A lot of you want an employee of the month scheme. We’ve got the blog traffic on Google Analytics to prove it. While we’re always happy to help our clients set one up, we’ve actually have been wondering if you should be searching for colleague of the month schemes instead.
Putting colleague over employee is an important shift in what you’re trying to achieve. Let your staff pick their own winners. Give up a bit of control, and hand staff a chance to laud each other for what’s important to them.
There’s a few reasons we’ve been kicking this idea around.
Employee of the month has constraints
There are limits to employee of the month, and one of them is in the name. Employee. Singular.
Just one member of staff can be recognised for their work at any one time. Twelve a year if you really stick to it. If you have a department of more than 30 people, that’s a formal recognition scheme that can only benefit a third of your staff every year.
And, worse, it’s likely to end up getting passed around a small group of staff. If you’re using metrics, your top dogs will end up near the top of the pile every time. Which leaves you in a bind. Can you give employee of the month to the same person every month just because they’re a highest performer?
On one hand, you’re alienating most of your workforce from the scheme by being honest about who’s actually hitting the highest KPIs. On the other hand, if you deliberately spread the award around you’re not really recognising the top performer. It’s kind of a participation trophy. Also-ran and nearly-there going up on the kitchen fridge. You’ll devalue the scheme in the eyes of your employees.
Employee of the month schemes strain at their own inherent limits. Moving the focus to colleague of the month alleviates that stress.
Empower the people
Having a voice is empowering. Colleague of the month, instead of employee of the month, gives staff a voice in who deserves to be recognised.
Being part of elevating and celebrating others is also empowering in itself. It’s positive for your whole department, because It lets employees see what traits and behaviours their peers treasure. Everyone at colleague-level gets a clear view of what values and behaviours they should embrace to succeed. Everyone buys in, everyone gets a voice, and everyone benefits.
As a result, a formal recognition scheme becomes a shared experience. It’s a big change from an inscrutable boss handing down recognition for their own reasons, or a scheme doggedly sticking to performance metrics.
And there’s a good reason why you’d want to move away from top-down recognition in general; what makes staff exceptional to each other isn’t always what makes them exceptional to you.
Exceptional employees and exceptional colleagues
When you’re running an employee of the month scheme, you’re highlighting what matters to you. And, as a manager, you’re a bit biased. That’s not meant as an insult, it’s just reality; you have a different set of pressures and priorities to the people you’re managing. That has a fundamental impact on how you determine their worth at work.
I doubt you think of your own peers exclusively in terms of their KPIs. Unless you’re a bean-counting robot that values nothing but efficiency. There’s a swirl of tangibles and intangibles that make up the worth of a co-worker. Ideas, support, shared experience, opinions, attitude, and so much more. Too much for a spreadsheet.
Giving staff a chance to elevate workplace heroes from inside their own ranks means employees are recognised for what makes them valuable to the workplace as a whole. Not just to managers. It’s a huge assumption to think that what you value in staff as a manager is also what brings the most benefit to your employees.
If you do want to run an employee of the month scheme, you should. We’d encourage anyone to get involved in recognising their employees. Call the Appreciate Development team. They’d love to hear from you.
But, before you do that, seriously consider the value of opening the floor to your staff as well. Give them more voice, let them single out the people around them who bring the most to the workplace. Ask us about colleague of the month instead.