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employee of the month in the bike shop

How to Create an Employee of the Month Scheme for the 21st Century

There are two things that need to be acknowledged when putting together an employee of the month scheme for a contemporary workforce. The first is that all employee of the month schemes are a form of recognition.

The second is that they’re not perfect. There are great benefits, but there are drawbacks. By playing up the strengths and accommodating the weaknesses, you can design an employee of the month scheme that has a huge positive effect on your business.

Your employee of the month scheme could bring your business:

  • A feel-good factor – Sharing positive thoughts and achievements boosts morale.
  • LoyaltyWe’ve talked before about the benefits of recognition, and loyalty is one of the key areas improved by quality recognition.
  • Good habits– Making celebration a monthly habit helps ingrain a culture of respect and recognition in your staff.
  • Employee sentiment – Improve how your employees see their own company, and how quality candidates will see your company’s culture.

This blog will take you through the key thoughts that need to be considered to make your employee of the month scheme a roaring success.

Click below to jump to a section:

1. Know what you need your employee of the month scheme to achieve

Lay out your employee of the month scheme goals ahead of time

What kind of noticeable effect are you trying to generate with your employee of the month scheme?

It could be to increase employee motivation, to experiment with starting a recognition scheme, or to improve morale around the office. They’re all valid needs, and valid reasons to try a new scheme.

It’s a worthy question, because it gives you clarity of purpose. It focuses your other decision-making, which makes it easier to put the rest of your employee of the month scheme together; if it doesn’t serve your clear outcomes, it doesn’t need to be part of your plan.

Keep this outcome in mind when you’re going through the rest this blog, and when you’re organising your own scheme.

2. Treasure consistency

Consistency is key in all staff-facing comms, no less so in employee of the month schemes

Expectation has a powerful influence on our minds, especially when expectations aren’t met. When you start an employee of the month scheme, your employees will anticipate that you consistently deliver what you set out to do. And they’ll notice if the scheme misses a month or falters.

Consistently delivering your employee of the month scheme makes it easier for staff to anticipate it and stay engaged.

Being consistent helps make sure you’re timely, and being timely is important for recognition. The impact of recognition is at its most powerful when it’s close to the behaviour or achievement you’re recognising.

Keeping your scheme consistent means you’re always as close as possible to something that happened in the last 30 days. While that’s not as good for morale as instant recognition, it’s a huge improvement over 60 days or more.

3. Embrace transparency and communicate effectively

Being open and honest lets staff get invested in employee of the month schemesThe most common stereotype of employee of the month is the portrait on the wall, with the little bronze “employee of the month” plaque on the frame. It doesn’t really tell you that much, does it?

It also doesn’t really benefit anyone outside the manager/employee relationship. Especially if there’s no explanation for what that employee did to earn their recognition for the month.

Explaining why that employee merits special recognition would have two positive effects for your company.

First, you have a chance to explain your decision making process. Failure to communicate is often at the heart of workplace distrust and angst.

Explaining your decision making process clears up the ambiguity, leaving much less chance that an employee is going to become disgruntled.

Second, you can take an opportunity to reinforce your values. Assuming, of course, you take our advice and make sure the scheme integrates with an overall recognition plan.

As with recognition overall, what you choose to recognise is an endorsement of the business you want to build. Explaining why you’re issuing recognition is an opportunity to build a picture of the kind of values and behaviour you want your company to embody.

4. Boast about your big timers

Employee of the month schemes are chance to boast, grasp it with two handsShare your employee of the month winners, and their achievements, with the public.

Making your appreciation for your staff public has two major benefits. First, you’re showing the world that your company is staffed by employees that excel, and produce achievements worth celebrating.

This improves your public reputation, positioning your company as a place of collaboration, success and recognition. And thus, a desirable partner or supplier.

However, while it’s important to control the external perception of your company, your internal one matters too. How staff perceive your company will influence their motivation, their loyalty, and their behaviour.

By boasting about your staff to the public, and putting their achievements in a public spotlight, you show your staff they work for a company that values them. And that’s a huge part of what recognition is all about – making staff see how important they see they are to your business, and feel that value.

Just be sure to get the permission of any employee you want to feature before putting them in the public sphere!

5. Refresh your scheme occasionally

Keeping things fresh helps keep your employee of the month scheme from going stale

Companies change. Employees’ work changes, your staff change, and your company’s culture grows.

Which makes it wise to stop and reflect now and then on whether your processes are right for your business today. That includes employee of the month schemes.

Take the time to ask yourself:

  • Does this produce the outcomes we wanted it to?
  • Do the processes work?
  • Is our workforce interested in, and interacting with, the scheme?

If the answers are no, it’s time to think about a refresh in your approach. This conversation would be a great time to open the door to your staff’s thoughts. After all, they’re the group that are supposed to get the most benefit from the scheme itself.

If they’re not getting what they need out of the scheme, it’s worth asking how you can change the scheme to achieve your aims.

6. Don’t let a few stars steal the spotlight

Employee of the month schemes are for everyone, not just a couple of top performers

One of the big signs of a stale, ineffective employee of the month scheme is repetition of winners.

Whether they go out of their way to do it or not, a niche group can consistently find themselves passing the baton between themselves.

This could be because of how you measure, who feels enlivened and engaged, or because you aren’t putting the time aside to really think about awarding winners. However you arrive at this point, it’s not a good thing.

It would be easy to say “well, the winners are the winners” and carry on, but that doesn’t cut it with the rest of your staff. Remember, this is part of your overall recognition system.

Alienating most of your staff to focus on a tiny group of number-hitters ruins enthusiasm for the scheme, and can even create distrust.

Consistently rewarding a small group for the sake achievements every month is a sign of poor employee of the month scheme design. Account for areas beyond just numbers.

7. Left-field employee of the month ideas

Be creative, your employee of the month scheme doesn't have to be by-the-numbers

To make your employee of the month scheme accessible to all staff, you don’t have to stick to celebrating stereotypical individual performances. You can celebrate:

The best mistake

No, it’s not a typo! Sometimes we need to make a mistake and get something wrong to learn the best way to do something. A mistake that leads to significant growth and development, handled correctly, can be cause for celebration. It also downplays the idea that failures are fatal, and encourages staff to accept risk and failure as long as they’re educational.

A big personality

Some staff create huge value to your workplace in ways that are difficult to measure. They bring the mood up on difficult days, they make other staff see their value, they bring calm in emergencies, they uplift the performance of peers. Celebrate the stuff that everyone notices but doesn’t end up on a spread sheet.

Work anniversaries

Not only do employees expect to be recognised for their long service, but long serving employees are a huge asset to your company. Their intimate knowledge of your business and industry, experience and knowledge help others in their own work. Longevity is a trait well worth celebrating in your valuable employees.

An entire department or team

As we’ve pointed out elsewhere in this blog, almost no one at work is an island. Achievements are usually down to the efforts of a team, even if one person appears to be the focal point. A whole team

A whole year’s achievement

Not everyone has a “big” month. Some employees’ value isn’t in their most prolific achievements, but their consistency. Particularly in an uncertain business like sales, someone that produces a dependable and commendable string of results merits recognition. Just as much as some employees merit recognition for one big moment during a year.

The point is, you don’t have to bind your own hands. You don’t have to stick to measuring KPIs and metrics to determine an employee’s worth to your business. And those elements don’t have to be the sole focus of your employee of the month scheme – it’s up to you and what’s important to your company.

8. Scale the scheme to your teams

You can't be all things to all people, especially in big companies. Scale your employee of the month scheme to your business size

If you think of the impact of recognition as a pebble being skipped across a pond, the impact runs out of steam the further it goes.

It’s the same for the impact of public recognition among your staff; the further away you go, the lower the impact is.

If your business has 500 staff spread across three sites and 10 teams, it’s unlikely everyone will have intimate knowledge of what other teams and individuals are up to. Or what makes their work so important to the company.

Why does this matter? Because the wider positive effects of public recognition rest on employees understanding the value of their colleagues’ work. And, in turn, understanding why they merit that recognition.

You don’t have to use only one employee of the month scheme for a whole business (more on that later…). If your warehouse team isn’t likely to get much out of seeing the customer support team celebrated, run smaller schemes. Design a scheme, and help your managers carry it out for their departments.

9. Put collaboration before competition

Employee of the month schemes do a better job of improving your company culture when they focus on group achievements over individual success

While you can only put one person in the spotlight at a time, you can focus the conversation around the award on how their efforts are collaborative.

Rather than focusing on someone’s individual performance, also focus on how their work contributed to a wider whole.

Put simple KPI measurement and number chases aside for something that’s more valuable to your company’s culture. While it will mean having to put a bit more effort into your scheme, it will pay dividends.

When a scheme shines a light on collaborative success, one individual being highlighted doesn’t alienate others. They become the focal point of a team’s success instead.

10. Recognise that employee of the month schemes are recognition

Employee of the month schemes have to fit into a wider recognition effort, because they ARE recognition

You will know by now that recognition is extremely valuable to your company. If you’re not sold, take a look at our recent blog on recognition stats here. And as we said at the start of this article, employee of the month schemes and recognition are peas in the same pod.

As a result, an employee of the month scheme should be an extension of your overall recognition system. To be consistent, it should reflect the same values and goals you have in mind for recognition overall. To reap the most benefits of employee recognition, all of your efforts should be complementary.

When recognition efforts dovetail, they bring the best out of each other. And they provide a cohesive, easily understood set of values and behaviours that your company wants to celebrate.

11. Bring your leaders’ personalities in

You and your teams' personalities should show up in your employee of the month scheme

Your leadership figures need to play an active role in employee of the month schemes.

Recognition in general just isn’t something that can be handed off to a PA or a line manager. There has a be personal element.

Employees are smart enough to see when leaders aren’t invested, and it harms their perception of recognition in your company. And as we discussed earlier, internal brand perception matters as much as external.

As much as is reasonable, make sure your business’ leaders are involved in your employee of the month scheme. It legitimises your scheme, and shows the company’s overall investment in employee recognition.

12. Don’t literally call it “employee of the month”

Seriously. Don't do it.You might think this is a bit of a petty point, but just calling your scheme “employee of the month” is a bit of a missed opportunity.

You’re immediately robbing yourself of a chance to reflect the best of your company culture in the name, and make that culture an element of your employee of the month scheme.

It’s also a signal to your employees. When you put the time aside to think of a name that reflects your staff and your work culture, you’re showing your own investment in the scheme.

Exercising your own creativity and effort won’t go unnoticed by your employees. In turn, it’s much easier for them to become invested in the scheme themselves.

On both counts your scheme is losing out without a good reason.

13. Include worthy rewards

Rewards are perfect for capping off an employee achievement, and they turn professional success into a lasting trophy.

Rewards also do a much better job of celebrating success than just cash on its own, as we’ve talked about before.

Going for something like a gift card, reward code or vouchers doesn’t burden you with having to pick the reward.

You set the reward level you feel is appropriate, and let the employee pick something they’ll love for themselves.

Gift cards, vouchers and reward codes to delight and excite your staff

Love2shop Gift Cards

Our employee reward range puts the joy of choice in your employees’ hands. Whatever your staff love to do, they can find it through our selection of cards, codes and vouchers.

Digital rewards do the job right

Earlier we were talking about how important it is to be consistent and timely with recognition. It’s not that much different for rewards. Digital rewards make it easy to send rewards quickly, because digital reward codes are sent, received and redeemed digitally.

It’s simple, fast, and gives your staff access to potentially thousands of rewards with just one email or text message. And if your employee chooses to redeem their reward digitally, they don’t involve any single-use paper or plastic cards or vouchers. No postage fees either.

You also don’t have to lose any of the benefits of face-to-face employee recognition by using digital rewards. While the reward can arrive, and be spent, digitally, you’re always free to capitalise in other ways. Like making a speech for the office, sending them a hand-written note, or just a conversation about what they did to merit the congratulations.

14. Think about colleague of the month, not just employee of the month

One employee of the month winner at a time is so constricting, no?

One typical employee of the month scheme will recognise 12 people a year. You don’t need to be a maths wizard to figure that out. Which is great if you have exactly 12 employees – everyone could earn a spot in the lime light!

But most companies have more than 12 employees. An overwhelming majority of the UK’s workforce, for example, work for a company with more than 20 employees. You are most likely going to have a fair few employees leftover after you’ve counted to 12.

The good news is there’s a way to address this, and it could significantly improve your employee of the month scheme. Democratise the employee of the month selection process and let your employees pick a winner themselves. Instead of employee of the month, think colleague of the month.

Having a hand in choosing a monthly winner gives your staff a stake in the scheme itself. It’s much harder to argue with the outcome when it’s a consensus generated among colleagues.

As long as voters can justify their choices, within your company’s values and goals, you don’t have to stress about your scheme being a straight up popularity contest.

Instead of one person being held up as a winner every month, everyone is a stakeholder and everyone has a voice.

You can read more about our thoughts on colleague, not employee, of the month here.

15. Make gathering employee of the month scheme nominations easy

Making it easy is the first step to keeping people using your employee of the month schemeSo, if you’re anything like us, you’ve read the bit above and thought: “I love the idea of letting everyone cast a vote, but I hate the idea of gathering the votes.” And that’s not an unreasonable thought, chasing something that’s not directly work related can be like herding cats.

But it doesn’t have to be that difficult. You can make life easy for yourself by using technology. Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Strawpoll and Doodle Poll all let you grab a consensus without much difficulty.

You can also include special fields to make sure your staff include sound reasoning for their nominations, and provides nominations measured against your company’s values.

Great employee of the month schemes are worth the effort

Putting together an effective employee of the month scheme is worth the effort. You’ll be making a more positive, collaborative, celebratory workplace.

Use the advice here to steer around the rocks of:

Jealousy – Poor communication and lack of strategy lets some departments and individuals feel they’re not as valuable as others.

Inequality – Effectively “locking out” most employees through poor scheme design, measurement, and measurement.

Missed expectations – Damaging internal brand sentiment by falling short of expectations and appearing inconsistent.

Disappointing rewards – Rewards that don’t suit your employees, are hard to use, or don’t arrive in time harm your employee of the month scheme.

Taking the time to get them right ahead of time, and maintain them properly, will pay dividends. If you have any questions, about recognition or rewards, feel free to get in touch with our team. They’d be delighted to hear from you.

9 corporate perks top talent can’t ignore

Corporate perks are one of the big ways companies are fighting the war for talent. A war that, according to the ONS, is intensifying.

It’s ever-more important for your business to find creative ways to attract and keep quality staff.

But corporate perks aren’t just about blinding staff with cheap, glitzy gifts. Quality employees are more clever than that.

These perks need to be an extension of how you see employees, and the kind of workplace culture you want to enjoy.

Don’t just think about what’s going to make you look funky and different when job-seekers are scrolling through CV warehouses’ open roles.

Think about how your perks reflect your attitude towards staff and your business.

1. Travel

travel is a very popular corporate perkTravelling is enriching, energising and broadens the mind. It’s also one of the most common ambitions your employees are likely to have.

Offering time and resources to see the world will enrich the minds of your staff. And your employees will see that you value them not just as professionals, but individuals.

2. Employee rewards

Make sure staff efforts don’t go without reward and recognition. Rewards become long-lasting trophies and positive memories for staff.

Jump over here if you want the full run-down on everything need to know before offering employee rewards.

3. Flexible hours

Modern life has a funny way of refusing to fit comfortably in the time outside 9am and 5pm.

Showing a bit of trust and letting staff be flexible with hours makes it much more comfortable to balance work and life. Remote working access would also be a huge game-changer for a lot of staff.

4. Time to volunteer

If you care about something, and it’s part of your company’s values, give your staff a stake in it.

Let them put some time aside every year to volunteer for a good cause that reflects what your company’s about.

As a corporate perk, it’s more than a feel-good exercise. Your staff get invested in the same things your company cares about, improving employee engagement. And boosting internal sentiment about your company.

5. Holiday trading

If you’re not already familiar, holiday trading is a form of salary sacrifice. Employees give up a slice of their annual pay for an equivalent number of days off. Or selling their extra holiday back.

As we pointed out in the flexible working section, everyone’s life is a bit different. And what’s important to everyone is different.

Some employees would relish the chance for an extra week with their family. Other work-obsessives might bristle when asked to take their days out of the office.

The most important thing is that the choice is there.

6. Training and development

The ugly stereotype that millennial staff are fickle job-hoppers does start with a sliver of the truth. Millennial staff are keen to learn, and they’re keen to take opportunities to grow.

Offering opportunities for staff to grow has two major effects. Talented people will seize the opportunity to develop their skills, and they’ll be inclined to stay with the companies that invest in them.

7. Staff discounts

Make the everyday a little bit easier, every day. Offer your employees a way to ease the daily burden of the things they can’t avoid making part of their routine spending.

Even discounts that seem small add up quickly when you use them over the course of a year.

Alternatively, you could arrange discounts on services like laundry, gym membership or cafes by dealing in bulk with local suppliers.

Staff will appreciate a corporate perk that does something positive for them every day.

9. Profit-sharing

Sometimes an employee can feel a bit divorced from the impact of their work. The difference between the company having a good year and a brilliant year might not get them fired up.

If it’s right for your company culture, profit-sharing would build more investment between employees and the success of the company.

They’d have more emotional connection to the effects of their work, and a sense of connection with the business.

Empathy first

The common thread through these corporate perks is having a bit of empathy. Acknowledging staff are human beings, not just cogs in a machine. People with needs, ideas, and wants.

That’s the foundation of any attempt to deploy some difference-making perks to attract and keep top staff. Get the emotional core right before fretting about which perk is right for your business.

a simple employee engagement definition

A useful employee engagement definition in plain English

An employee engagement definition can get complicated. As complicated as someone wants it to be, really.

It’s the kind of concept that becomes nebulous and hard to pin down once someone dresses it up too much. Or tries to twist it to fit their own agenda.

We’ve got a simple, workable employee engagement definition. And a bit of detail on why a simple definition matters.

A simple employee engagement definition:

“Emotional and professional commitment from an employee to their employer’s goals.”

What’s in a name?

It’s easy to see how that definition could start to be slathered around so thin it loses meaning. It’s more than morale, but it’s connected to morale.

It’s more than motivation, or loyalty, but connected to both. It’s more than rewards and recognition, but they’re both part of it.

That confusion makes employee engagement an easy concept to run away with.

Just like the word “engagement” itself. A word so overused that it’s close to losing all real meaning.

You can rightfully call everything from a website click to a purchase engagement.

That’s why it matters that you get a clear definition sorted out. The importance of employee engagement is spreading through the wider HR consciousness.

If you want to take it seriously, you need a clear idea of what engagement actually means to your company.

Why we talk about employee engagement

We reflect our clear definition of engagement in our work. What we do helps businesses generate that sense of emotional investment.

We do that with recognition, rewards, benefits and incentives.

How those tools affect employee engagement:

  • RecognitionRecognition improves the relationships between staff, managers, and work. When employee hear their worth in the workplace, they believe it. And people invest themselves in places they feel they’re appreciated.
  • RewardsRewards amplify the feeling of satisfaction employees get from their achievements. Non-cash rewards become trophies that inspire and motivate employees in the future.
  • Benefits – Making your workplace an asset to your employees. That includes mental health outcomes like financial support, helplines and childcare vouchers. And it includes physical health benefits like cycle to work schemes and cash off medical care.
  • Incentives – Incentives drive employees to invest in their work. And big-ticket incentive rewards like group travel and VIP experiences create life-long memories for your biggest achievers.

Combined, you can see how these ideas hark back to the definition of employee engagement.

Be similarly strict about engagement when you’re discussion in your workplace. It’s a simple benchmark to measure your success against after your first few employee engagement surveys.

How to write a simple employee recognition letter to thank and congratulate your employees

An employee recognition letter is a powerful tool for expressing your gratitude for staff. Taking the time and effort to put one together goes a lot further than just a hasty “thank you”.

That’s not to say you should be gripped with performance anxiety. You’re not presenting an episode of This Is Your Life, you’re just telling an employee what they mean to you.

Follow our simple guide, and you’ll knock it out of the park.

Write your simple employee recognition letter:

Be personal and earnest

The most important element of an employee recognition letter is that you put the effort and time into expressing yourself.

Be honest about what impressed you so much about someone’s efforts and achievements. Share your honest feelings. It’s the only way to have a genuine emotional impact.

Get to the point

Excessively flowery language is less effective than simple, honest statements. Say what you mean, say it simply, and rely on your honesty and confidence to make the impact.

Cite specific examples of achievement

Be sure to mention exactly which projects, jobs, or achievements you’re so impressed with. Don’t be vague, or washy, about why you’re recognising someone.

It diminishes the impact of celebrating them, and feels disingenuous.

Explain why those examples mattered to the company

Talk about how your employee’s achievements or behaviour affects the company overall.

Knowing that their work has a benefit to the business as a whole gives employees greater satisfaction and pride in their work.

Focus on tangible downstream impacts

Don’t just harp on about numbers. Only a few sales people can really get fired up about making graphs bigger. If you’re going to mention the outcome of work, relate to something more human and evocative than just numbers.

Mention your values and purpose

Relate positive behaviour back to what your company stands for, and why you come in every day.

Generating lasting employee engagement means letting employee see how their achievements at work relate back to your company’s ethical core and brand purpose.

Explain why they matter to their peers

Approval and acceptance from peers is a powerful motivator. It’s a part of being human no one can escape.

Even if you don’t have an actual peer-to-peer recognition program, your employee recognition letter should mention how vital your employee’s contribution to other people was.

The most important thing is sticking to point one; be honest and personal. A thoughtful, earnest employee recognition letter becomes a trophy.

Something your employees can treasure and reflect on. Something that increases their self-worth, improves their sense of belonging in the office, and helps them engage with your brand.

Rewarding an employee: 6 times you should step in and break out the rewards

You have to capitalise on the moment to make rewarding employees count. The best time to be there with a reward is when the dopamine rush of achievement is still whizzing through your employee’s brains.

Here are six occasions you need to be recognising and rewarding employees. There’s more to this than just hitting a sales target.

6 situations where you should have a reward in your hand for employees:

Self-improvement

Education and skill-building are vital. Investing in staff builds employee value to your business, and your company’s value to them in turn. Celebrating employees for building their professional skills shows how much your company values self-improvement.

Reward employees for completing courses, passing tests, high achievement on their professional development work, or even for the first project they complete with a recently-learned skill set.

Volunteering for your causes

Social causes bring employees closer to your business, closer to other employees, and closer to your values. Make sure you’re rewarding staff when they use their time outside of work to support charities and causes you hold close.

That might be organising a charity sports event, sorting out charity collections in your offices, or just giving up a bit of time on the weekends.

Helping other employees

A collaborative, constructive environment is a productive environment. Make sure employees are rewarded when they build connections between teams.

That includes staff who train their colleagues, go out of their way to help other employees finish work, help new employees settle in to their role, or deliver valuable leads to their peers.

Moving and improving

The workplace can be improved without overt focus on core job roles. Staff might take responsibility for site safety, lead a health initiative, organise group exercise, provide healthy snacks for the office, or manage a tobacco reduction scheme for their department.

Be sure to reward behaviour that makes for a happier, healthier place for all of your staff to work.

Crushing targets

KPIs, sales targets, and hard numbers are the old reliable for rewards. On one hand, it’s the least imaginative reason to reward your staff, and it really only reinforces and promotes behaviour that produces the cold numbers. On the other hand, every department has to hit their numbers.

It’s still worth rewarding staff for smashing their targets, as long as you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of chasing nothing but the numbers.

Bringing values to life

Living your values in their work. Not always tied directly to a KPI-related outcome, but worth rewarding when they’re making your business closer to its best version of itself.

Your values, and bringing them to life, is a vital component of employee engagement. When staff excel by adhering to your values, be sure to reward them. It shows not just that you value achievement, but that part of achievement is bringing the company’s values to life.

Longevity and milestones

Staff often expect to see some recognition for their long service after just a year with a company. Rewarding staff for their longevity helps create a more intense and lasting connection with your business, increasing the chance they’ll stick to your business.

Make sure to be timely with when rewarding employees to maximise their benefit to your business. Anticipate when staff are going to be full of beans from a recent achievements and swoop in with a reward.

overcoming_hurdles_employee_engagement

Overcoming the hurdles of employee engagement