There are many reasons why awards programs are not particularly helpful in motivating people. First, many awards are a once a year type recognition. Employees need praise more than once a year. Then there is the problem of how do you choose an employee for this honor? Will it be fair? How will the employees that aren't picked feel? More than likely they will feel slighted.
I feel that the most effective type of employee recognition is an ongoing program that involves all of the employees.
You need to sincerely praise those workers that are excelling but you also need to recognize those employees in need of help. Many underachievers have potential that isn't being realized. Taking the time to honestly recognize their efforts can lift their spirits and perhaps give them the confidence to better use their skills in the future.
So how about giving out a few well deserved pats on the back? You may even find that you get a few in return.
About the author: Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.