4 Things the Lottery Teaches You About Employee Recognition

By Kevin Mullins

If you’re reading this blog post while at work, it likely means you didn’t win last Friday’s $640 million Mega Millions lottery drawing in states across the US.  That, or you’re hiding a really good secret of your new fortunes!  If that’s case, then you’re among the lucky few.

This got me thinking.  People across the United States drove into neighboring states and waited in long lines for a “chance” to win a big bonus.  It’s not really a chance but actually a miracle (the odds to win were 1 in 176 million).  Many people experience these same long odds for getting recognized at work today.  So in honor of last week’s record drawing, below are 4 reasons why the lottery (and similarly structured, traditional, tactical employee recognition programs) is the opposite of a great, strategic employee recognition program:

1)      Small winner’s circle – More than 100 million people didn’t win last Friday’s drawing.  Three tickets did.  It’s tough to get a smaller circle than that, yet that’s the case in many organizations with traditional “Employee of the Month” or “President’s Club” type programs.  With strategic recognition, the aim is to reach 80-90% of employees, creating a large winner’s circle (thereby engaging and energizing the entire company). This video from Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley explains how.


2)      They didn’t earn it – Yes, the winners of the lottery picked the numbers themselves (or chose a quick pick).  However, they didn’t truly “earn” the money.  With a strategic employee recognition program, people get recognized for deserving performance and behaviors.

3)      Forced public exposure – For the majority of lottery winners, a public press conference is a necessary evil, whether they like the spotlight or not.  On the other hand, the right recognition program provides flexibility to recognize employees how they’d like to receive it.

4)      Hello and goodbye – Winners of the lottery are celebrated everywhere one moment, then quickly forgotten.  However, with a strategic recognition program, great performance is continually appreciated throughout the year.

So the next time you’re out buying a lottery ticket, think about your company’s recognition program.  Are they similar in winner frequency?  Does it create false hope about who truly has the chance to be appreciated and recognized?

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