Last week, I stopped at a restaurant and saw something interesting. On a shelf behind the counter was their “Employee of the Month” award. While I’ve seen these awards in a lot of organizations, this one was different.
Instead of the usual plaque with employee names, this was a piece of poster board. The words “Employee of the Month” were neatly lettered at the top with other decorations on the sign. What made it different was the center of the sign. Instead of the name of past winners, there was a mirror. Every employee who looked at the sign saw themselves as the award winner.
I am not a fan of employee reward programs. They create winners and losers. Often they do not provide all employees with an equal opportunity to win, and may miss those who come to work and do a steady job every day.
Even worse, attempting to motivate employees through competition can create resentment and end up reducing productivity and morale. The best way to motivate employees is to create a work environment where they understand their jobs and are engaged in the work system, increasing the chance they will enjoy their work and develop an interest in being as productive as possible. Competition between employees will not do this.
In the restaurant mentioned above, the sign with the mirror tells all employees they are valued, and their work contributes to the success of the business. Each is recognized without declaring one to be the winner and the rest losers.
I liked the sign, and commend the people who work there. After all, the person who took my order was the Employee of the Month!