10 Ways to Recognize an Employee of the Month

You’ve probably heard of an employee of the month program, or maybe you were even part of one. If managed correctly, these programs can be a great addition to an already successful employee recognition program or a great way to kick off your employee recognition efforts. The most basic programs often come with a certificate (see our employee of the month template below), but that’s just the beginning on how you can use them as a tool to recognize your employees.

Finding ways to recognize and celebrate your employees is extremely important. Employee recognition is a main driver of employee retention, productivity, and happiness. Recognizing the hard work of your team members isn’t only about acknowledging them; it’s also about building a positive company culture and workplace environment. 

We’ve put together some valuable info on what employee recognition is all about, why an employee of the month program is a great start, and even added a valuable employee of the month template.

Ready? Let’s go!

What is employee recognition, and why is it important? 

Employee recognition refers to the different ways that a company recognizes and celebrates its team members for their contributions. Employee recognition can happen in various ways, but the main goal is always to show employees how much you appreciate their hard work.

You can recognize your employees for many different reasons—from achievements, to milestones, to exceeding expectations. 

While you might make a point of saying thank you to your employees for a good day’s work, there are a lot of reasons to make it a more formal, systematic part of your business. A survey found that 37% of employees said more personal recognition is the number one factor that would spur them to produce better work more often. 

The same survey found those who feel recognized and appreciated at work are 2.2x more likely to drive innovation and 2.0x more likely to go above and beyond for their job. They’re more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than those who aren’t recognized. 

A workplace with a company culture that supports employee recognition will experience better retention rates for top talent, increase employee engagement, and encourage team members to perform at a higher level. 

Some of the common ways to show your appreciation to your employees include:

  • Internal employee shout-outs for good work
  • Raises and bonuses
  • Celebrate milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries
  • Give handwritten appreciation and thank you notes
  • Create a health and wellness plan
  • Make improvements to your break room
  • Team building activities
  • Employee of the month program

Recognizing top performers

You might read “employee of the month” and think that it’s a pretty outdated idea. And while an employee of the month program should be part of a wider recognition program in your organization, it’s a classic for a reason. 

Employee of the month is an award given to an employee to recognize someone who has been an exemplary employee during the previous month. It’s usually given out each month, so there is a chance to recognize 12 employees over the year. 

Companies who give out this award usually create an experience they can recreate monthly to recognize their top performer. This can involve a town hall meeting, awards presentation, company-wide email, and other elements to make the reward significant for the recipient.

Is an employee of the month program a good idea?

As long as employee of the month is done in a fair and fun way and is part of a more extensive recognition program, it can be a great tool in your employee appreciation toolbox. To make sure your employee of the month program is set up for success, stick to these four tips to avoid common pitfalls. 

Give the award to different people each month

Don’t let your employee of the month award become a tangible sign of favoritism in the workplace. Giving the award to the same person or people month after month will only demotivate your other employees and create a toxic work environment

If the same people are your top performers every month, consider what might be holding your other employees back. Dig into the issues and find creative ways to work as a team to uplift the other employees

Get input from your whole team

Managers and other team members in leadership roles will have a lot of great information to share when it comes to how employees are performing. By letting every team member have a say in who deserves the employee of the month award, you’ll see all the different ways your team members contribute to the business. 

You can even open it to customer input using a survey or feedback tool. The idea is to include everyone in the process. This will make it feel more equitable to your team and give you greater insight into what’s happening in every aspect of your business. 

Make your rewards bespoke to the individual

While it makes complete sense to have a repeatable process for employee of the month, don’t forget to tailor your reward to the person. For example, if you have a more introverted employee, throwing them a party won’t be as fun for them as it may have been for the extrovert who won the previous month.

Make sure you take the individual into account so that the award feels special for each person. 

The employee of the month should be part of a bigger employee recognition program

Don’t let the employee of the month program be the only way you recognize your employees. Remember, only one person is “winning” each month. If this is the only thing you’re doing, it can be highly demotivating for your other employees. The best kind of employee recognition is timely, frequent, and meaningful. 

This should be a tool you use, but it shouldn’t be seen as the only thing you need to do to make your employees feel appreciated. 

How do you choose your employee of the month each month?

How are you going to choose an employee to be rewarded each month? The most important thing is establishing some criteria for employee of the month. You want to define it as much as possible so that all employees understand how the winner is being selected. This will help avoid any claims of favoritism. 

As mentioned above, having all employees vote or submit feedback to help make the decision each month is a great idea. Outline the criteria that all voters should consider before making their choice. Here are some factors you can consider including in your criteria:

  • Achievements
  • Attitude
  • Reliability
  • Co-operation
  • Quality of work
  • Willingness to learn
  • Service to clients/customers
  • Punctuality 
  • Attendance
  • Problem-solving ability 

Once you’ve selected the criteria that make the most sense for your business, you can create a sliding scale for judging people’s performance across the categories. It could be as simple as “from 1 to 5,” or you can assign descriptive ratings such as:

  • Exceeded expectations
  • Met expectations
  • Met some expectations
  • Below expectations

This ensures everyone is graded on the same scale using the same criteria. 

How can you celebrate and recognize your employee of the month?

You’ve done it—selected your first employee of the month! But how do you celebrate them? In addition to a nice certificate (see our simple employee of the month template certificate below), there are tons of great ways to show your appreciation to your employee of the month. Find something that resonates with you, your team, and your business. 

Here are ten employee of the month ideas to get you started.

1. Offer career development opportunities

Whether you offer the opportunity to each winner or hold a winner-wide event at the end of the year, career development incentives can be a great way to help employees continue on their path toward success. You can bring in career development experts or experts in your field to talk about how employees can reach their personal career goals. 

2. Host a monthly celebration

Hosting a monthly lunch or dinner celebration to honor the employee of the month is a great way to get your whole team involved. Everyone will enjoy a free lunch, and you can find a personality-appropriate way to celebrate the employee of the month. This gives the entire team something to look forward to and helps get everyone on board with the employee of the month program. 

3. Offer a PTO top-up for the winners

Vacation days are a strong currency for all employees. Winning an additional PTO day or two is a great way to motivate employees to strive to win employee of the month. Tip: there may be logistics involved in this depending on your business structure. Make sure to do your research if you decide to to incorporate PTO into your employee of the month program. 

Explain how it can be redeemed in a way that makes it as easy as possible for winners to use their time off while not putting you and the rest of your employees out. 

4. Donate to a charity of their choice

Who doesn’t love to give back? Choose a set amount of money to be donated to a charity of the winner’s choice each month. This is an excellent way for the employee of the month to be rewarded while making a difference in their community.

5. Give winners a one-time bonus

While you might feel weird giving out a cash bonus to your employees, cash is the most practical gift. And, it can make a big difference for your employees. Even a $100 bonus can significantly impact someone’s life. 

6. Give winners a gift card of their choice

If you feel too strange about handing out cash bonuses, consider giving out gift cards instead. Giving your employees a choice is important when picking a gift card. While one employee might be happy to get a gift card to a gas station, the employee who takes public transportation will likely be less excited about it.

7. Pay for them to take a night off

While PTO is amazing, take it to the next level by paying for them to do something on their night off. You could have a list of experiences for your employees to choose from. This is also a fun way to highlight other local businesses and can even be a great way to cross-promote if you speak with the other business owners. Some ideas include:

  • Dinner and a movie
  • Concert or theater tickets
  • Paint night
  • Indoor skydiving
  • Escape room

Brainstorm ideas that are local to you with your team to get a list that gets people invested. And be sure that the night out is for two so the winner can bring someone along for the adventure.

8. Shout out your employees on social media and your website

Never underestimate the power of a public thank you. Take to your social media, website, or company newsletter to talk about the impact and importance of the employee of the month. Take the time to interview them and ask about their experience working for your business to include in the caption. Be sure to include a photo they’ve approved and highlight all the good they’ve done over the past month. 

If you’re feeling lost on what to include, you can use the same question for all employees and create a generic employee of the month template for your monthly social posts to save time and keep it easy.

9. Create company swag just for winners

If you’ve already got some amazing company swag, think about personalizing it for employee of the month winners. For example, if everyone on your team wears a uniform, look into having one embroidered or silk-screened with their name. And if you have swag that’s more for fun than uniform, put together a gift basket with some items that are only given to winners. 

10. Give them a certificate or trophy

Don’t underestimate the importance of physical representation of their hard work. A certificate to recognize the employee of the month gives you a tangible award to frame and hand to the employee when you announce they’ve won. 

Make it feel official by having a certificate template that you use each time. Be sure to include your company logo, brand colors, and fonts. It’s also a nice gesture to include a personalized letter for the employee highlighting why they’ve won. 

Not creative? Not to worry. Our downloadable employee of the month template below is a simple way to start!

Employee of the month template

Employee of the month downloadable template

How to recognize and support your employees every day of the month

As mentioned before, recognizing your employees frequently, promptly, and in meaningful ways is essential to a successful employee recognition program. An employee of the month template is a great place to start, but with Homebase, you can do more.

With our communication app, you can shout out team members for a job well done privately or in group messages with the entire team. Homebase also tracks performance metrics like on-time arrivals, so you can easily monitor who’s in the running. From employee of the month templates, to digital high fives, to making even bonuses and extra PTO a breeze, Homebase is your all-in-one solution for managing your team.

Behind every great business is a great team. And behind every great team is the tools needed to support them. Try Homebase for free

Employee of the month FAQs

Can you award the employee of the month to the same person each month?

While you can award the employee of the month to the same employee every month, you shouldn’t. This is a great way to take a positive approach to employee recognition instead of a clear demonstration of favoritism. If you’re finding that the same few employees are in the running for the employee of the month award, dig deeper and try to discover why. What’s happening with your other employees that is holding them back? Find ways to uplift those employees so they can be candidates for employee recognition.

What’s the best way to find an employee of the month?

The best way to find an employee of the month is by using set criteria and judging scales so that every employee in the company is on the same page. Also, be sure that every employee has a chance to vote—when only leadership team members are given the chance to vote, you miss out on insights that leadership may not see daily.

Can employee of the month boost your company culture?

When done fairly, an employee of the month program can boost your company culture. Recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work and achievements is a huge motivator for employees to improve their productivity and engagement and can boost morale.

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