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Is Employee of The Month a Joke?

    Q:  I recently started as a manager at a new company where I was surprised to learn the Employee of the Month is perceived as a big joke by most employees.  At previous companies, the award was an honor.  What happened here?  How do we change it into something employees will be proud to receive?

    A:  When comedian Demetri Martin says:  “I think Employee of the Monthis a good example of when a person can be a winner and a loser at the same time” he gets a laugh from the audience.  Why?  Because most of us know that it’s all too common for these well meaning programs to be mismanaged so that instead of the intended employee recognition, they result in employee cynicism.

    What went wrong in your company?  Maybe the selection criteria --who makes decisions and why-- was surrounded in mystery.  Perhaps employees noticed that only brown-nosers and those who fawn over management were awarded.  Perhaps management thought this is all they had to do to make employees feel appreciated, and did little else.

    But Employee of the Month awards are not a magic bullet.  They can be effective, but only if they’re part of a larger environment of recognition and appreciation. 

    How to turn things around?

    Be transparent on who is involved in nomination and selection. 

    Encourage employees to nominate co-workers – they’re closer to the action and often notice good things a manager may never see; plus it will increase the variety and types of nominees.  Caveat, employees shouldn’t make the final selection, since they may not be privy to hidden problems known to management. 

    Final selection should be made by a group of managers which changes each month in order to diversify the mix and avoid rigid opinions.

    Have criteria.  Figure out what the organization wants to recognize and reward.  Is it customer service?   Productivity?  Innovation?  Sales?  Create a nomination form with good examples.

    Lastly, change the name.  Instead of rehabilitating the old award, you might want to start fresh with a new focus and title.  For instance:  The Extra Mile award, The Outstanding Rookie, The Most Valuable Player.  You get the idea.


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