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17 Ideas to Revolutionize Your Employee of the Month Program in 2024

By May 3, 2023 November 30th, 2023 7 Comments


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, a 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.

In a hurry? These are some of our favorite employee recognition & reward platforms designed for sending customized digital employee of the month awards:

Motivosity 🏆 Reward your team’s priorities, culture, and performance with premium incentives Visit Motivosity
Bucketlist 🎁 Award them an eGift Visit Bucketlist
WorkTango 🌟 Engage and retain employees with recognition, rewards, surveys, and more Visit WorkTango
Bonusly 🥇 Recognize and reward employees for their achievements and milestones Visit Bonusly
Nectar 😃 Peer-to-peer recognition, Amazon integration, boost your engagement and retention Visit Nectar
👉 Compare more HR-vetted and approved options here

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. Find more useful tips to learn more about motivation in the workplace on the Calibre Office Furniture website.

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’s pretty powerful so let’s dive in.

1. Customized Employee Shoutouts 


Employee appreciation is very important but can’t always come packaged up in a box. That is why the team at Nectar have built out their own custom employee of the month program designed around the “shoutout”.

Whether you want to take a more traditional route and award a monthly “Star Employee” or create your own awards, the social recognition created from the awards is the key to creating a positive work environment for the entire team, not just one employee.

Pro-Tip: One of the monthly shoutouts that Nectar instituted was the “Culture Champion – recognizing the employee who best demonstrated the companies’ mission and core values.


2. Nemonation

The employee recognition experts at Bonusly recently 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
  • Send colleagues encouragement and positive messages


3. Value Victor


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


4. GEM Program (from Staten Island University Hospital Radiology Lab)

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


5. Make Others Great


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 employee bonus program 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


6. 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 onboarding 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 employee handbook template


7. 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


8. Utterly Inspiration Reward

Celebrate the employee that knows how to greet you in the morning to make you feel excited to be at work. With just one sentence, this person can remind you why you’re passionate about your company and your mission. During meetings, they spout ideas that you love and support as strongly as any of the ideas you jotted down.

This inspirational employee of the month needs an inspired prize, such as Caroo’s Amplify Box, which comes packed with snacks all from BIPOC- and women-owned brands and also benefits a rotating selection of philanthropic causes.


9. 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


10. 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


11. Having Our Backs Award 

This award honors employees who always have their company’s (and/or their coworkers’) backs. These are the people everyone knows they can depend on, the people who remain ever-reliable, steadfast even when times get rough. 

What’s the perfect award for someone that has your back? A swanky, stylish backpack. 

Create the prize with a fully customizable backpack from You can even fill the pack with any goodies you want, updating the assortment to fit the preferences of each awardee – sending a branded backpack during a remote onboarding experience is also a great way to engage with your virtual employees. 


Characteristics and accomplishments recognized:

  • Reliability 
  • Mission-driven thinking 
  • Teamwork 
  • Collaboration and cooperation


12. 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


13. 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


14. 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


15. Hopeful Award


The Hopeful Award, another 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


16. 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


17. Founder Legacy Award Winner

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


Bonus: 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.



Employee Recognition & Appreciation Resources:

39 Impactful Employee Appreciation & Recognition Ideas for 2019 [UPDATED]

46 Work Anniversary Memes, Quotes, & GIFs To Send To Your Coworker

Use These Employee Appreciation Speech Examples to Show Your Team You Care

12 Effective Tools & Strategies to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace

Your Employee Referral Program Guide: The Benefits, How-tos, Incentives & Tools

21 Unforgettable Work Anniversary Ideas [UPDATED]

16 Awesome Employee Perks Your Team Will Love

71 Employee Recognition Quotes Every Manager Should Know

How to Retain Employees: 18 Practical Takeaways from 7 Case Studies

Boost Your Employee Recognition Skills and Words (Templates Included)


  • Al Perez says:

    Great stuff! I’m always searching for ways to show appreciation to our team members! I know that we as a work force are with each other longer than our own families and with that in mind we need to look at the work force as an extension of or family (I do know that their are some that we do not want to associate with and or want to be part of this family outside of work, but if we apply a positive environment we can change things at work).
    Keep up the positive healthy and engaging environment building!
    Al P

  • Mitali Sujith says:

    Thanks Ashley,

    that was an amazing write up, multiple ways to award & motivate employees. Being in HR the regular awards seem mundane and nothing new. This will definitely help me in proposing innovative ways of rewarding employees for their efforts/ attitude & various other behavioral characteristics.

  • Gera says:

    this was such a great article, with ideas that are different and fun. I am surely going to use some of these.
    thanks a million for sharing.

  • Kim says:

    Great article. We’re looking to restructure our Kudos Award and this gave me some great ideas! Thank you.

  • JON says:

    Great ideas! We call our award Hedgehog of the month. It’s named after Jim Collins hedgehog concept in Good to Great for those who strive to find their niche and be the best.

  • Hey, Ashley Bell.
    This is the best article in which 17 best ideas are listed to Revolutionize the Employees, which are really profitable for employers & managers to implement in their organizations.
    Thanks, for sharing this amazing article with us.

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