Did you know that 85% of employees are not happy in their current organization? Studies show that each year, US employers spend around USD 1.1 billion on finding suitable replacements.

No wonder employee engagement and retention are the top priority for HR leaders and managers. Employee dissatisfaction can happen due to many reasons, including low pay, fewer growth opportunities, and no company-wide recognition. Skilled employees feel motivated when they get recognized for their efforts. This is why one way to boost employee morale is creating an employee of the month program for employees beyond blue-collar workers.

The employee of the month program in SMEs for domain experts is a necessary recognition process for modern workplaces. Employees are not just looking for a paycheck. They want to be a part of organizational success and growth. While developing an award and recognition structure can seem complex, it’s worth spending money, time, and resources if you want a healthy workplace.

You may consider taking professional inputs from HR experts to develop a sustainable program. They can assist you in all aspects, including deciding award categories, finding creative employee of the month templates, and award ceremonies. 

Why Does Your Need the Employee of the Month Program?

Every project starts with the identification of the problem and a clearly defined objective. Before setting up the employee of the month program, you must specify the goals. It may be increasing productivity, sales target, employee engagement, or reducing absenteeism.

The importance of answering this “why” is enormous. If you don’t have a goal, you will never know if the recognition program is effective or not. Once you have your goals, you can develop a plan and create an overall employee of the month template.

The next step is to determine the budget for the employee of the month program.

Define the Budget for Employee of the Month Program

Defining and keeping aside a budget for a rewards and recognition program is a crucial step. You must figure out how much you can afford to spend sparkling up the workplace with enthusiastic and engaged employees. It is also vital to maintain a balance sheet and evaluate program success.

As per the US workplace engagement survey, disengaged employees cost more than USD 500 million every year. Investing in employee satisfaction can reduce this loss and turn the wheels to make your organization more profitable. The budget must cater to overall costs, including the following:

  • Creation of award program
  • Number of awards and frequency
  • Designing employee of the month certificate and trophy
  • Awards and prizes to be offered
  • Awards promotions and ceremonies
  • Committee for periodic evaluation 

Identify the Awards: Employee of the Month Ideas

The size and type of organization play a significant role in identifying the award and recognition programs. If your organization has limited departments and fewer employees, you can go with a higher frequency. For example, set bi-monthly instead of monthly awards. The aim should be to cover a maximum number of employees and yet keep the awards meaningful. Remember not to give away too many prizes at the award ceremony as it will devalue the awards. 

In most cases, monthly employee recognition awards are the most suitable. The recency effect means employees know that their efforts are being noticed and rewarded instantly. Categorizing the award is an excellent way to mix them up for the best results. For example, you can have a team member of the month versus an innovator of the year. Moreover, monthly awards winners can become the nominees for annual awards. 

Here are a few award categories examples that should help you:

  • Best Manager of the Month
  • Team Member of the Month
  • Excellent Customer Service Person
  • Best Innovation of the Year
  • Annual Service Recognition Awards

Define the Parameters for All Awards

A straightforward process requires clearly defined parameters. They could be the nominations, selection, or the changes in the employee of the month program. The aim should be to develop a transparent and non-biased reward and recognition program for your workplace.

The Eligibility Criteria

A well-defined criterion for employee of the month awards provides a solid foundation for employee engagement. Employees should know what they need to do to win the prize, and crucially, it removes bias creeping in. Here are the primary aspects that can help you define awards eligibility.

Minimum Service

Employees must have completed minimum service in the business. You do not want someone on probation to be competing with a tenured employee. One-year service is the most common criterion that most organizations prefer.

Performance and Quality of Work

A good way of evaluating performance is looking at numbers, such as sales, conversions, and customer feedback. However, the quantity of work needs to support the quality of work. For example, imagine the award is for your customer service employees. In this case, it should include the number of resolutions and the Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score.

Team Spirit

The success depends on the entire team, not a single employee. The employee of the month awards should consider instances where employees performed as team players.

Leadership and Ownership

The employee rewards and recognition programs give an excellent opportunity to identify and nurture future leaders. The selection criterion must include ownership and accountability as crucial aspects.

Once you have defined the values you want to reward, the next step is drafting the selection process roadmap.

The Selection Process

After you have finalized the selection criteria, the selection process becomes relatively easy. There should be an award committee for final evaluation and 360-degree representation. It can comprise a leader or manager from a different department, HR leads, and senior managers. Remember that the selection process must be in sync with the values you want to reward. For instance, an unbiased way to find out if someone is a team player or not is through peer recognition.

Here are the steps of the employee awards selection process: 


Every employee must receive timely communication with awards categories, eligibility parameters, nomination deadline selection process, and awards details.

Accepting the Nomination 

The committee should collate and evaluate all duly filled nominations forms by respective managers and votes by peers.

Announce the Awards 

Make the employee of the month announcement special! It should follow the communication shared with the employees. A rewarding way is to send an organization-wide email with the names of winners and citations.

Further, you can follow it up with personal emails to winners by their head of department or the CEO.

Award Presentation 

Ensure that winners get awards as per the schedule. The employee forums and the company website must display winner details, citations, and achievements. 

Awards Should Be Meaningful

The employee of the month awards should have a core ideal that HR is trying to achieve.

For example, to promote a work culture that values top performers, domain experts, and team players who exceed expectations. Hence, it becomes incredibly critical that awards have a specific value. While cash incentives are fantastic, try to include non-monetary awards as well. A special trophy can create a lot of excitement and pride among winners.

You can design an employee of the month certificate with creative templates. There are a lot of online resources that offer customizable employee of the month templates. Therefore, you can choose the one that suits your need.

The awards must be exciting and fun. Here are a few unique employee of the month examples and ideas: 

  • The choice between a cash voucher or paid time off for a day
  • Option of picking a designated office parking spot for the entire month
  • Lunch or dinner with leadership
  • Happy Fridays, where the winners can leave early every Friday for one month
  • Tickets of local sporting events or concerts
  • Donation to charity on behalf of employees
  • A paid family vacation 
  • A thank you card, followed by the CEO greeting the winners at their desk

People love appreciation and cherish it forever. Hence, the experience of receiving the award should be memorable. Getting a coffee mug with the company name may not be expensive or challenging. Yet, it has a far greater perceived value than a cash prize. 

Publicize Employee of the Month Award Winners

Make the winners feel special. Advertise them as much as possible, whether on the company website, local newspaper, or office newsletters. By publicly showcasing the winner’s qualities and achievements, you also promote your organizational values in the market. Another notable benefit is that you create role models for the rest of the workforce.

When you have carefully defined awards parameters, budget, selection method, and choice of awards, it’s time for the last step. Now, go all out and launch the awards with fanfare.

A Grand Launch

How to announce employee of the month programs is a tricky question. You have done all the hard work. However, it is critical to present the overall idea and objective to your employees. Communication plays a crucial role in the success of any project. Further, employee rewards and recognition are all about connecting with employees and promoting transparency at the workplace.

Build the Interest

Do not send a long email that goes into the trash automatically.

Before the launch of the employee of the month programs, you must catch your employees’ attention. The best way is to start sending intriguing and creative teasers. The teasers can go out even when the program is in its initial stages. Further, they may also contain tentative launch dates and schedules.

Conduct Surveys and Polls 

Employee polls are a great way to generate interest and get input. Questions can include:

  • How would you like to be rewarded?
  • Do you prefer a cash incentive or a family vacation?
  • How about getting a free paid company parking spot?
  • Do you have any employee of the month voting ideas?
  • What do you prefer- an employee of the month certificate or trophy?

They can work as both surveys and teasers that create a buzz around the upcoming launch.

Make the Event Huge

Do not make your employees wait too much. When you have everything in place, it’s time to get the ball rolling!

A ceremonial town hall or conference call that includes the leaders is ideal to launch the programs. The event should cover all essential aspects, including eligibility criteria and what is at stake. A well-planned and executed launch event means your employee understands that the award program isn’t a gimmick. On the contrary, you mean business and are eager to make it an ongoing process.

Don’t Forget the FAQs

The launch event isn’t complete with the ceremony. The rules and regulations must be easily accessible to the employees. Employees must get frequently asked questions (FAQs) in their emails when the event concludes. Some key questions include:

  • Am I eligible for the award?
  • How is the winner selected?
  • Can there be more than one winner?
  • What are the different selection criteria?
  • Can an employee be nominated for more than one category?
  • How is transparency maintained?
  • What happens if there is a dispute?
  • How to nominate someone for employee of the month?
  • Can I exchange my award?

Make the FAQ document comprehensive by adding as many details as possible.

A special launch event of an employee of the month program is just the beginning. The real deal begins from here. You must stick to the plan and adhere to the rules and regulations. Most critically, be open to making changes as and when needed.

Evaluate the Awards Periodically

The biggest mistake is to get too busy in the ongoing awards and recognition process. Giving an employee of the month certificate or trophy to your employee is not enough. Remember, the program needs rigorous and continuous evaluations, followed by improvements. It is impossible to be 100% correct in the first phase. Rest assured, after a couple of awards cycles, you will start seeing gaps and potential areas of improvement.

The awards committee must convene, analyze the program’s impact, and seek inputs from the winners and other employees. Minute details like changing the employee of the month template by including the winner’s photograph are vital. The employees’ opinion is the key to the program’s success. A quarterly or six-month review period is preferable.

When is Your Next Employee of the Month Ceremony? 

The employee of the month programs help you develop healthy competition, enhance employee retention, and optimize productivity. While the program may not provide a 100% guarantee to solve all employee engagement problems, it has been proven to boost employee morale. When your employees feel valued, they play a vital role in organizational success.

Remember, the follow-up and evaluation of the program are as crucial as setting up and launching it.