Employee of the Month Award
Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2018 - 12:00am

I remember featuring this old story in one of my earlier books but here it is for your pleasure.

A large business organization recently hired several cannibals. After on-boarding a lengthy new hire orientation, the human resource director of the company congratulated the cannibals and said, “Welcome to the company, here we treat each other as family. I need to inform you and remind you that you are all part of the team now! You get all of the benefits we have discussed and you can enjoy our company coffee free of charge! But please don’t eat any of the other employees.” Each of the cannibals promised they wouldn’t.

After a few weeks the cannibal’s boss seemed very pleased, but also a little worried. She said, “You’re all working very hard, and I’m satisfied with you. However, one of our secretaries has disappeared. Do any of you know what happened to her?” The cannibals all shook their heads, “No.”

After the boss had left, the leader of the cannibals was a bit angry and said, “Okay, which one of you dummies ate the secretary?”

A hand rose hesitantly in admission. “You fool!” said the leader, “For weeks we’ve been eating managers and no one noticed anything, but nooo, you had to go and eat someone important!”

This brings us to the question: have you determined who the important people in your organization really are? You cannot say, “They are all important.” This may be true in some way, but in reality there are those that are really important and positively contributing to the company more than others. And the next question here is: Are you taking the time to recognize and reward them or at least appreciate them?

Back in 1946, 1980, 1986 and 1992. It was already important to determine what motivated people to work. In each of the studies, employees were asked to rank the factors that motivated them. The answers included:

1. Interesting work

2. Job security

3. Feeling of being “in on things”

4. Good wages

Across the study which spans 46 years, only one factor constantly is found among the top motivators: “Appreciation for the work done.”

As I keep on mentioning in my Level Up Leadership seminars, the two top reasons why good people leave will always be:

1. Inability to get along with the immediate boss.

2. The feeling that all the work done is not appreciated and recognized.

The importance of recognition to employees is inarguable, but here is the problem, while recognition is a universal aspect, this is not a universal practice. And this recognition gap has consequences.--Good people leave.

And so many of the corporate leaders who are aware of this gap respond by creating recognition programs like “Employee of the Month Award.” Their way of recognizing their top performers and at the same time desiring others to vie for the title too.

Over time, these programs have not delivered positive results for two reasons: First, recognition should not be given to only one person per month. Recognition should be administered daily and not only to one person, but to the many who actually deliver good work.

Employee of the Month programs create cynicism and there is logic that explains why it is so. The “best employee of the month” wins the award because he or she is the best employee for that month. Chances are that employee is so good he or she should be the “best employee” for the next many months, but that cannot be. The idea is to recognize employees and recognizing just one is counter-intuitive. So you spread the title around. Next time it is this person and next month it is another person. So after a year or two of spreading the award among the people, perhaps Johnny is the only one who has not yet been awarded employee of the month. So one month near the end of the calendar or fiscal year, management throws a bone. “Johnny gets an award because he has shown most progress in improving his tardiness and absences.”

And from that moment on, anytime you say, employee of the month you will see snickers and your employees will roll their eyes. They will pray with all of their might that they are not chosen lest they be the object of jokes and target of bullying and bashing as the employees gather in pantries or in the canteen.

The second reason is very reasonable. Real, effective and authentic recognition should be based on an objective form of measurement so as not to be charged with favoritism. Recognition and appreciation should be spontaneous, authentic, personal and never programmatic.

Leaders should be trained to learn how to show appreciation and give compliments, but subdue their own ego and learn to show visible appreciation for work done well. If there is an appreciation gap in your organization, your good people will leave you.

Creating a culture of honest and genuine appreciation of the people who do excellent work could avert this. Make sure your company has this.

(Experience two inspiring days with Francis Kong learning leadership and life skills in his widely acclaimed Level Up Leadership Jan. 16-17 at SEDA Hotel, BGC. For further inquiries contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph.)

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