Use this toolbox to find best practices, no / low cost ideas, and University-specific spending guidance for creating a culture of recognition and appreciation at NC State.
Here are some best practices to make your recognition and appreciation efforts as impactful as possible.
Don’t wait for annual recognition programs, like service awards, end-of-year academic ceremonies and employee appreciation events, to recognize employees. If an employee or colleague achieves a major accomplishment, provides exceptional customer service or simply completes a task, praise them immediately. If you wait to commend them, you may inadvertently dull the value of the recognition. When you hear a positive remark about someone, repeat it to that person as soon as possible. Start morning huddles with a moment of praise and examples of how your employees’ outstanding work is affecting the university. When you show your employees how they are supporting the mission and success of NC State, it goes a long way toward instilling institutional pride.
One size does not fit all when recognizing employees. Some employees prefer public praise, while others favor a one-on-one approach. Recognizing employees in the manner in which they don’t prefer to be recognized can be counterproductive. For example, celebrating a very private employee in a public format may cause the employee to feel anxious or discouraged. Before recognizing an employee, take these considerations into account:
- Get to know the person and ask them whether they prefer public or private recognition.
- Talk to them about the type of work they would like to be recognized for (e.g., teamwork, individual achievements or completing a big project).
- Find out how often they like to be recognized. Some may want frequent recognition or affirmation, and others might only find it necessary after achieving a major goal.
- Notice how they react to recognition. If they seem uncomfortable, adjust your recognition method.
While many employees value recognition from campus leaders, the value of peer-to-peer recognition should not be overlooked.
- Motivate team members to recognize each other.
- Encourage colleagues to send notes of appreciation to one another or to praise them (if desired by the employee) in team huddles.
- Promote NC State programs designed for peer recognition, such as PAWS and Say Thanks or Pride of the Wolfpack.
- Create a team or unit-based peer-to-peer recognition program.
There are times when completing an ordinary daily task is an extraordinary act. Recognition and appreciation of everyday achievements is especially important when employees continue to persevere and perform through exceptional or challenging circumstances.
Recognition and appreciation that emphasizes mission, values, or goals gives employees a clear message about the vital nature of their contributions. In turn, it helps keep your unit’s mission, values or goals front and center in the minds of your employees. Consider symbolic awards that represent a particular value or goal. By presenting it publicly, you create another opportunity to share or emphasize your mission, values, and goals.
Don’t let a shoestring (or non-existent) budget get in the way of recognizing and appreciating NC State employees. Here are some no / low cost ideas to get you started.
- Include “kudos” as a staff meeting agenda item.
- Award “Employee of the Month” at monthly staff meetings. Invite others at the meeting to stand up and say why that person is deserving of the award.
- Ask your boss to attend a meeting with your employees during which you thank individuals and groups for their specific contributions.
- Pop in at the first meeting of a special project team and express your appreciation for their involvement.
- Present “State of the Department” reports periodically to your employees acknowledging the work and contributions of individuals and teams.
- Acknowledge individual achievements by using employee names in status reports.
- Recognize work anniversaries that fall between the every-five-year University Service Award recognitions.
- Hold one-on-one meetings at a local coffee shop so it’s casual and relaxed. As a little treat, pay for your employees’ drinks.
- Send birthday/get well/sympathy cards to employees’ homes.
- Make a thank-you card by hand.
- Post a thank you note on an employee’s door/cube/computer.
Send a letter to all team members at the conclusion of a project, thanking them for their participation.
- Use 3×5 cards to write “You’re special because…” statements.
- Feature employee recognition in the department newsletter.
- Publish a “kudos” column in your newsletter and ask for nominations.
- Call the person to your office to thank them.
- Make a necklace of lifesavers and give it to someone “For being the “lifesaver of ____.”
- Give tickets to an NC State event, like a concert or gymnastics meet.
- Buy an appropriate and inexpensive gift related to the person’s hobby.
- Give the person a copy of the latest best-selling management or business book.
- Give an item from the campus bookstore for their desk.
- Give a mug filled with treats.
- Bake a gift (cookies, bread, etc.) for an outstanding employee or team.
- Treat an employee to lunch or bring them a bagged lunch.
- Have a “Staff Appreciation Day” where the managers supply, cook and serve food.
- Serve ice cream sundaes to all of your employees to commemorate the end of a project.
- Provide an “indoor food cart” and serve employees ice cream treats (hot days) or hot cocoa (cold days).
- Acknowledge and celebrate birthdays with a cake or treat.
- Establish a place to display memos, posters and photos recognizing progress towards goals and thanking individual employees for their help.
- Post a large “celebration calendar” in your work area. Tack on notes of recognition to specific dates.
- Create and post an “Employee Honor Roll” in the reception area.
- Develop a “Pay it Forward” award that employees pass among each other as an expression of recognition.
- Pick a recognizable symbol (e.g. stuffed animal, old trophy, toy) as a traveling award that can be displayed on an employee’s desk for a day/week.
- Create a wall of fame wall with photos of outstanding employees.
- Make a photo collage about a successful project that shows the people that worked on it, its stage of development and its completion and presentation.
- Wear color-coded nametags in a staff meeting to indicate significant achievements – such as length of service, successful project completion, etc.
- Cover the person’s desk with balloons.
- Create and string a banner across the work area.
- Write a letter of praise recognizing specific contributions and accomplishments. Send a copy to senior management and the employee’s personnel file.
- Include an employee in a “special” high-level meeting.
- Allow employees to attend meetings in your place when you are not available.
- Arrange for a team to present the results of its efforts to upper management.
- Have an outstanding employee spend a day with a dean or director.
- Nominate the employee for a University formal award program and give them a copy of the nomination form.
- Establish a “Behind the Scenes/Unsung Hero” award specifically for those whose actions are not usually in the limelight.
- Encourage and give release time for employees to participate in professional development opportunities and in campus activities/committees.
- Encourage and recognize staff that pursues continuing education.
- Recognize employees who actively serve the community.
- Express an interest in employee’s career development goals.
- Encourage employees to identify specific areas of interest in job-related skills. Then arrange for them to spend a day with an in-house “expert” to learn more about the topic.
- Encourage employees to participate in community volunteer efforts.
- Encourage and allow employees to attend University events.
If you have access to a gift account or discretionary funds, those can be used to purchase recognition and reward items. State appropriations cannot be used for this purpose.
Want to reward or recognize someone without it being taxable income? Follow these tips.
- Keep the total value of all rewards and recognition presented to an employee throughout a single calendar year de minimis, or under $100 (excluding UHR Service Awards).
- Avoid cash, check, or *gift card awards, all of which – at any amount – are reportable as income and subject to tax reporting. See NC State’s guidance on the taxation of gifts, prizes and awards.
- Offer individualized, non-transferable and non-redeemable-for-cash gift certificates from NC State Stores and NC State Dining.
- MarketPlace makes it easy to select and purchase recognition and reward items. Supervisors can purchase recognition and reward items under $25 dollars pending approval from their finance department.
To View and Order Items in MarketPlace
- Go to My Pack Portal
- Select the Financial Systems homepage from the dropdown
- Select Market Place from the options
- Click Shop the Marketplace
- Enter “Roberts Group” in the keyword search box
- Click the Roberts Group logo
- Left hand side of screen under Categories, click on Employee Recognition
- View items by sub-categories:
- Bags, Totes & Coolers
- Home & Office
- Tech, Tools & Travel
- Add items to cart for purchase
*A note about gift cards. If you do choose to recognize with gift cards, keep good records. Gift cards are taxable income, same as cash. Accounts Payable requires a listing of all names and employee IDs of those receiving a gift card recognition.