6 Steps to Set Up an Employee of the Month Program

6 Steps to Set Up an Employee of the Month Program

Employee engagement is closely tied with with regular recognition. Here’s proof: 84% of highly engaged employees say that they received recognition for the last time when they delivered superior work compared to only 25% of actively disengaged employees. Feeling that your team isn’t doing their best work lately? Perhaps, you’ve been taking them for granted for quite awhile and it’s time to change that with an Employee of the Month Program.

Why You Should Start an Employee of the Month Program

Disengaged employees are costing your business money. Per Gallup, an unmotivated employee can cost their employer $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary, or 34%. That’s quite a hefty price tag for something that could be easily addressed with the right methods:

  • Regular employee recognition by managers
  • Equity theory-based motivation
  • Peer recognition initiatives
  • Great leadership
  • Vertical and horizontal career growth opportunities
  • Regular performance review and feedback
  • And an employee of the month program, of course.

In fact, 37% of employees consider regular recognition as the most important thing their employer could do to help them become more successful and engaged in their role. For comparison, only 12% wanted more autonomy, 7% wished for a higher salary, and 4% would want a promotion.

Simple and regular recognition, provided both privately and publicly, is among the main drivers for workers, leading to increased productivity, higher morale, lower absenteeism and lower turnover among other things.

See? Employee recognition is pretty important. And there’s no simpler way to cultivate this practice than by starting an employee of the month program.

How to Set Up an Employee of the Month Program

Every successful initiative is backed by a solid business case. So here’s how to build one of your employee of the month program. To lay down the base, schedule a discussion with department heads and team leads to formalize the key goals of your program.

Here are some common goals that most employers choose to pursue:

  • Higher productivity
  • Improved customer service ratings
  • Increased sales quota closure
  • Faster turnaround time
  • Lower volume of complaints from customers.

Having a clear understanding what you want to accomplish will help you align your recognition program rules with expected outcomes.

1. Write Down Eligibility Requirements

First, you’ll need to determine whether your employee of the month program will include only certain departments or the entire organization. Secondly, you’ll have to decide who will be eligible to participate – full-time employees only or temp/contract workers too? What about interns and part-time hires?

In short, your first task is to figure out a clear set of rules addressing the following:

  • What types of employees can participate (full-time/part-time/temps) etc.?
  • Is there a minimum employment term for participants (e.g. 6 months)?
  • How and who will vote on the best employee? Will it be a public team vote or a managerial decision?
  • Can the same person receive an award more than once?

2. Create a Set of Recognition Parameters

Your next task is to create a clear set of parameters for selecting the best employee of the month. These should be aligned with the goals you have set up earlier.

For example, Salt Lake County places the emphasis on great customer service skills. Their The Heart of It employee program recognizes team members who have provided superior levels of care to a customer or a peer. Their main parameters for recognition are:

  • Great dedication to customer service
  • Genuine care and compassion towards customers and team members.

Here’s another case from Staten Island University Hospital Radiology Lab. The healthcare institution launched a GEM (Go the Extra Mile) program, aimed at rewarding hospital staff for higher efficiency and speed of moving patients.

Every team member can nominate someone else for making an improvement to the department work. At the end of the month, the management than tallies up all the nominations and announces the winner. This employee of the month program delivered quantifiable results as the hospital workers moves per hour increased from 2.2 to 2.8 and the patient satisfaction rates also increased.

If you need even more ideas for specific employee recognition parameters, here are some:

  • Achievement of the month
  • Highest customer feedback score of the month
  • Problem solver of the month
  • New skills learned award
  • Inspiration of the month.

Also, you can rotate the recognition parameters on a bi-monthly/annual basis to nurture various qualities among your team.

3. Brainstorm the Rewards

Employee of the month certificates, plaques or trophies are among the types of rewards that always resonate with employees. Monetary compensation is also much welcomed. And if you want to get a bit more creative than that, here are some additional employee award ideas to consider:

  • Additional time off
  • Dedicated intern for X months
  • Better parking space
  • Fancy dinner with the CEO/department head
  • New office items
  • Social media shout outs
  • Charitable donation on their behalf
  • Custom company swag
  • New training/mentoring program
  • Books
  • Custom stickers

Also, you can introduce another set of rewards awards for reaching more important milestones e.g. beating quarterly or yearly goals. Bonusly’s Bridging the Appreciation Gap report suggests that for such programs the majority (44%) prefer to receive a gift certificate or a gift card to be spent at the store of their choice. The second most preferred reward selected by 41% of respondents is an all-paid trip with the teammates.

Lastly, it’s always worth run a quick survey with your team and offer them several award options to select among on a regular basis. Moreover, you can mix up your awards every other month to hype up the interest around your program.

4. Decide On the Selection Process

How to choose Employee of the Month? Well, you have plenty of different options.

First, you can introduce a public employee nomination form. Every team member will be able to log in and nominate one of their peers. The problem of this approach, however, is that you may not get a clear winner each time.

Another option is to set up a public voting system. A decision committee can suggest several candidates for recognition and everyone else can cast their vote anonymously. In this case, you are more likely to receive a clear winner. But you’ll have to ensure that no one’s allowed to vote for themselves or vote twice.

Alternatively, you can let the customers decide who’s your best employee. This works best for customer service teams and any types of customer-facing roles. You can ask the customer to quickly rate their experience with a particular person during checkout or via a follow-up email survey form.

Lastly, you can assemble a “panel of judges” to decide on the winner, based on submission and feedback received from managers and peers. If you want to get really advanced with this, you can also use the following selection process:

Employee of the Month Selection Questionnaire

  1. Create a comprehensive questionnaire of at least 50 questions, spanning over 5 to 10 categories.
  2. Categorize the questions based on the recognition parameters you’ve previously set.
  3. Use a survey tool to send out a quick questionnaire (with 5-10 questions max) to your employees each week. Make sure that each question allows the respondent to associate a colleague with it and/or provide a score to pre-suggested candidacy.
  4. Collect and analyze all the responses. Identify people with the highest scores across different dimensions.
  5. Present the survey results to the decision committee for consideration.
  6. Let them contribute and decide on the winner.
  7. Rinse and repeat on a regular basis.

5. Start Promoting Your Program

Most employee of the month program will need an early boost. Some people will feel too shy or too reluctant to participate. So it would be your job to build up the initial interest. Here is your blueprint for that.

First, start with an introductory announcement during the company-wide/department-wide meeting. Next, dispatch an email blast to everyone informing about the details. As well, don’t forget to add the same information to the company wiki for quick reference.

During the announcement your main goals are:

  • Outline the key eligibility and selection criteria
  • Explain how to write a nomination for employee of the month
  • Briefly comment on the voting/selection process (how it’s done, by whom, etc.)
  • Stress the nomination period time frame
  • Place the rewards in the spotlight.

To further gauge interest, set up and send out an “Employee of the Month” newsletter reminding about voting, assessment criteria (so that employees took more effort to do their best job) and the shiny award.

6. Publicize and Cheer The Winner

To further amplify the popularity of your employee of the month program make a pretty big deal of promoting the winner. Again, you have plenty of options to do so beyond an “official congrats ceremony”:

  • Set up a public “Wall of Fame” or Leaderboard.
  • Promote the Employee of the Month on corporate social media.
  • Publish a quick blog post about them on your website.
  • Place them in the limelight in your newsletter.

Or do all of the above to ramp up the interest around your program even further!

Wrap Up

Now you know all the steps to set up an employee of the month program. Clear objectives, formalized recognition criteria and a fair selection process are the three main pillars of such initiatives. Employee rewards are also important as they foster participation and daily effort.

Lastly, here’s one quick secret to keeping your employees engaged in between the monthly awards: thank them more often!

Photo by Vlad Hilitanu

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