Is it time to put employee of the month programmes out to pasture?

In short: in isolation maybe, but not definitely. Employee of the month is an idea that’s full of good intentions but, in our experience, usually fails to deliver on them.

These schemes sometimes fail to make an impact because relying on them is often a symptom of by-gone ideas about employee recognition, and what makes employees tick.

Rather than taking recognition seriously, it’s a token gesture that appears to make an effort, but lets employers off the hook with just one act of organised employee recognition a month. That’s pretty weak, in our opinion.

That said, let’s not blame the hammer for the guy swinging it. Employee of the month isn’t a completely bankrupt concept, you just need to understand how to get the most out of it.

Your business needs to modernise and customise your approach if you want to put together an employee of the month scheme that:

Incorporates wider employee recognition

No matter how you try to spin it, an employee of the month programme is employee recognition. Which means it needs to reflect the wider employee recognition efforts in your business. By the way, if you don’t already embrace employee recognition, there’s no bad time to start.

Joined-up thinking is vital to getting the most out of employee recognition, and employee of the month schemes are no exception.

Engages more than twelve employees a year

Only having twelve months to a year leaves you in a bind if there’s more than twelve people in your team. It’s simply not possible to recognise them all through the scheme when you’re doing one employee at a time. Which leaves at least one, and possible quite a few, employees that won’t be part of your company’s formal recognition efforts.

You could try multiple employee of the month schemes, breaking them down across different teams. Or you could try democratising the process itself, letting teams choose winners among themselves. There’s more than one way to make your scheme more inclusive for teams.

Reflects your values

We’ve made it no secret that we think recognition and reward should be used to reflect and enhance your company’s values. Recognising employees for going outside of those values not only diminishes the importance of those tenets, but actually rewards employees for undercutting them.

Ask yourself: how can you expect staff to prioritise ethical, values-informed behaviour when your company is seen to celebrate employees that aren’t carrying it out?

Get the full picture

It’s entirely possible to deliver an employee of the month scheme that works for a modern audience. One that reflects the positives in your business without alienating some people. You just need to put the effort in ahead of time, and make sure you never look at an employee of the month programme as a kind of catch-all silver bullet.

This blog is nowhere exhaustive on that front, and there’s a great deal more to think about when delivering an employee of the month scheme that works. We have a full write-up on employee of the month schemes here. Check it out if you’re looking to introduce or improve a programme of your own. If you have any questions, you just need to get in touch.