A reader writes:
What are your thoughts on Employee Recognition programs? Examples: Employee of the Month, Year, etc.
We rely on feedback from peers/managers to "nominate" employees for Employee of the Month and lately have been getting very little participation in said program. The prize shouldn't matter since the person "winning" doesn't nominate himself! The driver is: how do we get workers to observe more, care more, etc. so that they would notice colleagues going above the call of duty and nominate them for the recognition? Or is the idea of "I" over "We" an issue?
Honestly? I'm not a fan of those programs. I've never seen them carried out in a way that doesn't feel contrived or a little cheesy.
Recognize employees who are doing a good job in ways that really matter -- with strong evaluations, great raises, good management, new challenges (if they want them), and ongoing positive feedback. I think employee-of-the-month-type programs are typically used as a weak substitute for more meaningful retention strategies. What you want are great managers who forge strong relationships with their strong performers, who make sure they feel valued and have the tools needed to excel at their jobs, who ensure that high performance is reflected in employees' paychecks and career progression, and who are assertive about addressing obstacles standing in their employees' way (such as unneeded policies, the slacker colleague down the hall, or whatever the obstacles may be).
I know that's not the answer you're looking for, but it may be worth asking what the goal of the program is supposed to be and whether there are other ways to achieve it. You could also ask the employees themselves why they don't seem interested in the program and what they'd like to see in its place. I suspect you'll hear something similar to the above. Good luck!