2020 has looked nothing like 2019. Whether it’s staying efficient and motivated while working remotely, juggling parenting duties along with job responsibilities, or continuing to report on-site during changing conditions, employees have gone above and beyond to keep their organizations running.
If your company has given awards in the past, continue this program during the pandemic—and maybe even consider expanding it. If you’ve never given employee awards, then this is the perfect year to start.
So what does this look like?
When you think about employee awards, you might picture the Employee of the Month plaque from your local fast-food joint. And while this is absolutely an option, awards shouldn’t stop there.
The ideal employee awards program should:
- Identify behaviors and qualities that align with your company’s values
- Provide meaningful public validation
- Offer a perk that the employee is excited to receive
Recognize What You Value
To decide which awards to give, start by asking what your organization values. Your values are unique to your company and reflected in your operations. Make sure that each of them is recognized in your awards program. After all, behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to be repeated.
Go further by asking yourself which of your values you already recognize in the normal course of the year and which might get left out. Values that aren’t regularly discussed and rewarded are excellent candidates for employee awards. You might even choose to double down on these categories.
For example, your company might value efficiency, growth, creativity, teamwork, and a sense of humor. While efficiency and growth are likely formally rewarded and recognized regularly, creativity, teamwork, and a sense of humor are likely overlooked. (Even though they’re a critical component of your culture and support your financial goals.)
An awards program gives your organization a chance to correct this and celebrate at the same time. Awards like “Best Sense of Humor,” “Creative Genius,” “Most Welcoming,” and “Community Spirit” allow these qualities to become a regular and meaningful part of your conversation.
Make a Day of It
Awards combine reward (something of value to the employee) with recognition (public approval of a job done well). For this reason, they are most effective when distributed publicly—for example, at an event or celebration.
Make a virtual event feel celebratory by taking a page out of the virtual conference playbook and send your employees an experience box. Include a glass, a beverage, and a few snacks so that all of your employees can join in.
For award winners, consider taking advantage of custom gift wrapping and packaging options to preserve the surprise. Even though your awardees will have wrapped packages in front of them, they won’t know what they’ve won until their award is announced.
You can heighten the suspense even further by combining your awards program with your annual promotional gifting. For example: every employee receives a wrapped box containing an emerald green ceramic tumbler (take note, fashionistas: we’re expecting a lot of green next year). Those who are being recognized for exemplary contributions, however, will discover an additional gift hidden inside the tumbler—and until you instruct 2020’s Mentor of the Year to open her gift, nobody will be the wiser.
What to Gift
So what should those gifts be? Ideally, this award should be something with intrinsic value for the awardee. After all, awards are both earned and personalized, and since you aren’t giving the same thing to everybody, you can make sure that the gift suits the recipient.
One option is to gift two things: a small reusable item bearing the award name, and credits or points to a company store.
Company stores are an increasingly popular way for organizations to manage their promotional products. In this case, you could curate special collections for employee recognition, with seasonal swag, food and drink in branded packaging, reusable drinkware, and technology-inspired gifts. Employees always appreciate choice, and allowing choice is a great way to recognize those who give the most to your company.
If setting up a company store isn’t in the works, consider ordering a snazzy display item like a paperweight, pair of bookends, or a frame, and pairing it with a gift card to a company-favorite store or restaurant—this is also a great way for your company to support local businesses during the pandemic.
If you decide to go with products, think quality. Awards should be covetable—but that doesn’t need to mean expensive. Depending on your budget, quality could mean an upscale brand of noise-canceling headphones—or the nicest, coziest hot chocolate money can buy.
Your employees work hard, and they are rewarded with advancement, development, and compensation. For any organization, however, this fails to tell the whole story of a culture. What makes your company special lies between the lines. An employee awards program is a great opportunity to highlight and celebrate the less-tangible qualities that bring value to your organization, while also recognizing your team members for the work they’ve done this year.