May 31, 2024
March 18, 2024

9 Creative Employee of the Month Ideas

Get Started with Awardco
Get a Demo

So you want to build an employee recognition programme that rewards your top performers on a regular cadence. That’s great! Rewarding employees can significantly increase their motivation and performance while increasing your retention levels.

Employee of the Month is a great reward programme for accomplishing this goal. When done right, this programme has a regular cadence, has specific criteria for winning it, and is very rewarding for winners.

In this article, we’ll go over why an Employee of the Month award programme is impactful, best practises to be aware of, and Employee of the Month gift ideas to give you inspiration.

What Is an Employee of the Month Programme?

Employee of the Month is a reward programme that recognises and awards one employee each month for their stellar achievements. These programmes have specific criteria and guidelines to help employees know how to qualify.

Depending on your org size, you can break these programmes down by team or department to give more people a chance to win, too.

Why Implement an Employee of the Month Programme?

Employee of the Month programmes are special because they’re more structured and top-down. Peer recognition and manager-to-employee recognition are both extremely important and should happen frequently, but there’s something unique about recognition that comes from a company leader or CEO.

For example, 1 in 4 employees say the most memorable recognition comes from the CEO. Other benefits of Employee of the Month programmes include:

  • Stronger value-driven culture. When Employee of the Month awards are tied into company core values, employees will see that those who exemplify core values are recognised and rewarded. And 92% of employees are very likely to repeat behaviours after being recognised for them.
  • Lower turnover. When employees feel appreciated and valued by the company, they’re much less likely to leave. In fact, recognition can lower your turnover by 31%.
  • Increased employee engagement. Recognition from management helps employees feel more involved and invested in their work—raising their engagement by 43%.
  • Better productivity and performance. Organisations that have recognition programmes like Employee of the Month enjoy a 14% higher level of productivity and performance

When employee efforts are noticed, especially in a structured and reliable way, they respond with greater efforts, excitement, and engagement around their work.

You can create a culture where employees are excited to come to work, happy to go the extra mile, and motivated to exemplify your core values, all by implementing an Employee of the Month programme.

Best Practises for Employee of the Month Awards

When you’re strategizing your Employee of the Month award programme, you should keep these best practises in mind to ensure you create the biggest impact possible.

Set Up Clear Criteria for Everything

Choosing who wins the award shouldn’t be random or subjective. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest or go to the employee who is the loudest. Instead, your Employee of the Month programme should lay out exactly how any employee can win in clear criteria for eligibility, nominations, and frequency, such as:

  • What types of actions qualify an employee for consideration?
  • How often can the same person win the award?
  • Who can nominate others for the award?
  • Who picks the winner and what rubric do they use? Does this responsibility rotate?

Another fun idea to share is how employees can improve their chances of winning. With a clear rubric for choosing who wins, you’ll know what the award-givers are looking for, so why not share that with your people?

Accept Nominations From Everyone

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in Employee of the Month programmes is to only get input from executives. Leaders usually aren’t in the trenches and don’t see all of the work that frontline employees put in. Whereas your employees see all of the work around them each day, giving them the evidence they need to nominate those who really deserve to win.

So if at all possible, accept nominations from everyone.

A recognition platform like Awardco can handle nominations, award announcements, and reward fulfilment. And with customisation, you can allow any employee to nominate for Employee of the Month.

Choose Varied Winners

Whoever is in charge of choosing the winners, make sure they put every effort into choosing various people to win. Winners should always deserve the award, so don’t choose random employees just for the sake of variety, but the same people shouldn’t win over and over again, either.

If employees feel like they’re doing everything necessary to win but are never rewarded, they’ll quickly lose motivation and potentially burn out.

This begs the question, what if you have the same group of employees who qualify for the award criteria each month? Well, now you can investigate why employees aren’t motivated. Send out a survey to try to find the underlying causes.

Are employees feeling burned out? Are their job expectations unclear? Do they feel like they don’t have any upward mobility? Is their work-life balance out of whack? These situations always create disengagement and apathy, which lead to fewer Employee of the Month nominations.

Offer Amazing Awards

Winning Employee of the Month should feel special. Period. And let’s be honest, a candy bar or their name on a plaque—while exciting at first—isn’t enough to get people really excited about winning the award. Here are some award ideas that will really make your programme stand out:

  • A shoutout from the CEO. As long as the winner doesn’t mind public attention, have the CEO extol their virtues and thank them for their efforts.
  • Create a permanent memory. Use a service like Cameo for a video celebrating the winner. Or use a service like Shutterfly to create a book of photos or messages celebrating them.
  • Financial compensation. A sizable gift card to a specific store based on the winner’s preferences, a cash prize, or a discount on services or products are all great ideas.
  • Month-long conveniences. Give winners the best parking spot for the month. Or provide them with a free lunch each week for the month. These long-term rewards can really reaffirm the impact of winning.

Add Employee of the Month to Your Robust Recognition Strategy

A monthly award is a great way to reward employees for their month-long efforts and larger accomplishments. However, considering only one or a handful of employees will win each month, that’s not nearly enough recognition for all of your workforce.

Recognition should be frequent, genuine, and timely for everyone. So in addition to this monthly award, consider spot recognition, incentives, and milestone celebrations.

Schedule a demo to learn more about all the different types of employee recognition and rewards you can implement and customise around your budget.

9 Examples of Employee of the Month Award Ideas

1. Give Winners a Vacation

Nothing says Employee of the Month like giving winners some extra PTO. Allowing employees to take a few days off during the month they win the award is a great way to let them choose how they want to celebrate.

2. Award Winners With an Experience or Event

Do employees want to attend a sports game or concert? Are they interested in snorkeling, skydiving, or visiting a national park? Pay for winners to participate in an activity that they’re excited to do.

3. Offer Unique Swag

It’d be awesome to have a shirt, jacket, or hat that only a few other people in the company own. Or better yet, create a unique, Employee of the Month design, and then ask winners what clothing they want. Then put the unique design on the article of clothing of their choice.

4. Allow Winners to Choose a Team Activity

One way to spread excitement to more employees than just the winner is to allow them to choose an activity that their team gets to go on. Go-karts, golf, arts and crafts, lunch, or an escape room are all fun ideas.

5. Reward Them a Day of Wellness

What makes the winner feel calm, happy, and recharged? A day at the spa? A day outside? A good book? Whatever the answer, allow each winner to choose a day of wellness and then pay for what they need.

6. Offer the Traditional Awards

Put the winner’s name on a plaque, give them a trophy, and highlight them on company social media. These traditional awards are fun and rewarding, even if they’re not enough by themselves.

7. Boost Their LSA Funds

Awardco offers Lifestyle Spending Accounts that give employees a regular allowance to spend in any way they want. (Learn more here!) Give Employee of the Month winners the freedom to buy whatever they want with a windfall into their LSA.

8. Give Them a Home Office Makeover

For remote or hybrid employees, a budget to upgrade their home office situation could be very welcome. Whether they need a new desk, a new chair, or new accessories, this could make a big difference for them.

9. Celebrate With Personalised Greenery

Improve the environment by letting winners choose a plant that you’ll add to a special area of your office space. A tree, a flower, a bush, or anything similar are all good ideas.

Make Employee of the Month Celebrations More Magnificent

Recognising employees for the hard work they do is a great way to boost engagement, retention, motivation, and satisfaction—and Employee of the Month is one of the best ways to structure a fun award that incentivises productivity and builds your culture.

With these strategies and ideas, you’ll be able to build an Employee of the Month programme that is truly rewarding and exciting.

Jefferson Hansen
More from Author

An avid lover of fantasy books, a proud Hufflepuff, and a strong proponent of escapism, Jeff has a love of good storytelling. He relies on that for both his professional work and his writing hobby (don’t ask about the 10+ novel ideas collecting virtual dust on his computer).