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Derek Irvine


Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

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Blog: Why you should dump ’employee of the month’


Recognise This! – Employee of the Month programmes create competition and resentfulness, not appreciative work environments.

Compensation pros – when you think of base pay in today’s organisation, do you think in terms of guaranteed annual increases or in some form of pay for performance?
Most realise the former is the method a century old, whilst pay for performance in some guise is the far more modern approach. Yet, these same compensation and benefits pros often continue to cling to century-old approaches to employee recognition and reward.
Employee of the Month and similar limited winner, “popularity contest” methods for employee recognition should be long buried. The Monster Thinking Blog outlined reasons why in a recent post:
“Years of research unequivocally supports the conclusion that traditional employee motivation programmes actually decrease the overall morale and productivity of a workforce.
"Unfortunately, many well-intentioned human resource professionals continue to spend their resources attempting to create motivational programmes that, whilst they make sense intuitively, do far more harm than good.
“When I refer to traditional reward-and-recognition programmes, I mean … ‘dangling carrot programmes.’ … Among all programmes, “Employee of the Month” stands out as the most counterproductive.”
I’ve commented before that employee of the month programmes often devolve in one of two ways – either turning into a competition instead of praise and acknowledgment or becoming a “who’s turn is it this month?” exercise.
Let me be crystal clear – these programmes largely demotivate. They do not engage, encourage, motivate or appropriately recognise employees.
As the Monster Thinking blog post points out: “By the way, it becomes progressively more difficult over time to get employees who lose motivated again. Do you really want to have to worry about dangling carrots every day and every time you want your employees’ best effort?”
Any kind of recognition programme that intentionally creates “losers” is doomed to failure. What should you do instead?
Recognise and show your appreciation for employees – all employees – who demonstrate your core values in contribution to achieving your strategic objectives. This eliminates both the competition and “it’s your turn” of failed programmes like Employee of the Month that have seen their time pass long ago.
Have you ever been named “Employee of the Month?” Was it an honor, a popularity contest, or “your turn?”
Derek Irvine is senior vice president of global strategy at HR software provider, Globoforce.

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One Response

  1. Missing the point

     To think that recognition schemes that use award categories such as ‘Employee of the Month’ are “intentionally creating losers” and “do not engage, encourage, motivate or appropriately recognise employees” is to miss the point.


    If employers are thinking of dropping this type of reward then there is something fundamentally wrong. If you can’t recognise people in a fair way across the business for generally going the extra mile or for delivering beyond the norm, then we may as well shut up shop and go home.


    We get the best out of a child by encouraging them and generally rewarding them for excellent behaviour and performance. This principle continues through life in one way or another, and as we get older and wiser even includes self-recognition.


    The key is to have a scheme that is well structured and communicated with clear selection criteria, a well-defined selection process and an appropriate reward.  The award should also be presented in a way that is suited to the individual receiving it.  More extroverted members of staff may revel in a small ‘ceremony’ at which the award is presented, whereas those who prefer to stay out of the limelight may appreciate a more low-key approach. It can also help to announce the nominees as well as the overall winner, so that they also feel recognised.


    Of course, there will always be some who view such schemes in a cynical light, but overall a well-planned scheme can help avoid this attitude and be highly successful in delivering improved performance and results.


    Kuljit Kaur is Head of Business Development at The Voucher Shop 

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Derek Irvine

Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

Read more from Derek Irvine

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