Updated: September 27, 2022

Employee of the Month Ideas: Awards & Gifts for Recognition

You found our list of the best employee of the month ideas!

Employee of the month is an award given to workers for above and beyond performance. The purpose of these awards is to recognize outstanding employees at the office, and motivate workers to excel. You may choose to give gifts or prizes to the winner. This concept is also known as “staff of the month”, “associate of the month” and “team member of the month.”

These awards are an example of employee engagement best practices and ideas for virtual employee appreciation. Online awards support remote team engagement and help capture the benefits of employee recognition.

This list contains:

  • employee of the month award ideas
  • employee of the month gifts
  • ideas for employee of the month recognition programs
  • employee of the month nomination ideas
  • employee recognition awards ideas

Here we go!

Virtual employee of the month ideas

Virtual employee of the month ideas are ways to honor remote employees. Here are some creative ways to run work from home employee of the month programs.

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1. Remote awards show

Remote award shows are ideal for teams who love theatrics. Every month, invite teammates to a short video call. During the meeting, announce the awardees in each category, and give each winner sixty seconds to speak. You can decide the honorees before the call, and make sure they RSVP yes. Or allow attendees to vote live using the poll feature on your virtual meeting software, just don’t display the percentages of the votes. Then, send winners certificates or digital badges.

You could highlight all of your employee of the month recipients as part of employee appreciation day.

Learn more about doing a remote award show.

Pro-tip: To create a VIP atmosphere, ask attendees to dress up fancy and pose in front of a glamorous virtual background.

2. Employee of the month Slack channel

One of the easiest ways to announce the employee of the month online is by creating a designated Slack channel. Every month, managers or HR staff post the employee(s) of the month with a picture and short description. We recommend making this channel read-only and encouraging employees to react with emojis. However, for a more interactive experience, allow teammates to post comments with congratulations or relevant anecdotes.

Here is a list of the best Slack apps that can support this channel.

3. Newsletter Shoutouts

Email newsletters are one of the most common ways to announce employee of the month. Whether you publish the blurb in internal company newsletters or client-facing newsletters, including a section for staff shoutouts is a great way to give the employee wider recognition while also advertising your company culture. Simply add an employee of the month section to your newsletter template. You should include details like the employee’s name, position or department, years with the company, and quotes from the honoree or admiring colleagues.

4. Social Media Takeover

A fun virtual employee of the month perk is to run a social media or website takeover. Instead of merely posting about the honoree on the company’s channels, give the winner freedom to create content for socials and the website. This way, employees get a platform for their ideas along with self-promotion and congratulations. For example, staff might post artwork, a virtual fundraiser, or a link to a side hustle.

Before handing over passwords or sending employees off to create, we recommend reviewing your company’s social media policy and content guidelines to be sure your guest poster honors your brand’s voice and values. Also, have a team member edit and approve the content before posting.

5. Blog Post

Blog posts make great platforms for employee of the month recognition, since the longer-form content allows for a more descriptive and personal approach.

You can ask the receiving employees, managers, or other teammates to write the entire article or contribute snippets. Creating a template makes the submission process easier. Either give contributors a list of questions to answer via email, or provide a Google Form.

Here are a few questions to ask the employee:

  • What motivates you?
  • What is your work motto?
  • What is your proudest accomplishment?
  • What is the greatest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
  • What lessons have you learned in your role?
  • What is the key to your success?
  • Who inspires you?
  • What is the best advice you can give to your colleagues?

Here are questions to ask bosses or colleagues:

  • How long have you known him/her?
  • What do people notice first about him/her?
  • What are the honoree’s greatest strengths?
  • What is something you’ve learned from him/her?
  • What do you think she/he will achieve in the future?
  • Why does she/he deserve this award?

Or, consider crowdsourcing the article writing by polling a variety of sources.

Whoever writes the article, be sure that an editor reviews the piece before publication to check grammar, cohesion, and tone.

You could also use this list of getting to know you questions or interview questions for work.

6. Time capsule

Time capsules are a neat way to commemorate employee’s wins and current goals.

Every month, send the employee of the month recipient prompts such as:

  • Why do you think you received this award?
  • What are your goals for the next quarter/year/five years?
  • How do you hope to grow within the company?
  • What accomplishment makes you proudest?
  • What do you want your colleagues to know about you?

You could either gather answers entirely online via email or Google Form, or send participants actual book pages to complete.

Not only does this exercise inspire self-reflection, it also gathers valuable data about the ambitions and characteristics of employees of the month. Plus, if your superstar’s performance slips in the future, you could revisit the entry to remind the employee of their former aspirations.

If this approach feels like giving out “extra homework,” to the winner, then ask more casual questions like “what is your favorite quote?” or “describe your dream office.” This magazine-profile-method makes the exercise more fun and informal.

7. Care package

Care packages are great ways to engage with work from home employees, and a nice way to show appreciation for virtual employees of the month.

Here are some ideas of items to include:

  • Trophies or medals
  • Candy and snacks
  • Handwritten card from the team
  • Candles
  • Tote bag
  • Journal
  • Self-care items like lotion, bubble bath, and tea
  • Coupons and gift certificates

You could also pick a different special prize each month. Advertising the reward helps to generate excitement and motivation. Varying the prize every time incentivizes repeat honorees to maintain performance in hopes of winning again.

Here are more ideas to support employee wellness.

8. Virtual team retreat

Virtual team retreats are online company meetups that take place on video meeting software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. These online gatherings are a great way to celebrate outstanding employee achievement, not to mention a networking opportunity for winners. During these events, the organization’s brightest stars can meet like minded individuals, swap ideas, build connections, and celebrate accomplishments.

Virtual tem retreats are great employee of the month ideas for large organizations that award multiple staff members simultaneously. Companies that only recognize one employee per month can plan a virtual retreat for the whole year’s winners, too.

For more information, check out virtual team retreat ideas.

Office employee of the month ideas

Here are some of the best employee of the month program ideas for offices.

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9. Party

Parties are the most common office celebrations. Depending on budget and time, you can make the events high-end or low-maintenance. An employee of the month party could be as simple as a cake in the breakroom, or as extravagant as an offsite evening with entertainment, fancy food and drinks, and stunning decor. The point of a party is to honor the employee of the hour while celebrating the accomplishment together.

10. Team Lunch

Team lunches are another staple celebration in offices. When an employee wins the award, treat the whole department to lunch. Whether the team orders in or dines out, we recommend leaving the choice of restaurant up to the winner.

This approach permits workers to share the victory with the team. The meal serves as a bonding opportunity for the group. Not to mention, the promise of a complimentary lunch for the crew inspires teammates to support and motivate each other to win the prize.

11. Parking Spot

For employees that work in offices, prime parking spots are a coveted prize. You can reserve one spot next to the entrance for the employee of the month, and give the winner a special parking pass or stick their name on the sign. Or, if employees pay for parking, cover the cost of the pass for the month. Garage parking is especially attractive for workers in cities that get lots of snowfall each winter!

Plus, once winners get used to the spot, they may feel compelled to defend their title.

12. Corner Office

One way to reward employees for standout performances is by rewarding them with prime office space. Instead of assigning all rooms based on seniority, reserve one nice office for the employee of the month. This space might be in an enviable location, have a great view, be extra roomy, or some combination of such desirable traits. You might even stock the suite with extra perks like an espresso machine, arcade game, or extra comfortable furniture to make the prize more attractive.

While some folks might not like the idea of switching desks, getting an office upgrade, even if temporary, is an incentive for many folks to strive for the prize. We recommend making relocation optional, so no worker feels pressured to uproot themselves.

13. Calendar

In place of a traditional plaque, make an employee of the month calendar to display in the office. Since you will name an employee or group of employees every month, you will have a perfect amount of models. This interactive prize lets workers show off their creativity and get silly.

We recommend announcing the winner or winners by the third week of the month. Next, arrange a photoshoot or give a deadline for picture submissions. When photos are in, use InDesign, Canva, or Adobe Spark, to design your calendar.

You can save up all the photos and release a whole year’s calendar at once, but we recommend printing out a month at a time. That way, employees can enjoy their work immediately.

Finally, hang calendar pages in communal areas like hallways, break rooms, and supply rooms.

14. Puzzle

One fun way to reveal the employee of the month is to turn the announcement into a puzzle or scavenger hunt.

First, create a list of clues that point towards the honoree’s identity. For instance, “has been with the company for 12 years,” or, “constantly cleans the community kitchen.” Then, include the hints in an email or pass out puzzle sheets.

Staff can ask each other questions and work together to decipher clues. Solving the mystery helps employees learn more about the team member of the month, and other employees too!

Pro tip: As a fun bonus, award a prize like a candy bar or coffee gift card to the first staff member to figure out the employee of the month winner.

For inspiration, check out our list of team building puzzles.

15. Travel incentive programs

One way to encourage staff to strive for employee of the month is to guarantee winners spots in an incentive program.

Travel incentives are trips and experiences that employers award to employees for meeting quotas. These experiences might take the form of access to exclusive events, memberships or subscriptions, extra benefits, or, most commonly, trips to interesting places.

Incentive programs drive performance by giving workers goals to strive for. These experiences are enticing rewards for jobs well done, and can facilitate coworker bonding between winners.

Employee of the month nomination ideas

Here is a list of ways to nominate staff for employee of the month.

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16. Distribute a survey

One of the most common ways to decide employee of the month is to let staff vote. Whether you work in a centralized location or a virtual office, distributing an online survey is one of the quickest ways to poll the team. Simply send out a survey and ask teammates to elect an employee of the month and provide an explanation. While you can use Google Forms or email for nominations, survey software provides anonymity.

You could also include these questions in an employee engagement survey.

17. Run a charity event

One fun idea to elect employees of the month is to turn the election process into a charity competition. First, select nominees. Then, set up tip jars in the office or an online money transfer system. Coworkers cast votes by making donations towards the appropriate team member’s account. The candidate with the most money at the end of the vote wins employee of the month.

This method gives employees recognition while also doing good for the community. Runners-up can take consolation in the fact that they helped to raise money for a good cause, even if they did not win the award.

For tips, check out our list of virtual fundraiser ideas.

18. Have candidates campaign

Potential employees of the month can take a more active role in the process by campaigning for the prize. Employees can either elect themselves, or managers or coworkers can nominate them. Candidates will explain why they think they should win. This approach puts emphasis on current performance instead of only acknowledging past performance. Plus, it teaches workers the critical skill of selling themselves.

19. Award creative categories

Beyond the fact that ideal employees go above and beyond the call of duty, there is no typical employee of the month. Winners can have many different characteristics, qualities, and work styles. To honor the uniqueness of exemplary employees, use creative categories in your employee of the month program.

Here are some examples:

  • Super Sensei – takes time to teach teammates, instructs before asked.
  • Lightning Learner – picks up on new concepts quickly and is always willing to learn.
  • The Inventor – comes up with new ideas and systems to improve workplace efficiency.
  • Rockin’ Rookie – new hire who seems like they’ve been doing this for years.
  • Applause and Encore – top performer who is too busy hustling to take a bow.
  • Mr-Not-So-Invisible – attendance award for a teammate who shows up and shows us how it’s done.
  • The Client Whisperer – customer service award for a teammate who bends over backwards to find solutions for customers and wins over even the most difficult clients.
  • Social Butterfly – knows everyone’s names and brings the team together, even when they’re hundreds of miles apart.
  • Team Titan – look for “teamwork” in the dictionary, and you will see this employee’s photo.

You can also personalize the awards to fit company values, to shine a light on employees that embody organizational ideals.

20. Let clients elect contenders

Though unconventional, letting clients determine employee of the month fits with a theme of customer satisfaction. Either count up the number of mentions a single employee receives, or look for the most glowing review of the month. You could also ask clients to share a story of employees providing exceptional service, or send a “secret shopper,” with a difficult ask to rate employees’ response.

This approach might work best on a random, unannounced basis, as some employees might try to game the system by asking clients to leave positive reviews. Also, just because a teammate lacks natural people skills does not necessarily exclude them from being an exceptional employee. If you judge employees of the month only on reviews, then you might pass over worthy candidates. However, letting customer feedback determine employee of the month occasionally gives staff extra incentive to take care of the clients.

Employee of the month gift ideas

Here are some of the best prize ideas for employee of the month programs.

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21. Equipment upgrade

You can help your top workers perform even better by providing new and improved equipment. Simply reimburse technology upgrades up to a certain amount, or let employees choose from a catalogue of devices or accessories. This attractive prize will be popular with gadget heads and employees rocking ten-year-old laptops alike.

22. Extra paid time off

Extra paid time off is a great reward and incentive for employees. We recommend granting ½ day to 2 extra days per award, but you can up the amount if you prefer. If your company already has an unlimited vacation policy, then you can offer winners first choice on day off requests instead.

23. Subscription box

Instead of giving employees a one time reward, sign them up to get surprises every month. You can offer winners their pick of services. Honorees might choose to receive plants, books, wine, self-care items, meal deliveries, or mystery games every month. Repeat winners can order a different type of subscription box each time they win. For inspiration, check out Cratejoy.

24. Lunch with the CEO

Personal time with the president or CEO is an enviable award. Keep in mind that 1-on-1 meetups have a more intimate feel and greater appeal than group lunches. Employees can not only receive praise from executives, but can also make connections and build relationships with organizational leaders. Plus, teammates can use the opportunity to ask questions or float ideas to the company head.

If employees and executives are not in the same location, then we recommend remote lunch dates. The company covers the cost of the meal, and participants spend time together on Zoom or WebEx. CEOs and star employees can enjoy other activities together too, such as video game quests or virtual happy hours.

25. Gift card

Gift cards give awardees the freedom to pick out their own prizes. Plus, gift certificates are easy to buy in bulk, and often easy to send online. First, decide on an amount for the prize. Then, choose the vendor. We recommend picking a seller with a wide range of products and mass appeal such as Target, Amazon, or Apple. However, you could choose different sellers at random, or give winners the choice of store.

26. Bonus

Bonuses are the most obvious incentives for employee of the month programs. When employees go above and beyond the call of duty, they deserve extra compensation. We recommend offering a flat rate or percentage of salary to workers who meet the mark. If the budget allows, then you could even offer a secondary bonus to runners up who just missed the prize.

Here is a list of similar employee incentive ideas for work.

27. Development opportunities

Employees of the month aim to improve both their workplaces and themselves. To help your top performers grow even faster, offer development opportunities as a prize for winning employee of the month. Examples of rewards include complimentary courses, extra training, membership in professional groups, or funding for passion projects.

28. Temporary personal assistant

Employees of the month take on extra responsibilities and put in extra hours. To lighten the load on these workers, reward them for taking initiative, and avoid burnout, offer personal assistant services. You can hire freelance assistants to take on organizational or planning tasks for a few hours, a day, or even a week.

Check out our guide to employee benefits and perks for more prize inspiration.


Employee of the month programs have existed for decades. However, as workplaces continue to evolve, employee of the month awards should evolve to fit the times. By using creative ideas and trying new approaches, you can give the program a much-needed refresh and truly highlight the accomplishments of your teammates.

Next, check out our recommendations for employee morale boosters, ideas to motivate remote workers and employee perks for returning to the office.

We also have a list of employee recognition programs ideas and ideas for employee care packages.

FAQ: Employee of the month

Here are answers to common employee of the month questions.

What are employee of the month programs?

Employee of the month programs are employee recognition awards that single out team members for exemplary performance. The purpose of these programs is to raise job satisfaction and morale, retain top talent, and inspire workers to strive for excellence. These programs are also known as “staff of the month” and “team member of the month.” A similar concept is “employee of the quarter.”

Are employee of the month programs effective?

When done correctly, employee of the month programs can be quite effective. They give workers goals to strive for and can make top performers feel appreciated. These programs set a standard for behavior among staff. They can even lower turnover rates. However, the programs require consideration, care, and consistency.

Organizations should not use employee of the month programs as the only form of employee recognition. Also, companies should not award the honor on a rotating basis. The prize is performance-based, and awarding a team member the title just because “they haven’t received it yet,” undercuts the purpose of the reward. Also, as a rule, managers should urge employees to keep improving and performing well, and should award the prize solely on the basis of a team member outpacing peers with no increased effort.

How do you choose the employee of the month?

To choose employee of the month, first determine on a clear set of criteria. Either recruit a panel of judges to decide the winners, or put it to a popular vote within the organization. When selecting a winner, consider many factors and qualities such as performance, effort, improvement, teamwork, and attitude.

Why are virtual employee of the month programs important?

Remote workers can feel like their work goes unseen. Giving praise and acknowledgement to remote employees is especially important for this reason. Not to mention, virtual employee of the month programs help work from home employees gain attention and appreciation from peers.

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Marketing Coordinator at teambuilding.com.
Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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