Recognition does not have to be formal. Informal recognition is a wonderful way to show that you care and that you appreciate someone for their hard work and dedication or for the accomplishments they have achieved. Informal recognition for good behavior builds morale and is very effective in team building. Here are no-cost or low-cost ways we can recognize our colleagues for excellent contributions and positive behavior all year round:

  1. Create a Hall of Fame wall with photos of outstanding employees.
  2. Arrange for a team to present the results of its efforts to upper management.
  3. If you hear something positive being said about someone, be sure to repeat it to the person doing the great job.
  4. Offer the person you are recognizing the opportunity to teach others what they learned.
  5. Encourage and recognize staff who pursue continuing education.
  6. Post a thank you note on an employee’s door.
  7. Acknowledge individual achievements by using employee’s name when preparing a status report
  8. Establish a place to display memos, posters, photos and so on, recognizing progress towards goals and thanking individual employees for their help.
  9. 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. Share it via email, post it on a hall of fame wall, or post on the departmental website.
  10. Make a thank you card by hand and give it to an employee.
  11. Establish a “Behind the Scenes” award specifically for those whose actions are not usually in the limelight.
  12. Nominate the employee for a formal University recognition award program such as Staff Applause or Employee of the Month.
  13. Give special assignments to people who show initiative.
  14. Present “State of the Department” reports periodically to your employees acknowledging the work and contributions of individuals and teams.
  15. If your team is under pressure, bring a bag of marbles to work and take a break to have a contest – a sure stress reliever.
  16. Serve ice cream sundaes (or another treat or hero party sandwiches) to all of your employees at the end of a project.
  17. Recognize employees who actively serve the community.
  18. Give a shiny new penny for a thought that has been shared.
  19. Purchase a unique pin to serve as a memento for a task well done.
  20. Create a departmental Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (ABCD) award.
  21. Hold informal retreats to foster communication and set goals.
  22. Ask your boss to attend a meeting with your employees during which you thank individuals and groups for their specific contributions.
  23. Pop in at the first meeting of a special project team and express your appreciation for their involvement.
  24. Provide a lunch for project teams once they have made interim findings. Express your appreciation.
  25. Send a letter to all team members at the conclusion of a project, thanking them for their participation.
  26. Plan a surprise achievement celebration for an employee or group of employees.
  27. Write a letter of praise recognizing specific contributions and accomplishments. Send a copy to senior management and the employee’s personnel file.
  28. When you hear a positive remark about someone, repeat it to that person as soon as possible (Face-to-face is best, e-mail or voice mail are good in a pinch).
  29. Call an employee to your office to thank them (don’t discuss any other issue).
  30. If you have a department bulletin, publish a “kudos” column and ask for nominations throughout the department.
  31. Publicly recognize the positive impact on operations of the solutions employees devise for problems.
  32. 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.
  33. Actively listen to co-workers, especially when discussing their accomplishments and contributions.
  34. Use 3x5 cards to write “I appreciate you because because…” statements. Encourage others in the department to use them, too. People can collect the cards and refer to them when things aren’t going perfectly.
  35. Widely publicize suggestions used and their positive impact on your department.
  36. When someone has worked on a critical project, send a letter of thanks to him or her.
  37. Acknowledge and celebrate birthdays.
  38. Give birthday cards to employees, signed by dean or director.
  39. Have an outstanding employee spend a day with a dean or director.
  40. Give a deserving employee a mug filled with treats.
  41. Share verbal accolades – forward positive voice mail messages.
  42. Keep a supply of appropriately funny notes that can be given as immediate rewards. Keep the supply visible – in a basket or box in your office.
  43. Give a note reading, “Thank you. You are a Lifesaver!" Attach a roll of Lifesavers.
  44. Give Mr. Goodbar (candy bar) Awards for a job well done.
  45. Serve popcorn and lemonade on Friday (especially after a particularly hard week).
  46. Bake a gift (cookies, bread, etc.) for an outstanding employee or team.
  47. Give an employee a blue ribbon for achievement.
  48. Treat an employee to a cup of their favorite coffee or tea.
  49. Fun awards: Give out Felix (most organized work space) and Oscar (least organized work space) awards to people with the neatest and messiest desks.