Best Practices in HR

Follow Us:
Emil Shour
  March 14, 2019

15 Ideas to Revolutionize Your Employee of the Month Program

An employee of the month program sounds great, but what does it really mean? The vague term feels good to employees who receive the award, but it might leave other employees wondering precisely what characteristics make a winner. That sounds pretty frustrating, right?

If employees can’t determine what makes a model employee (by leadership’s standard at least) then engagement will plummet as everyone is left guessing what exactly they need to do to be recognized.  Without tactical goals and clear expectations, they might start to wander, losing sight of the path the achievement without direction to channel their efforts.

When companies provide clear parameters for the employee of the month distinction, the award reinforces core values,  pretty powerful tool by our standards. When awards are directly tied to common values, the entire company will unite around the rallying cry, and that type of power trickles down to even the smallest of daily tasks.

For example, the word “integrity” floating on a website means next to nothing by itself…even if it’s styled with a bold type or a creative, quirky font. However, when you reward Nancy for displaying integrity when she owned up to an ugly accounting mistake she made on last month’s numbers, employees get the perfect example of integrity in practice.


Get specific about the traits you value in your employees with some fresh new takes on the old employee of the month program.

These ideas focus on honoring employees for specific accomplishments, characteristics, and core values that other employees can observe and aspire to emulate.

These title ideas spell out criteria to make award justification crystal clear; employees receiving the accolated will love getting praise for specific accomplishments while employees who want to receive awards will know exactly what they need to do to get their performance up to par.

Watch engagement skyrocket as rewarded employees aim even higher and aspiring employees return to their work with renewed motivation to do their best.

A little justification for all your employee of the month efforts?

Surveys suggest recognition and awards might be even more motivating than other incentives, with about 67% of employees saying they are more motivated by praise and commendation from managers than other cash and noncash perks.

Alright, that pretty powerful so let’s dive in.


Here at SnackNation, the employees of the month are called “Value Victors,” because they embody one or more of our core values. The award comes with preferred parking, a trophy, and a giant bag of healthy snacks (naturally).

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

Employees named Value Victors exemplify the following core values:

  • Health above all else
  • Display grit without ego
  • Serve and inspire
  • Seek perpetual growth
  • Spread joy and optimism

The GEM Program stands for the Go the Extra Mile Program, an initiative that takes on new, literal significance when you find out it rewards hospital employees for quickly and efficiently moving patients around the hospital.

Through the program, employees nominate each other for doing anything that improves the work of the department. Leadership tallies up the nominations at the end of each month to find the winner.

The program has demonstrated quantifiable success, with hospital employees increasing their moves per hour from 2.2 to 2.8.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Helpfulness
  • Efficiency, by way of increasing patient moves per hour


Limeade, an employee engagement company, knows how to engage their own employees. They came up with a monthly Make Others Great award to acknowledge team members who “go above and beyond to help others do their best work through collaboration and teamwork.” This award circumnavigates any possible jealousy by rewarding actions that help others instead of acknowledging outstanding individual work. Well, maybe it doesn’t circumnavigate all possible jealousy; Make Others Great recipients get to keep a shiny green shoe for a month.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • A team-first attitude
  • Proactive helpfulness

4. Collaboration of the Month

A monthly recognition award doesn’t always have to go to just one person. If you’re trying to increase communication in your office, then consider awarding a stand-out collaboration that led to a company or departmental win. Every employee involved can receive an award, and any communication you put out about the recipients should focus on the why, how, and what of the accomplishment so other employees can get ideas for how they could follow suit.

Here’s an example:

Max and Tina Develop Innovative New Product

Why: Training Specialist Tina knew her online development modules for new employees were dull, but she lacked the design skills to do anything about it. After meeting Digital Designer Max at a company happy hour, Tina decided to find out if Max had the time to work with her on a project, even though he worked in a different department.

How: Tina emailed Max’s manager to get the okay to reach out and check on Max’s bandwidth. She got the thumbs up, and Max said he would be delighted to help.

What: The collaboration resulted in the company receiving an award for exemplary online training materials at a recent industry showcase.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Intradepartmental teamwork
  • Fruitful communication
  • A desire to break down silos
  • The motivation to initiate processes that aren’t in the company handbook

5. Achievement of the Month


This award might sound like something your elementary school used to offer, but maybe there’s a good reason for that. Highlighting achievements gives achievers the recognition they deserve and gives future achievers the examples and inspiration to follow.

When framing the achievement, be sure to cover the company need or benefit it filled, and provide a little background info that explains how the employee made the achievement reality.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Excellence over complacency
  • Appreciation for those who work outside the to-do list
  • Thirst for constant improvement

6. Customer Service Award

You can come up with a lot of creative names for this award, depending on what a service culture looks like at your company; you can even use the award to applaud outstanding service to other employees as well as customers. For example, Salt Lake County offers an award called The Heart of It, which celebrates an employee who has demonstrated exemplary care in service of a customer or another employee.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • A dedication to excellent service for all
  • Caring for customers and employees

7. Problem Solver Award


Some employees excel under pressure—during those stressful times when everything seems to go wrong, all your plans end up in the shredder, and the clock is ticking. These employees might not seek out extra responsibilities under normal circumstances, but when a problem arises, they go above and beyond to find a solution. On the flip side, employees who excel in their day-to-day work might panic when things go wrong. It’s important to recognize a range of skill sets to maintain a well-balanced, rewarded, and satisfied team.

Reward your first-class problem solvers for the solutions they generate with a monthly Problem Solver Award to highlight employees who know how to turn chaos into success. This award might get other employees thinking critically about how they can address problems, and it will also encourage your problem solvers to stick around to take care of the next big batch of problems if, or really when, they rear their ugly heads.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Critical thinking
  • Calm under pressure
  • Creative, strategic approaches to problems

8. Spotlight of the Month

Let’s face it: All your employees are outstanding. You hired everyone on your team because they represent the core values you cherish in employees. If you want to make sure everyone gets the recognition they deserve, then you can do a Spotlight of the Month instead of an Employee of the Month.

The Spotlight of the Month highlights a different person each month, not for any specific accomplishment or any one specific trait, but because they’re a valuable part of your team. After you randomly select an employee, take a minute to think about which of your core values they best represent. Maybe Dave didn’t break any sales records last month, but he always, always demonstrates an admirable openness to help out and take on new projects.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

The specific core values the employee upholds could change per person, or you might try to find ways each employee represents all your core values. There is one underlying trait you will always highlight:

  • A constant embodiment of core values in day-to-day work

9. Office Cheer Award


Every office needs that one person who, without fail, always shows up with a smile. This person brings energy and joy to the office. While smiles don’t indicate strong on-paper job performance, positivity, and all the powers that come along with it, should be applauded the encouraged.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • A positive, go-getter attitude
  • A willingness to take on extra tasks with a smile
  • The ability to beat down the Monday blues

10. Fresh New Skills Award

The Fresh New Skills Award recognizes that employee who used personal time to take a rigorous public speaking class to improve her client pitches. This above-and-beyond attitude demonstrates a passion for the work of your company—a trait to be rewarded and encourages.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Ambition and initiative to create valuable learning opportunities
  • Career commitment
  • A spirit of constant development

11. Nemonation

A bonus.ly post highlighted Nemonations—the recognition program from the company behind the Button mobile commerce platform. During product demonstrations, employees pass around a stuffed Nemo (from Disney’s Finding Nemo) to symbolize going the extra mile. (In the movie, Nemo’s father travels several thousand extra miles to find his son.) The stuffed animal is adorable, and it serves as a strong visual anchor for the helpful qualities colleagues love.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Going the extra mile to help colleagues

12. Hopeful Award


The Hopeful Award, another bonus.ly highlight, is a Piktochart award celebrating company values outlined by the acronym HOPEFUL. While the award isn’t exclusively celebrating hopefulness, they did choose the acronym because “they are a hopeful” bunch.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

The recipients of Piktochart’s Hopeful award embody the following company values:

  • H – Humble
  • O – Open up
  • P – Passionate
  • E – Excellent
  • F – Fun-loving
  • U – User focused (why no dash here?)
  • L – Love

13. Best New Mistake

Dreamed up by SurePayroll, the Best New Mistake Award encourages employees to take risks and try new things by reminding them that innovation will inevitably come along with a few hiccups, and those hiccups should be celebrated for the innovation they stand for.

This award highlights how it’s important to award all employees who want to make a difference—and not only the lucky employees whose ideas turn into flourishing initiatives and growing profits.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Taking risks
  • Making mistakes driven by solid, innovative ideas

The Walt Disney Legacy Award goes to Disney Parks Cast Members who embody cultural values that the company’s famous founder and namesake, Walt Disney, lived by—and would surely applaud if he were around today.

Photo courtesy of Disney Institute

Photo courtesy of Disney Institute

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Inspiring others
  • Helpfulness
  • Embodying company values by delivering Disney magic

15. Disruption Award

According to Inc., ADG Creative, a communications firm, hands out a yearly recognition award to acknowledge disruption—not in a creative sense, but in a literal sense, meaning that the reward goes to an employee who worked so hard, their lives were completely disrupted.

The reward isn’t designed to make employees believe they need to break themselves to get recognition, but it strives to make those who did come in early and stay late feel that their efforts are valued and appreciated.

Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Relentlessness
  • Company-first attitude
  • Selflessness

We hope these ideas get you thinking about what a creative, specific employee of the month award could look like in your company. Our favorite picks are specific, with titles and values you wouldn’t find at any other company.

If you’re setting up a new recognition program, let us know what honorific you land on in the comments below.