Image shows an employee receiving a certificate in front of a group of employees.

The Ultimate Guide for How To Award Employee of the Month

March 4, 2024

The desire to be recognized and acknowledged is ingrained in all of us – it’s human nature to want to be appreciated.

From gold stars in an elementary school classroom to sophisticated employee recognition programs in the workplace, rewards go a long way toward creating a positive, productive environment. That’s why an Employee of the Month award can be so impactful. 

Employee of the Month awards are a popular form of employee recognition at companies across industries because they are relatively easy to implement, they’re well received and are an effective way to motivate employees. 

Here’s what you need to know to start a program like this, from winning Employee of the Month award ideas to work recognition messages that boost employee morale. Plus, we include a few other ways to make employees feel appreciated! 

The Significance of Employee of the Month Awards

Companies with effective recognition programs have 31 percent lower turnover rates, according to Bersin & Associates. Similarly, more than a third of employees say that acknowledgment is the most important thing a manager can do to motivate them to produce great work. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of employee recognition programs, which are shown by research over and over again to:

  • Boost employee morale and motivation
  • Encourage a positive workplace culture
  • Improve employee engagement and job satisfaction
  • Foster teamwork and collaboration
  • Increase employee retention
  • Enhances overall organizational productivity and success

Employee of the Month awards in particular play a pivotal role in boosting employee morale and motivation. As a ​​tangible acknowledgment of an employee's hard work and dedication, they are a powerful way of instilling a sense of pride and ownership. Plus, as a public acknowledgment and celebration of achievements, the awards help foster a culture of appreciation and excellence. 

A program like this is not only a means of showing appreciation, but also serves as a motivational tool for other employees to strive for excellence.

So, how do you launch an Employee of the Month award program?

Setting Clear Criteria and Objectives

Even before launching the program, and long before nominating anyone as the Employee of the Month recipient, it’s important to set fair, transparent criteria and objectives.

Start by thinking about the purpose and goals of the award. What specific behaviors are you hoping to cultivate? What contributions or achievements are most impactful to your team? This will help determine whether the award should be based solely on performance metrics or if it also considers factors like teamwork, leadership or innovation.

Next, establish criteria for selection. Clearly outline the behaviors, achievements or contributions that align with the award's objectives. It's important to be specific and measurable when defining these criteria. For example, instead of saying "demonstrates good teamwork," you might consider how often the employee collaborates with others and the impact on project goals. 

Communicate the criteria clearly and consistently with employees, so everyone is on the same page. 

Employee of the Month Nominations and Selection Process

Once the program’s criteria have been established, set out the nominations and selection process.

To create a fair, transparent and inclusive Employee of the Month selection process, make sure to:

  • Solicit nominations from the group: Encourage employees to nominate their peers who have demonstrated exceptional performance, teamwork or other positive traits. Management can also nominate employees based on their observations and knowledge of employee performance.
  • Review and evaluate nominees objectively: Establish a third-party selection committee to review each nominee's performance, achievements and contributions. 
  • Involve employees in the selection: Consider including employees in the decision-making process through a voting process.
  • Prioritize transparency and fairness: Communicate the selection process and criteria clearly to all employees, and ensure that nominations are reviewed and evaluated objectively and impartially. Allow employees to share their thoughts through feedback surveys

Peer-to-peer recognition is powerful. By involving employees in the process, your Employee of the Month program will be more meaningful and impactful!

Creating a Memorable Recognition Experience

The tangible side of employee rewards is one part of the picture. Employee of the Month award certificates, letters and other gifts help reinforce the significance of the recognition. These items serve as physical reminders of the employee's achievements and contributions.

The way that these awards and other messages of recognition are presented are just as important, though. A thoughtful, authentic recognition experience can have a lasting impact on employee morale and motivation.

Here are some Employee of the Month award ideas to create a memorable recognition experience:

  • Plan a special award ceremony or event to present the Employee of the Month award.
  • Personalize the award certificate or letter with the employee's name, achievements and the date of the award.
  • Include a personalized message in the Employee of the Month award letter, highlighting the employee's specific contributions and achievements. When possible, include words of appreciation from peers and managers.
  • Involve the whole company or department in the celebration by inviting colleagues and managers to share stories or anecdotes about the Employee of the Month during the award ceremony.
  • Consider giving the employee a small gift or token of appreciation to accompany the award certificate or letter.
  • Follow up with the employee after the award ceremony to express appreciation for their contributions and to encourage ongoing excellence.
  • Consider incorporating elements of surprise or creativity into the award ceremony, like games or icebreaker activities, to make it more memorable and enjoyable for everyone attending.

Publicly recognizing the hard work and efforts of the individual is good for the team, fostering a positive and supportive organizational culture that motivates and inspires everyone to excel.

Communicating the Impact and Value of the Award

One important way to drive home the significance of an award winner’s contributions is to be strategic about how the impact and value of the award are communicated. 

Consider how you plan to announce the winners and share success stories with the entire organization. This could be through a company-wide email, newsletter or internal communication and engagement platform. By sharing the achievements and contributions of the awardees, organizations can inspire other employees to emulate their success and contribute to the organization’s overall success. 

Employee ‘spotlights’ can also be a great place to showcase an award recipient, featuring them in external company communications or on your website. Not only does this strengthen and share the recognition message more widely, but it also helps to communicate your organization’s values – like an inclusive, positive and supportive work culture. 

Long-Term Sustainability and Evolution

Evaluating the effectiveness of the program is critical to ensure its long-term sustainability and viability. This can be done through surveys, interviews or other feedback mechanisms to gather input from employees on their perceptions of the program's impact and effectiveness. 

Analyze this feedback to identify areas of improvement and make adjustments as needed. 

As the program matures and evolves, you may need to revisit the Employee of the Month criteria, selection process or recognition methods. Maybe you add new categories like ‘Most Innovative,’ or ‘Leader of the Month’ or introduce other types of awards to reflect the diversity of contributions coming from your team. Or perhaps you expand the program to recognize more than one employee per month. Or offer bigger incentives for winning. 

The takeaway is to make sure the program remains relevant and effective over time so it continues to motivate and inspire employees. The Employee of the Month award is a powerful tool for rewarding outstanding employees and, when combined with other recognition initiatives,  fosters a positive work culture where employees feel valued and appreciated.