Here we are, two weeks on from the Oscars. The stars have strolled across the red carpet, held their breath while someone said ‘and the winner is…’ and duly thanked the director, the cast, the crew – and hopefully their mum and dad as well.  

More significantly though, we’re six days on from the end of the month – a time when ‘and the winner is’ was slightly closer to home; when businesses up and down the land announced their Employee of the Month.

And there’s Jessica: she’s clutching a bouquet, a voucher for a local restaurant and the rest of the team are clapping – some with slightly more enthusiasm than others. The question is, does it make any difference? Will Jessica’s performance next month be significantly better because she’s the winner – and will it motivate or de-motivate the rest of the team?

At this stage I need to pin my colours to the mast. At Castle we do have an Employee of the Month – and of the Year. We have several other awards as well – and I’m absolutely convinced that they work.

And yet there’s a body of research that suggests awards to your staff don’t work: that not only do they de-motivate significant numbers of employees, they might even lead to a lessening of performance from the winners in subsequent months. I was surprised when I read these articles: the most striking one was a study of an American laundry chain carried out by an assistant professor at Harvard and a professor from the Business School at Washington University.

I read the article twice – and then I compared it to our experience at Castle. The result is five recommendations that I hope will help you develop and implement effective awards for your team – and avoid some of the worst mistakes.

I hope those suggestions help. I think awards are important, I think they can help build your team – and I firmly believe that ultimately they can improve your bottom line as well.