20+ Employee of the Month Ideas

employee of the month ideas

It takes a lot of consideration to build a strong company culture, and prioritizing the role of your employees within the larger landscape is pivotal. With so many directions you can go in, like forming people-focused policies, career development programs, and paid vacation time, one way to foster collaboration and reward hard work is with good old employee recognition. Though an Employee of the Month award might sound old-fashioned, there are plenty of cool and current ways you can celebrate the best of your team!

This is a great way to recognize star employees across the entire company, boost employee morale and retention, and give everyone a reward to work towards. Here are some of the best Employee of the Month ideas you might decide to include in your wider recognition program.

What is an employee recognition program?

employee engagement programs

Employee recognition programs are an opportunity for managers to recognize employees who are active contributors to a team’s goals—whether it’s hitting benchmarks or exhibiting behavior that helps boost productivity and overall morale. Traditionally, this recognition is given out on a monthly basis (hence the name Employee of the Month), but you can set up programs on any timeline you want. 

Typically, we see two main factors influencing the decision of who gets the award: output and attitude. 

The ideal employee is someone who is productive and produces high quality work. However, they also need to have the right attitude, display company values, and be an active participant in driving employee morale. These star employees are rare and should be celebrated. Making them Employee of the Month acknowledges and rewards their contributions while simultaneously inspiring colleagues.

How can Employee of the Month awards boost morale?

Employee of the Month awards are a great addition to company culture and can be used to routinely show employee appreciation and recognition—something that today’s employees want.  

A joint study between Gallup and Workhuman found that employees who strongly agree that recognition is an important part of their company experience are 3.8x as likely to also feel connected to the culture. This same study also found that employees who receive great recognition are 20x more likely to be engaged compared to employees who receive poor recognition for their work. 

Using an Employee of the Month awards program provides that recognition while celebrating the employee’s hard work and contribution to the company’s success. However, it isn’t just about granting a title. To show true appreciation, many companies also provide a gift with the Employee of the Month status. These rewards can take many forms, so we listed some of the best ideas below to get you started.

Monetary and gift rewards

employee of the month award ideas

Gift cards

Who doesn’t love a gift card? They are easy to arrange and can be used to buy practically anything you want. A company might opt to preselect the store they get the gift card from (Amazon, DoorDash, and Target are always favorites), but the employee might also have a place in mind for where they want to spend their reward.

Tech prizes

Tech prizes like tablets, smartwatches, and headphones are historically popular. Not only do they reward an employee for hard work, but they are also helpful in the office and at home. It’s also an opportunity to add company logos and colors so you can give a great gift and increase brand awareness.

Time off

Extra vacation days

Few people will be mad at the idea of extra PTO. This could be used to extend a dream vacation or prompt a getaway that an employee could be pushing off.

Long weekend passes

As an alternative to offering standard PTO days, why not offer a long weekend? Give the employee the okay to take a Friday or Monday off when it best suits them, and let them recuperate after all that hard work that earned them their nomination.

Flexible start/end hours

Why not let the Employee of the Month enjoy some flexible working hours? It doesn’t have to be much, but the ability to work from home on days they usually wouldn’t, or a late start or an early finish might be just what they need.


employee of the month ideas

Adventure activities

Nothing feels better than putting a pause on all of your cares to go on a day adventure. There are so many experiences that employees could opt for — theme park passes, movie tickets, cooking classes — and it can be an excellent way for employees to relax.

Spa day or wellness retreat

Speaking of relaxation, why not book a spa day or a wellness retreat? Time in the sauna followed by a massage or yoga are some of the most relaxing and destressing activities. This is a great reset and can give your employees fresh determination when they return.

Promote employee performance while boosting employee morale. Download our free guide to uncover the power of employee recognition and storytelling.

Subscriptions and memberships

Fitness memberships

A gym membership might already be part of your employee benefits. But if it isn’t, offering a month pass to a bougie gym or a set of workout classes could be the perfect treat. Our physical health and well-being can play such a big role in how we feel mentally and in our abilities to do our jobs. By offering this to your employees, it shows you, as a company, care.

Streaming services

Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, you name it. There are so many streaming services nowadays that employees use to catch up on all their favorite shows. If you frequently hear around the water cooler or in the break room discussions about the shows, paying for an annual subscription for employees might be a great option to include in your list of prizes.

Meal delivery services

When employees feel burned out after work, they’re probably not going to want to cook. Meal delivery services can be a great option. With choices between pre-made meals that get heated up or meal kits that have measured ingredients (like HelloFresh or Green Chef), it can be a thoughtful way of ensuring employees get a good nutritious meal in the evening.

Professional upgrades

employee of the month ideas

Upgrade a work item

The option to upgrade a work item and get something new to brighten up the workspace can be a brilliant way to show an employee appreciation for all the hard work they do. You could offer to upgrade their desk to a sit/stand one, or you could upgrade one of their work-issued equipment items, like a laptop. If you have employees who don’t work in an office, you could upgrade something else, like their PPE or field kit, if applicable.

Color analysis

Getting “your colors done” is all the rage, thanks to TikTok. Some employees might want a wardrobe upgrade, but not sure where to start. Here’s where a consultation with a color expert helps guide them to make different choices. With this analysis, they can figure out what colors and styles suit them best, allowing them to return to the office with new outfits and a whole lotta confidence!

Company shout-outs

Personalized plaques or badges

employee recognition programs

An easy way to highlight outstanding contributions is to turn to the place designed for employee engagement: the company intranet. Your intranet is the hub that everyone uses to receive information and see what other departments are up to, so why not show off top performing employees on the homepage? This is also a great option to make sure remote employees are included since it is your virtual workspace.

Aside from a dedicated spot on the homepage, there’s so many other options for you to recognize employees. You can use employee profiles, set up automated employee recognition programs so that when an employee completes a task, they receive a badge, or share a kudos that will appear in the activity stream.

Shoutouts in the newsletter

Do you have an internal company newsletter? Newsletters are a great method for circulating important information across your entire organization. On top of news, policy updates, and notes from leadership, you can also include a fun section for team birthdays, anniversaries, and — of course — employee recognition awards.

Charity donations

Giving back to your community is such an amazing feeling. Though you might have a company charity that you donate to regularly, giving the employee of the month a chance to nominate another charity for a donation can also be a fantastic way to support one of the causes that your deserving employees care about the most.

Thank-you notes

No matter what an employee picks from the extensive list above, adding a personalized thank you note is an impactful touch. Handwritten is the best, but we understand that a team of frontline workers might have to settle for a thank-you email or chat message instead!

Rewarding employees isn’t just about giving them an item. It’s about acknowledgement and appreciation. That’s why management should be sure to use the thank-you note as an opportunity to recognize what it is that the employee has accomplished to be worthy of the award.

How do you pick Employee of the Month?

So, how do you pick who deserves the Employee of the Month award? You will have to think about what characteristics and benchmarks makes a star employee and also the different areas these individuals can stand out. Therefore, we thought we would give you some ideas for choosing how to best recognize employees who deserve it the most.

Employee surveys

If you send employee surveys (and we suggest you do, it’s a great way to collect feedback!), include a question about who you think deserves recognition. It’s a direct way to motivate employees to consider their colleagues and who has helped them out in the last month. Doing so can quickly give you eyes across the whole team, in addition to helping you find out who is going above and beyond—especially the people who don’t brag about it.

Peer recognition

peer recognition

Asking workers who have helped them out isn’t always enough. Sometimes, it can be great to let your employees nominate the most deserving employees among their peers. Creating a peer recognition program can help employees come together and form strong bonds with their entire team. It also encourages them to think of ways that they can be more helpful and considerate to one another, hoping that their actions, too, will be recognized. 

Awards ceremonies

Why not make this into a fun award ceremony? If you hold monthly, quarterly, or annual town hall meetings, saving time towards the end for an award ceremony can end the session on a positive and fun note. You could even add it to an end of the year holiday party with an annual Employee of the Year or Champion of Champions awards included.

Multiple categories

Big companies should not limit themselves to a single Employee of the Month. As with a large and widespread workforce, there could be several deserving employees who should all be recognized for their contributions. What’s more, departments might want to consider their best employees using different metrics. 

A customer service award might make sense for customer-facing departments, but how would someone on a manufacturing line qualify for it? Likewise, if the sales department wants to award Employee of the Month to the person with the highest sales (or even single highest sale), anyone not in a selling role will understandably never be considered. Multiple categories give more of a fair chance to everyone.

Gamification in the workplace - boost employee morale

Mistakes to not make with an Employee of the Month scheme

An Employee of the Month program can produce great results for those who invest in setting one up. However, this is a program that needs to be adequately nurtured and assessed, because it’s far too easy to slip into complacency and make mistakes. Here are some red flags that might suggest that your Employee of the Month strategy needs a revamp.

1. Inconsistency with criteria

If it seems like every month workers need to do something different to be considered as potential employees of the month, they are obviously going to feel demotivated and unwilling to interact with the program. If it feels like the award isn’t handed out on time each month, this again feels inconsistent and not worth an employee’s valuable time. 

To avoid inconsistency, make sure you have a clear list of criteria for deciding who the lucky winners are. The best bet is to have requirements centralized in a document that managers can easily access to make comparison, review, and refinement a streamlined process.

2. Always the same person nominated

Is it the same employee being nominated over and over again? While they absolutely might be deserving of the recognition and reward, it can be extremely demotivating for the rest of the team. What’s more, having to celebrate the same person over and over can cause resentment and division even in the most collaborative and friendly of teams. 

This can be avoided simply by ensuring that there is a wide variety of categories to nominate employees in. Even if you have just one award to give out, you may nominate multiple people from different departments for a variety of reasons before choosing just one winner. 

3. Focusing on the one, not the many

One common shortcoming for many employee recognition programs is that they focus on one singular employee and not a full team. This can cause some problems when it comes to collaborative projects or wins because other employees who worked on the same project may feel resentful that they are not being celebrated too.

Peer recognition and nomination can be the answer here. Our peers notice the efforts we make and appreciate us showing up for one another. If a whole team nominates one member to the monthly award program, it will always go down better than that team member being nominated by managers.

4. No employee input

When the Employee of the Month is only nominated by managers and employee contribution is required, guess what? You’re never going to deliver employee satisfaction. Teams will feel voiceless and will have little reason to engage with the program beyond the chance to win a prize. 

This is easily remedied simply by allowing employees to have input. Give them the chance to nominate employees who they feel have contributed to the company; enable two-way communication. If they are unsatisfied with the way rewards currently run, ask them if there are any Employee of the Month ideas that they wish to see instead.

5. Favoritism

This is not favoritism in terms of who gets nominated (though that can also happen) but rather, favoritism shown to one winning employee over another. If you have won Employee of the Month, you should be treated the same as everyone else who has won this reward. You should have access to the same standard of benefits (even if they have changed) and you should never feel like others have gotten a better deal than you.

To avoid this, make sure that all rewards are as equal as can be and that there is a fair selection process in place to avoid favoritism.

Launch your Employee of the Month program now

employee of the month ideas

These employee recognition awards should form part of a much wider company culture and reward scheme that actively uplifts and engages your workers. Create a workspace that encourages healthy competition and motivates employees to deliver their best, all while giving them the incentive and recognition to do so.

Axero can help. Our intranet platform gives your employees a people-focused hub that combines the experience, resources, and communications they need to tackle the workday and feel part of a team. From centralizing information to boosting engagement and culture, you can do it all.

Book a demo to see how Axero can help you recognize and support your employees. 

22 Surefire Ways to Boost Employee Engagement ebook

Written by

Alex is the Marketing Manager at Axero Solutions, dedicated to creating valuable content to help companies work smarter and together. Alex previously worked in communications and journalism throughout the tri-state area.


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