Employee of the month (or the week, or the year) awards have a bad image. They are popularly…

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Employee of the month (or the week, or the year) awards have a bad image. They are popularly

associated with low-paid, low-status service sector jobs – a dollop of worthless recognition on

top of an already low-value package. Implemented properly, they can be a valuable form of

recognition that motivates staff, especially in today’s reward constrained climate. Handled

wrongly, however, they can backfire and foster distrust.

John Mulenga, a team leader at Chilimba Financial Services (CFS), an insurance intermediary,

was its employee of the Year 2018. ‘It was a goal I’d set myself at the start of the year,’ he

explains. Once he had won six employee of the month awards, he knew he was in with a good

chance. He adds: ‘It’s a great incentive and what really motivated me is the recognition you get.

It’s a fantastic thing to put on your CV.’ Mr Mulenga was presented with his award at a dinner

for 100 of the company’s top performers and their partners at Pamodzi Hotel. He also received a

cash prize of K20,000. ‘It was,’ he says, ‘the best night of my life.’

The scheme, explains Chisote Hambayi, CFS group managing director, has been running for

four years and is part of a complex structure of recognition. Each department has an employee of

the month award, which accords privileges such as free food in the staff canteen, gym

membership and parking. From these are drawn quarterly qualifiers who could make it on to a

shortlist for employee of the year. ‘It’s part of an overall strategy to identify who top performers

are,’ says Mr Hambayi, adding that at the dinner, the 34 departmental winners of the annual title

also receive awards and K5, 000. ‘In a way, the recognition is the most important part though –

[the] reward goes beyond your pay packet.’

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