How to design an employee awards programme

Author: PM editorial | Date: 07 Sep 2016

Getting it right can boost morale and motivation, says management consultant Ashish Ahluwalia

There’s nothing better than climbing the podium to pick up a glittering award, the acclaim of your peers ringing in your ears.

But designing a successful, HR-led employee awards programme isn’t as straightforward as it seems – from choosing which channel to use to avoiding disengagement among those who don’t win, the importance of proper planning can’t be underestimated.

Getting it right can boost morale and motivation, says Ashish Ahluwalia, a Korn Ferry Hay Group consultant. “Motivated employees tend to go above and beyond the call of duty and enhance an organisation’s performance. We should never forget that recognition is the greatest motivator. If well-run, reward programmes also encourage specific behaviours aligned with the culture and vision of the company.”

To get the best out of your scheme, Ahluwalia says it should be aligned with business objectives: if your organisation encourages corporate social responsibility, for example, it makes sense to have an award that recognises effort in this area.

Shobha Jaison, senior MENA HR manager at recruitment website Bayt. com, says all her firm’s internal awards are based on clear key performance indicators (KPIs) agreed by staff with their managers: “We try to be really strict about awards only being given when an employee has clearly exceeded their agreed targets. All awards are audited by the HR department to ensure compliance to set standards.”

Ahluwalia suggests those who miss out on awards needn’t feel hard done by: “If the criteria for the recognition are well understood, and the organisation maintains transparency and fairness in the programme, employees who do not win an award will not feel they’ve been unfairly treated,” he says. But one way to increase the feel-good factor from awards (and spread the right sort of culture of appreciation) is to supplement them with peer-to-peer recognition.

This can be done through ‘thank you’ programmes, or by giving department heads the authority to award small gifts for a job well done. This also removes the focus on a single winner-takes-all awards night, which might not always be feasible.

Instead, says Ahluwalia, concentrate on providing a personal touch – having a business leader make a presentation to an award winner, even at a local level, helps bring their achievement to life. Company intranets and social media can help amplify it. The actual award, he says, could be anything from a physical trophy or memento to cash, vouchers or gift ‘experiences’ such as hotel breaks.

Jaison says Bayt.com recognises the achievements of its 340 employees through monthly, quarterly and annual awards. Winners of monthly prizes who have met their KPIs get cash and team outings, while quarterly ‘fiestas’ take place in each of the company’s 13 offices to celebrate top performers across different departments. The key, she adds, is maximising the visibility of those who are being recognised – all employees receive a regular video montage of monthly winners, and the organisation’s Facebook page is an ongoing tribute to its high performers.