Perfect Attendance Awards? They Reward the Wrong Employee Behaviors

I wish I read more stories of employee recognition done right, but unfortunately the trend seems to be more in line with this post – a 2-to-1 ratio of bad to good practices.

First, the bad recognition examples:

Attendance awards incent the wrong behaviors

Perfect Attendance awards rank high on the list of old-school employee recognition practices that incentivize the wrong behaviors.

Why is this bad practice? Think about it: You’re encouraging employees to come to work sick, which only serves to spread their germs to healthy workers. More to the point, sick workers at work cannot be fully focused on the task at hand so they are working below par anyway. In some roles, this can have drastic consequences.

Creating a culture of recognition

This is especially true when the incentives for Perfect Attendance are preposterously high, as in the case of United Airlines offering Ford cars to employees with perfect attendance. Yes, as the United representative states, you want to encourage employees to be on the job as expected to ensure consistent, reliable service, but I argue I do not want a sick, inattentive airplane mechanic approving my jet for takeoff.

In poor culture companies, what these awards are really asking is “Please don’t slack off by calling a sickie and leave your colleagues hanging.”

Instead, organizations should work to create a culture of recognition and mutual respect in which employees want to be at work to help each other when they are well. Such an environment also puts trust in employees that when they are truly sick, they will take care of themselves, knowing their colleagues can pick up the slack.

Self-promotion recognition

Should employees be able to call attention to the good work they do? Of course! But that shouldn’t be the basis for employee recognition in your organization.

I was shocked by this article that seems to encourage self-promotion of achievements as effective, appropriate recognition because “bosses are busy, too!”

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Please — I agree bosses aren’t going to see every good thing going on in an organization. That’s why true peer-to-peer (or better yet, everyone-to-everyone) recognition is critical.

Peer-to-Peer examples from Zappos

Encouraging every employee to notice and appreciate the good work happening around them every day is one the most powerful and effective means of recognition in the workforce.

Think about it: You are encouraging everyone to so completely internalize your core values, desired behaviors and strategic objectives, they are able and willing to acknowledge and appreciate those very things in the work of their colleagues.

Zappos is often in the news for their strong culture. Here’s yet another story of how they do peer-to-peer recognition right.

Do you want employees to be committed to showing up at work (perfect attendance) or to living your values and contributing to your success every day?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.