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Employee Recognition
Develop a Formal Recognition Program


Formal recognition supports the objectives and strategic goals of individual department or units. Check with your department's administrator to learn if your department already has a recognition program or use the "Five Steps to Developing an Employee Recognition Program" to start one.

ACT - Five Steps to Develop a Recognition Program

STEP 1: Establish the purpose and criteria of the Recognition Program

For a recognition program to be meaningful to both the awardees and the others in the department, it should be tied to the department's goals, mission, or values. As a leader, you can determine the goals and purpose of the program on your own, or you can ask that a team of employees provide you with suggestions. Another idea is to conduct an employee opinion survey. It can assist a recognition committee in identifying preferred types of awards, establishing nomination and selection procedures, and determining the frequency and method(s) of award presentation preferred by employees.

Most importantly, the recognition program must be fair. All employees must know and understand the criteria used for formal recognition.

Some suggestions for recognition programs and criteria:

Some suggestions for types of awards include:

Once you've established the purpose and criteria for the award make sure everyone on staff knows the purpose and the criteria. Doing this greatly increases that employees will exhibit the behaviors you want them to and you are not accused of favoritism.

It is important to note that a formal recognition program does not take the place of informally appreciating or recognizing employees on a daily basis. A formal recognition program serves to supplement informal, day-to-day recognition of employees.

Step 2: Form a Recognition Committee

Getting employees involved in the recognition program can help to ensure that the program is viewed as fair and it helps create shared ownership of the program. You may even delegate the development of purpose and criteria to the committee. Many departments have an employee representative from each functional work unit serve on the committee to ensure equal representation. The recognition committee might determine the components of the recognition program and ensure compliance with the University's recognition program policies, as well as helping to determine criteria, soliciting nominations and selecting awardees.

If you decide to form a standing recognition committee, keep the following ideas in mind:

STEP 3: Determine Award Eligibility & Award Frequency

Once the purpose, criteria and committee have been established, eligibility for the award and how often you will give the award should be determined. Some components to consider for eligibility include:

Once you know who is eligible, you or your committee must determine how often the award will be given. Factors to include in making this determination are:

Finally, the selection committee must determine how nominations for awards are made.

STEP 4: Determine a Budget, Select Types of Awards & Publicity

Recognition programs do not have to be expensive. Awards can range from an award certificate to gifts. Be sure that your awards are in compliance with University policy. Awards should be aligned with the department's resources and should be determined with an eye toward sustainability. You might have extra funds this year... but can you sustain the recognition budget for subsequent years? Many departments coordinate ceremonies or meetings as forums for presenting awards.

Public announcement of an award recipient is essential to giving employees appropriate recognition. Departmental newsletters and other University publications are valuable and cost-effective ways to market the award as well as to recognize the award recipient(s). Some departments display a plaque or trophy publicly. Even a letter of certificate given personally to an employee by a supervisor or director can mean a great deal.

STEP 5: Establish and Monitor the Program

It's easy to let a recognition program, once established, continue without many changes. Resist the urge to keep the recognition program the same for years at a time. As your departmental goals and needs change, so should the recognition program. This doesn't mean that you have to completely overhaul the program and start over. It's a good idea to review the awards and their criteria to make sure they are still relevant and meaningful to employees and the department. Adding an award to an existing program to highlight a new initiative may be all that is needed to keep the program relevant. Or the recognition committee may need to rethink the program completely. It's important to keep recognition fresh and updated. Consider doing an employee survey to gauge the effectiveness and value of the program and for other recognition ideas and enhancements. This is particularly important within the first year of the program's implementation to ensure that it is meeting the needs of the department or work unit.

All proposed changes should be approved by you and communicated to employees in a timely manner following approval.


The following links provide excellent examples of well developed Recognition programs within different areas of the University:

Employee Recognition Topics