This is one dilemma that many line managers and HR Partners face; whether to reward an underperformer for a significant achievement, as part of the employee rewards and recognition program. In most cases, the Rewards and Recognition Policies might not state anything explicitly, leaving it to the better judgment of the concerned managers.
An important point to note here is that consistent underperformers might rarely be around in the system since the performance assessment process would take care of that. Hence, underperformance might be a temporary phase or it could be just relative. And more than other employees, these employees need more motivation.
Managers often tend to use all available resources to motivate their employees. This might result in managers tending to ignore the underperformers and focusing on the top performers when it comes to rewards and recognition. Hence a truly deserving employee might miss out on a spot award for a significant achievement, due to his or her overall performance history.
Not only is this unfair, but counterproductive as well. The manager might be missing out on an important opportunity to motivate an underperformer and putting him or her back on track. Whereas a top performer, who might not truly deserve the award, might actually get it and this might cause any significant change in their motivation levels.
Hence it is our recommendation that awards especially those in the category of spot awards should be given based on the immediate achievements and not the overall track record of the employees. Awards should be treated as awards and not as proxies for the performance assessment process!