Employee of the Month?

Employee of the month. A recognition system still in play by many companies. It's also the title of a mediocre comedy starring Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson. These programs - like the movie - are okay but are best to be avoided.

What's wrong with employee of the month programs?

If recognition programs worked using a mostly "it's the thought that counts" attitude, there wouldn't be a thing wrong with them as an end game. One employee gets recognized for their hard work and his praised over others for that month. There is a flaw in participating in recognition for the sake of recognition: there are no clear goals. The employee of the month program is defined by who works the hardest - but how is that effort measured? The one who is actually working harder or appears to be working harder?

Recognition programs of any kind should be defined by clear goals and communicated to workers. When you get down to it, it's more than just building morale and enhancing a "warm fuzzy feeling" around the office. Well executed recognition programs should help companies reach new target goals and perform better overall as an organization, which takes more than just the efforts of one outstanding individual.

The other downside to using employee of the month as your recognition standard is that it's only about one person. Sure it's good to recognize one individual for their efforts but it leaves the remaining people in the group hanging out to dry. In this article in Incentive Magazine, Razor Suleman states:

"Although the company’s intention behind it is positive, an employee of the month award is actually problematic because when one employee wins, everyone else loses. Other high-performers aren’t recognized for the positive contributions they have made to the organization, and they become demotivated."

In the effort of motivating one person, there lies the risk of de-valuing several others in the process. Modern day philosopher Demetri Martin sees these programs like this:

"Employee of the month is an instance where somebody can be a winner and a loser all at the same time."

In of themselves, employee of the month programs aren't all bad. If it is just one small part of a much larger recognition plan, it could play out well for your organization. As the sole focus of your recognition strategy, it's insufficient.

What do you all think?