to establish a monthly event to announce the winner and generate interest. Having a fun ceremony, perhaps on a Friday afternoon, keeps your staff entertained and creates a relaxed team-bonding event. By scheduling a time and place to recognize outstanding employees, you are showing them that this is important to your company.  You will begin to see greater involvement and employees with become more motivated.

If an in-person event isn’t an option for your business, try to make the announcement as noticeable as possible.  Post it on social media, the company blog and newsletters.  Take a picture of the employee receiving their award and include it in the announcement.  By including the award in the picture it helps employees understand how important the program is to management.

Employee of the Month Award Ideas

The main premise behind an Employee of the Month awards program is to reward your staff for their effort, hard work, and achievements. A successful program can transform the productivity of your team and help you take your business to the next level.

 However, in order to maximize your results, you need to achieve buy-in from your employees, and to do this, you need the right rewards. Choosing the right rewards will keep your staff engaged and motivate them to do their best. Below are some of the most effective rewards you can offer:


Branded Gifts

Branded gifts are a great way to show recognition to employees while simultaneously increasing brand awareness and establishing company pride within your organization. These products can range from coffee cups, tumblers, and water bottles to personalized wallets and clocks. Whatever you choose, ensuring that these prizes offer a practical use to your staff will help keep your brand at the forefront.

 A branded product also helps to create a deeper connection between your organization and the employee.  Branded gifts encourage employees to be proud of the organization they work for, and adds perceived value to the award.


Commemorative plaques

Another popular type of award is to provide a commemorative plaque to the winner each month. While a certificate could achieve the same process, you will find that employees will begin to lack excitement for the program when merely accepting a piece of paper.  They may begin to think of the employee of the month program more as a gimmick than an honor.

You want to avoid these feelings at all costs.

Offering your employees a high-quality plaque or award gives more credence to the program and will encourage your entire team to take part. Despite what most people think, plaques are actually a very affordable way to recognize employees.  You can order a custom plaque as low as $15.00.

If funds are really tight, try ordering one large perpetual plaque featuring the winners of each month.  The celebration could include them putting their name on the plaque in a ‘wall of fame’ style celebration.  A perpetual employee of the month plaque will run you around $100.00 for the entire year.  That’s less than $10.00 per month!

 Office perks

Another very popular style of reward is to give the winning employee a range of perks around the office. This could be letting them leave early every Friday for the month, giving them the best parking spot or taking them out for lunch.  Some organizations have been known to give tickets to local plays, sporting events or concerts.  The key here is to make it valuable and fun.  If there’s no value to the office perk, you begin to fall into the “gimmicky” feel again.

Charity donation

A new way companies are rewarding their employees is by donating to a charity of their choice.  Often coupled with one of the other methods above, this can be a great way to help instill a sense of pride for your organization.  By donating to your employees charity of choice, it helps them feel valued as you align your priorities with theirs.  This in turn motivates them to align their priorities with the organization – creating a very positive cycle of productivity.

Things to Avoid to Ensure Success

We won’t pretend that all employee of the month programs work 100% of the time.  Sometimes, they flop.  But why?  Why is it that some companies can run successful employee recognition programs and some cannot?  The key is in the implementation of the program.  If you follow the steps outlined above, you will already be a step ahead of your competition.

Even if you feel confident about your awards program, it’s worth a few minutes to discuss some things you should avoid in order to ensure your employee of the month award program is a success!

1. Don’t Give a Cash Award

It can be VERY tempting to simply take out your checkbook and write a check each month; however, if you implement this type of recognition program, it will soon fail.  There are two major problem with cash awards.

Firstly, cash awards have no perceived value – that’s right absolutely zero.  If you haven’t read out blog post on perceived value, it would be well worth you time.  You can read the article here. Understanding how to leverage perceived value will save your company hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year.

Cash is simply cash….it has no “real” value.  We use it to buy things, but we can’t actually use the pieces of paper for anything more than fire starter in a real emergency.  Because cash has no perceived value, you will have to give the employee much more money to compensate.  This will end up eating into that already tight budget.

Secondly, Once cash is gone – it’s gone!  And even if your employees do spend their cash award on an experience like a romantic evening out, or a trip to the beach, they almost never associate the experience with the company.

The key to a successful employee recognition program is to help the employee associate the positive feelings around the award with the company.  By doing this, every time they see the award, use the gift or think about the experience, they will think of your company. 

Quick Summary

You may save time by giving a cash award, but you will also significantly miss the mark.  You will spend much more money to compensate for the lack of perceived value and your employees are likely to forget about the award as quickly as it was received.

2. Avoid Giving Cheap Awards – Instead Provide Value

 On the other end of the spectrum you need to avoid giving awards that have no, or little value.  If your award solely relies on giving the employee a certificate or a parking space for the month, good luck trying to get your employees to take the program seriously.

The awards you choose don’t have to be expensive, but they should provide a certain value to the employee.  Personalization is the easiest and most affordable way to add perceived value to an object.  It can help you save money, while still showing you care for your employees personally.

Real World Example:

One of our customers runs a large manufacturing plant.  The budget for employee of the month awards is thin at best.  They came to us with a budget of $10.00 per month.  We were able to design them a beautifully branded keychain with the employees name on it for $7.50.  Although it doesn’t cost much, their employees find it practical as they can use it to identify their work keys.

The reason this award works is that there is a practical and logical use behind the gift.  In other words, it provides “real value” to the employee.  Even if you’re on a budget, try to think of something inexpensive that you can personalize to add perceived value to the award.

3. Be careful when rewarding based on performance

Okay, I know we told you earlier that rewarding based on performance was a good thing – and it is.  You just have to be careful about how you do it.  When rewarding employees based on performance, make sure they alone are responsible for the metrics you are measuring. 

Here’s and example:

If you reward salespeople based on monthly sales, make sure they alone are responsible for the sales they earn.  If they feel that they weren’t able to make a certain sale because a secretary missed a phone call or the production line was delayed they will begin to resent the recognition program.  They should be able to solely “own” their performance.

Ready to Start?

Incorporating a successful Employee of the Month awards program will help you transform the productivity and motivation of your staff.  Giving monthly awards helps showcase outstanding employees and shows them that you care about them. When employees feel appreciated, morale and output begin to increase significantly.

 A monthly award will also help to create greater engagement with your brand, ensuring employees feel connected to the company they work for. Building a team is essential, and regularly highlighting staff for the hard work they have done instills a sense of pride in themselves and in the company.

 An Employee of the Month program should also be a lot of fun and provide the opportunity for a regular team-bonding exercise. Just remember, the key to any successful awards program is the awards themselves.  Be careful when giving certificates or other “gimmicky prizes.”  This could end up having the opposite effect on employee motivation.


Let us help you!

As the largest awards and trophy store in the western United States, here at Gem Awards, we know the importance the right recognition provides. We have been providing high-quality personalized awards and trophies to the southern Utah since 1988, and in 2018 we launched our online store, allowing us to offer our products nationwide.

 When it comes to rewarding your employees, we offer fully customizable Employee of the Month packages. From wall-hanging plaques that let you showcase the more deserving employee each month to bespoke packages that also include personalized gifts.  Whatever you need our dedicated team is here to help you take your employee of the month program to the next level.

 Want to find out more? Check out our range Employee of the Month packages here, or get in touch with our team today. 

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