The best organizations in the world promote a recognition-rich environment. But the goal isn't just to reward employees. Rather, it's to recognize them right.
You might have the best intentions with your "Employee of the Month" award. But if it's not resonating with your team, what's the point?
Let's explore alternatives to the Employee of the Month award that not only recognizes but also motivates your team to grow.
What is the Employee of the Month award?
The "Employee of the Month" award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional performance or notable contribution during a month. It serves as a way for employers to reward standout workers for their efforts.
4 secrets to successful Employee of the Month awards
According to Gallup, younger workers treat recognition titles with a certain degree of skepticism. They're not looking for a pat on the back. They're hoping for meaningful gratitude that reflects their career path, contributions, and growth.
But it's not just the millennials and Gen Z. From the fresh faces in the office to the seasoned professionals – everyone wants their efforts appreciated well. So, how can companies bridge this generational gap and ensure every team member feels genuinely valued?
There are four keys to effective recognition.
Authentic - It must be personal.
Frequent - It should occur frequently.
Specific - It must address a specific action or result.
Sincere - It must come from the heart and be genuine.
Alternatives to Employee of the Month awards
The traditional "Employee of the Month" award has its value, but as the workplace evolves, so should the methods of employee recognition ideas. Awards and titles are not the only forms of recognition. Make your employees feel valued, seen, and part of the company's success.
Note: While we're focusing on alternatives to the traditional employee of the month award, these tactics will work wonders for any organization looking to boost employee morale and motivation.
#1 Extra paid day off
The lines between work and personal life often blur.
So, sometimes, the best reward is a break.
An afternoon off might mean a parent gets to attend their child's school play or someone gets to take part in a hobby they've been putting off. Extra paid day off provide your employees with the opportunity to recharge.
Is there any better motivation for hard work than knowing that rest is on the way?
To make this work, ask yourself:
How often can you afford to offer these extra days off?
What achievements or milestones qualify for this special treat?
How can you guarantee workflow isn't disrupted during their time off?
#2 Special parking spot
You may think it's a small perk, but imagine that among parking spaces for managers, CEOs, and board members is a spot for "Employee of the Month."
It’s a practical award for those who commute by car (especially during peak hours or in bad weather). With this simple convenience, they start and end their day with a smile.
A special place for employee of the month is a small gesture that the company values the employee's contributions. You can even think of some personalized touch, like a sign with a fun and creative employee award title.
#3 Monthly catering service
Why not give your employee of the month a private lunch catering box filled with delicious reminders that you see their hard work?
For one month, every day, the best worker doesn't have to worry about their lunch during the work week.
Or even better – you can recognize the whole team with this privilege. It turns its regular workday into an event to look forward to. This kind of motivation guarantees a high drive for your team's productivity.
#4 Digital rewards to show off
In the digital age, achievements are celebrated online. It can be a modern twist to a traditional recognition program to offer beautifully designed digital certificates that employees can share on social media platforms like LinkedIn.
And there is something that can help you a lot in achieving that.
Certifier is a certificate maker that, with its drag & drop editor, allows you to create stunning certificates. It provides hundreds of ready-made templates so you can choose the certificate and tweak it to your needs however you want.
As the cherry on top – Certifier allows you to manage all credentials without much effort. You can keep your finger on the pulse and send sharable certificates with a click.
#5 Personalized gifts
Employee of the Month award should be authentic.
So try to personalize your gift and tailor it to individual interests.
Do you have a coffee lover in your team? Give them a coffee machine or a gift card to a local coffee shop. Does someone have a passion for painting? A gift certificate for art supplies would be a delightful surprise.
You can make a big difference to your team members if you know what they are passionate about outside of work. It's about respecting their unique hobbies. Gifting a custom award that resonates with an employee's interests creates a lasting impact.
But how can you uncover these interests?
Create an environment where sharing and learning about each other becomes a natural part of the company culture.
Encourage open conversations and hold team-building sessions about hobbies.
Ask team members who know this person best.
Organize monthly "Passion Talks" where team members can present on a topic they love with the Human Resource Advisor.
#6 Subscription services
Who doesn't love a good surprise in their mailbox or inbox? Subscription services are the modern-day gift that keeps on giving.
You can choose from monthly streaming services for movie fans, magazine subscriptions, or “Book of the Month” for those who love to immerse themselves in stories – the options are vast and varied.
It's like celebrating Christmas every month. And the best part? Every time they receive their subscription, they're reminded how much the company values them.
#7 Flexible work hours
The beauty of modern work is its adaptability.
Remember the days when everyone rushed to punch their timecards? Those days are slowly fading away (yay!).
Offering flexible work hours is like telling your employees, "We trust you." You're not just letting your employees avoid morning traffic or hit the gym at midday (though those are great perks).
You show that you understand that everyone has their own rhythm. Some might be night owls, while others are early birds. Give your staff an employee bonus program to choose their productive hours. It not only recognizes their hard work but also their individuality.
It's a nod that life happens outside the office, and work should accommodate that, not the other way around.
#8 Interactive achievement timeline
Think of this creative employee recognition idea as a dynamic mural that captures the essence of your company's journey – milestones, challenges overcome, positive feedback, and moments of triumph.
There's no difference between an innovative cost-saving strategy and a viral marketing campaign. Each achievement deserves to be celebrated.
But here's the twist. It's interactive.
Employees can walk up to it, click on an event, and learn more about the story behind it. There could be a video clip of the team celebrating a project's completion or a heartfelt testimonial from a client. With the thrill of discovery, it feels like a trip down memory lane.
What are the benefits of employee recognition like this? For one thing, it's a constant reminder of the company's progress and the extra efforts behind it. For new employees, it's an engaging way to get familiar with the company's legacy. For veterans, it's a source of pride.
#9 Team lunch celebrations
In a world where remote work is becoming the norm, the value of face-to-face interactions is skyrocketing. And what better way to take care of these connections than over food?
Celebrate team achievements with a special lunch date. It's a break from the routine and a chance for your team to bond.
Why does lunch is among stellar employee recognition strategies?
Feedback forum. While it's a relaxed setting, it can also be an informal platform for feedback. Employees often feel more comfortable sharing insights and suggestions over a meal than in a boardroom.
Recognition spotlight. Use this gathering to spotlight the achievements of team members. A toast, a few words of appreciation, or even a small token can make the event memorable for those being recognized.
Mental refresh. Sharing a meal is a mental refresher. It relieves the daily pressure, regenerating the team for the challenges ahead.
#10 Investment in future
Investing in an employee's future is a strategic move beyond basic recognition. Companies building a path for employees’ growth show their commitment to constant development.
Do you want to be such an employer?
Take advantage of platforms like Coursera as your stepping stone and let your star employees choose the courses they want to take.
The key is to identify programs that align with the company's goals and the employee's career path.
This proactive approach to learning ensures your team stays ahead of industry trends and boosts employee retention and satisfaction. After all, a company that invests in its people is investing in its own success.
➡️ Create a meaningful recognition program for your employees with our article.
#11 Travel vouchers
If you want to give your employees something more creative than another corporate award, why not give them a weekend away? Traditional awards might gather dust on a shelf, but memories from a well-spent weekend stay forever.
Nothing beats a peaceful break in the countryside, or a busy city break as a gift from the entire team.
Such experiences can refresh the mind and spirit. It leads to increased motivation and productivity upon return. As an added benefit, it's a unique way to create a deeper connection between the employee and the company. It shows that you care about employee wellness outside of your office walls.
But this idea for recognition awards can also be tailored to professional development.
You can send your team to a conference or seminar in a scenic location. This way, you can thank them for their commitment and offer them a balance between leisure and learning.
#12 Charity donation
For many, the joy of giving is greater than that of receiving. Recognizing an employee's hard work through a charitable act can resonate profoundly, especially for those who hold philanthropy close to their hearts.
Give your team the option to choose a charity your company will support to reward employee engagement.
Here's how you can integrate charity donations into your recognition strategy:
Personalized approach. Instead of a generic donation, allow employees to select a cause they're passionate about. It adds a personal touch to the recognition, making it even more special.
Group initiatives. Consider organizing charity events or drives where the recognized employee leads the initiative. It's a great way to celebrate their achievements while mobilizing the entire team for a good cause.
Transparency. Provide a certificate from the charity. It ensures transparency and gives employees a tangible reminder of the good done in their name.
And here’s the tip. Create an annual pool where a certain percentage of company profits are set aside for charitable donations. Let top-performing employees decide the allocation, turning recognition into a collaborative effort for a more significant cause.
#13 Health & Wellness
Why not recognize employee excellence holistically? Healthy employees undeniably are happier and drive productivity.
In a fast-paced work environment, mental and physical health sometimes take a back seat. But imagine the impact of an award that prioritizes health. If you emphasize employee wellness, your organization can create an environment that encouraging personal growth.
Offer memberships to yoga classes to help employees find their center and improve flexibility. Meditation classes can provide much-needed mental breaks, assisting employees to declutter mentally.
This way, you can show your employees that you understand that a well-balanced individual contributes positively to the team dynamic.
#14 Cheers from peers
There's something incredibly motivating about peer recognition programs and being noticed by those who work alongside you daily.
After all, they know themselves best.
Create a space where colleagues can appreciate one another. Peer-to-peer recognition is powerful, no matter if it's a physical board in the office or a digital platform.
Place the board in a common area, like the break room, for maximum visibility.
Add a touch of creativity. Make the board inviting.
Set a few guidelines to keep the board positive and respectful.
Kickstart the process and ask a few leaders to add their notes of appreciation. It often sets the ball rolling.
Remind your team of the board's existence and its purpose.
#15 Bidding for boss duties
How about adding fun to your workspace and coming up with some innovative ideas?
It is an auction where the roles are reversed, and managers are the ones on the offering side.
Instead of bidding on items, employees get to bid on services their managers offer. Employees can bid on various services using play money earned through achievements.
Could somebody ask the CEO to prepare a boring report? This is the chance! And for the regular bosses? They get a day to step back, observe, and learn a thing or two from the fresh perspectives brought to the table.
If auctions aren't your thing, managers can directly offer acts of service, like hosting a BBQ lunch or organizing a team outing. The key is genuine appreciation and a willingness to go the extra mile (or grill the extra burger) for the team.
Level up your employee recognition program
As the employee recognition landscape evolves, you need to keep up with it. It’s evident that one-size-fits-all awards no longer cut it. But as you’ve seen, you can motivate and appreciate your team in various innovative ways.
Whether through experiences, personal gifts, or growth opportunities, the goal remains the same – to make every employee feel valued and integral to the company's success.
Start with Certifier and create digital employee recognition awards for a well-done job.
Share this article
WRITTEN BYSergey Butko
Tech entrepreneur. Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe. Digital Marketer.