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4 Company Programs Your Employees Hate

Surprise: They secretly despise that employee-of-the-month award. Find out what else your staff hates--and what to offer instead.
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You care about your employees. You have their best interests at heart.

So you put programs or practices in place to reward them or make their work lives better. Your intentions are good.

But your efforts may not have the effect you intend.

Here are four programs to eliminate and replace with something your employees will appreciate a lot more:

Employee of the Month

When you announce your latest Employee of the Month, one employee "wins."

Great. That means every other employee loses.

Recognition should be specific, timely, genuine... and available to everyone, not just a "winner." Get rid of generic praise and recognition programs and spread the positive feedback wealth.

Instead of waiting till the end of the month, spend time every day trying to catch employees--even your poorest performers--doing good things.

Recognizing effort and achievement is self-reinforcing. When you do a better job of recognizing your employees they tend to perform better--especially when you do it frequently.

And that gives you even more achievements to praise.

Assigned Parking Spots

Barring health reasons, no one deserves to park closer to the front door than someone else.

All assigned parking spots do is create artificial distinctions for arbitrary and often self-serving criteria. If you've ever said, "Every employee is important," assigned parking spots say you don't really mean it.

Remove the reserved parking signs and let the early birds get the better parking spot worms.

"Optional" Social Events

The setting doesn't matter: Any time your employees are together with people they work with, it's like they're at work.

Some people just don't want to socialize outside work. When you make it seem they should attend, what you may have hoped would be intended a fun get-together is anything but.

Keep in mind your "pressure" is in the eye of the beholder. When you say, "Nancy, I hope you can come to the company picnic..." because you think she's fun to socialize with, she may hear, "Nancy, if you're not at the party I will be very disappointed in you."

If you decide to hold outside social events, choose themes that work for your broad groups of employees. Hold a picnic at a theme park. Take anyone who wants to go to a concert or game. Get an employee to play Santa at a Christmas party for your employees' kids.

Pick one or two themes that cover the majority of your employees' interests, and let that be that. Never try to force togetherness or teambuilding; it doesn't work.

Peer and Self-Evaluations

Self-evaluations are a waste. Great employees think they're a waste of time because you should know if they do a great job. Poor employees rarely rate themselves as poor, so you spend most of the evaluation session arguing about your differences in performance opinion.

If you want feedback from employees, ask them what more you can do to help them further develop their skills or their career.

Peer evaluations are a waste too. "Peer" means "work together." Almost no one wants to criticize someone they work with every day, so that means all you receive is bland, generic, almost worthless input.

And if employees are open and honest, people quickly figure who said what about whom--and that can turn what might have been a good team into a group of resentful individuals.

Plus, a formal peer evaluation process can take the place of informal feedback among peers... and informal, spontaneous feedback from people you respect is often the best feedback of all.

You're the boss. Know your employees' performance.

That's your job--not theirs.

Last updated: May 29, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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