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Is "Employee of the Month" Killing Business Motivation?

According to Motivational Maps®, we all have an inner ‘Star’; a need to be listened to, valued, and respected by those around us. ‘Star’ is a key enabler of employee engagement. Some of us are driven by this more than others, but research has shown that recognising employees does succeed in reducing employee turnover, decreasing frustration, and motivating better performance. With this knowledge, many, many businesses have tried ‘employee of the month’-like schemes… but they don’t work.

employee of the month award
Do your employees really enjoy the publicity?

Sure, if you run a small business and can recognise every employee in a year or two, great! Employee of the month could be right for you. But if you are serious about valuing your employees, recognising their hard work, and listening to their unique views, you might need to try something new. ‘Employee of the Month’ schemes simply cannot succeed in recognising every hardworking individual in even medium sized businesses; it might even cause unwanted competition and bitterness. And if you want to recognise teams or project work? It’s not going to work for that either I’m afraid, unless you want to spend a year recognising just one team. Despite this, as a business it is vital that you recognise the hard work of your employees (you literally couldn’t survive without them!), so what do you do now?

We’ve already mentioned that Employee of the Month leaves recognition as an infrequent process and can demotivate people (i.e. low Stars) who hate being ‘caught in the spotlight’, so change that! If somebody does a good job, don’t wait until the next month and weigh them up against other people’s contributions; give them the positive feedback and respect they deserve straight away.

So you’ve had a great team project just wrap up? Praise the whole team. Employee of the Month schemes have created a culture of individualistic work and rivalry within businesses, but employees need to work together. By acknowledging team work, you value all parts of the team whilst encouraging cooperation over competition.

You can always go a step further than a pat on the back, and highlight particularly good employees for recognition, opportunities, or promotions. Praising your employees can involve listening to them, acknowledging their skill and effort, or giving them opportunities for high ‘Stars’ to get more public appreciation, so make sure to listen to what your employees want and reward them accordingly. Not everyone will want a big promotion, but for some it will be the sign they need to show that you are watching and recognising their efforts.

If somebody is motivated and has performed excellently, there is one more key step to take; give them more motivating and rewarding opportunities. When a member of your team excels in a role or project, take that chance to get them involved with upcoming projects that are similar, or give them opportunities to develop related skills. If you find that somebody becoming more passionate when given certain challenges, reward them with more of the same rather than letting that passion fade away.

With this in mind, we hope it is clear that shallow schemes such as ‘Employee of the Month’ cannot compare to genuine and dynamic employee recognition. Indeed, daily peer-to-peer praise is best at increasing finances and customer satisfaction. All of us have an inner ‘Star’, and we are all motivated by recognition and praise for our hard work. That seemingly simple praise helps us to feel valued, and allows us to feel that we belong as part of a business and/or team that really appreciates us and what we do.

It only takes a few moments of your day to motivate someone throughout the week with a few words of genuine praise and recognition!

veronica roth, author of divergent

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” ― Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series.


Jan Feeley, MSc
Jan Feeley, MSc

Assistant Psychological Therapist by day, coach by evening and weekend! I'm a firm believer in collaborative working both clinically and more generally, and am keen to use people's expertise about themselves to make meaningful and energising changes in their life. Passionate about mental health, wellbeing, and self-care; determined to make a difference. Connect with me on LinkedIn

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