A business is no better than its people. You know that. You care about your employees. You create programs to reward them, to recognize their efforts, and to make their work lives better.
Your intentions are good.
But your efforts may not have the effect you intend.
Here are four things your employees wish you would eliminate:
Assigned Parking Spots (for "Important" People)
Barring health reasons, no employee deserves to park closer to the front door than someone else. (Customer parking spots are something else altogether.)
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," assigning special parking places says you don't really mean it.
Remove the reserved parking signs and let the early birds get the better parking spot worms.
(And if you created special parking spots because your parking lot is unsafe at night, deal with that problem.)
Employee of the Month Awards
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.
Optional Social Events (That Are Anything But)
The setting doesn't matter: any time your employees are together with people they work with, it's like they're at work.
Plus 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, "Jim, I hope you can come to the company picnic..." because you think he's fun to socialize with, he may hear, "Jim, 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 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 you can do to help them further develop their skills or their career.
Peer evaluations are a waste too. "Peer" means "work together," and since few people want to criticize a person they work with every day, all you receive is bland, generic, and nearly 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.)
You're the boss. Know your employees' performance.
That's your job--not theirs.