Recognizing and Rewarding Your Staff

Coworkers shaking handsWe all appreciate when others recognize our contributions and achievements.  Recognition serves as a tool for reinforcing the behaviors that drive an organization to excellence and gives a vital boost to employees’ engagement that has a “ripple effect” that reaches beyond the recipient. 

As managers, your recognition lets your employees know that you care about creating an environment where individuals feel appreciated for their contributions and their accomplishments.  Through recognition, you also build a culture that attracts and retains the best talent.

Ideas for Recognizing FAS Staff Members

Here are some low- or no-cost ways to recognize FAS staff members. 

  • Recognize the staff member at a staff meeting.
  • Send a card to the employee you wish to recognize.
  • Give your employee a small token of recognition, like a Harvard tote bag or movie passes.
  • Ask a strong performer to be a mentor in the FAS Mentoring Program.
  • Send an email of appreciation to senior FAS leadership (with a copy to the employee).
  • Ask a senior FAS leader to send an appreciative e-mail to the employee or have lunch with the person.
    • If the employee works remotely, you can coordinate with them about sending lunch to their home.
  • If your department has its own website, include a section for posting recognition notices.
  • Senior leader or manager could add a LinkedIn recommendation to strong performer’s profile.
  • Provide employee with a formal letter of appreciation that can be added to their personnel file.
  • Create an award that can be framed.

If applicable, you can give the employee a few options to choose from, such as a Center for Wellness and Health promotion voucher, a one year membership to the Harvard gym, or an item from the Harvard Coop. This allows the employee to choose something that is most relevant to them. (When giving a Center for Wellness and Health voucher, it must be used for the specific purpose that it was purchased for. The manager should discuss with the employee which classes or workshops they're interested in before purchasing.)

Consider keeping a small "recognition box" on hand. It can include small gift bags, a few movie tickets, note cards, etc. This will help you to recognize and honor an achievement as soon as possible. Please contact your FAS HR Consultant for additional guidance.

Guidelines for Recognition

  • Be genuine. Give it your full attention and be sincere.
  • Be timely. Try to recognize the individual as soon as you can after the contribution or accomplishment. This makes the link between the behavior and the reward clear.
  • Be specific. While a “thank you” is always welcome, your impact is greater if you describe the accomplishment and the value that it created. (For example, saying “Thank you, Mike, for gathering the budget numbers for me and entering them into the spreadsheet so quickly and without errors. Thanks to your great work, I was able to justify a needed piece of equipment for our new project”).
  • Give the action the "recognition" it deserves. Treat the recognition as an event by not mixing in other business. If the recognition takes place during a team meeting, make sure to carve out enough time at the meeting to focus on the individual being honored.
  • Provide options. If applicable, you can give the employee a few options to choose from, such as a Center for Wellness and Health promotion voucher, a one year membership to Harvard gym, or an item from the Harvard Coop.
  • Keep it right-sized. Make sure the amount and type of recognition is appropriate for the behavior recognized.
  • Personalize it if you can. Recognize that different people are motivated by different things, and appreciate different things. Some people appreciate being recognized publicly; others may become embarrassed. One person might enjoy a gift certificate to a restaurant; another might prefer movie tickets. 

Rewards, at their best, can cost little or even nothing, but they can mean a great deal to the person being recognized. When deserved, rewards should be used frequently since they are easy to give and reinforce desired behaviors.

Please note: in all cases the total amount to the employee should not exceed $100 per the Employee Gifts and Celebratory Events Policy. If you have questions, please contact your HR Consultant.

Rewards and Recognition Programs

To acknowledge the efforts of outstanding employees across the FAS and the University, the FAS takes part in several rewards and recognition programs. More information on these specific programs, including eligibility, timing, and submissions processes, are available on our Rewards and Recognition page.