University of Vermont

Human Resource ServicesĀ and Operations


Ideas for Showing Recognition and Appreciation to Staff

Every person who works is unique and has a different reason why s/he works. B.F. Skinner was once quoted as saying, "No one works on Monday morning because he is reinforced by a paycheck on Friday afternoon." In much of the current literature, there is a distinction between intrinsic motivational rewards (autonomy, mastery, etc.) and Extrinsic ones (e.g. bonuses, raises, money). Research has indicated that non-monetary rewards may be just as much appreciated by the employee as monetary rewards, after basic needs have been met. The literature identifys four intrinsic rewards that drive employee engagement.

Remeber as you seek ways to honor and recognize your colleagues, it is important that these ideas match the department's culture. Human Resource Services is available to consult and adivse on how to build a more appreciate workplace enviornment.

When planning your recognition efforts consider the following questions that have to do with the culture your department has, or is trying to build:

  1. What do I want to recognize?
  2. When and where should I give recognition?
  3. Should I recognize individuals publicly or privately?

Four Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement

Intrinsic Rewards do not require that a supervisor be present, and are a healthy and sustainable source of motivation for employees. These types of rewards are also a strong predictor of retention.

  • Meaningfulness: You feel that your work has real value and matters in the larger scheme of things. The path you are on is worth your time and energy.
  • Choice: You feel ownership of your work, and feel responsible for the work choices you make.
  • Progress: You feel that your work is on track and moving in the right direction.

How to create Meaningfulness, Choice, and Progress within your department:

  • Communicate between the work and the vision often, creating a clear purpose
  • Give employees access to information, such as relevant facts and sources
  • Recognize skills and successes
  • Give challenging tasks that fit abilities of the employee
  • Give feedback, both what is working and what needs work
  • Create a non-cynical climate filled with trust and security (open door policy)
  • Celebrate milestones and other occasions
  • Measure performance
  • Communicate with your employees and ensure that they are treated fairly and with respect

These thoughts are adapted from (Intrinsic Motivation at Work: What Really Drives Employee Engagement, Kenneth W. Thomas, 2009).

Non-Monetary Rewards

Finding monetary rewards can be very difficult because of our current economy. Sometimes it is easier to give someone money to recognize or motivate than, it can be to tailor an intrinsic factor for them. However, non-monetary rewards and intrinsic motivation are just as good in many ways as monetary or extrinsic factors. Here are some ways to recognize an employee or employees going above and beyond their call of duty that can help people feel valued and appreciated.

  • Launch an "Employee of the Month" award
  • Include employee achievements in the company newsletter
  • Close early on Fridays
  • Schedule a monthly recognition lunch
  • Develop a "Wall of Fame" to post photos and write-ups of achievements
  • Start a "People's Choice Award" where employees can vote for colleagues
  • Be more flexible on rules, regulations, and restrictions that have nothing to do with increasing productivity, but can stifle an employees sense of freedom (e.g.. dress code--"casual Fridays", flexible scheduled hours, etc,)

These thoughts are adapted from (, May 2010)

It is also important to reward or recognize people immediately following performance so that the individual can make the connection between their performance and reward. It is also a good idea to provide specific feedback about performance which is helpful and useful to employees.

"Thank You" Goes A Long Way

Remember the POWER of "Thank You," and acknowledge when someone has done a great job. This can be done verbally, with a handwritten note, or electronically. Never assume that someone knows you appreciate him or her. Lack of recognition is cited as one of the main reasons that top talent leaves an organization. As Lauris Woolford advises in the August 2011 edition of HR Magazine, "Hug your high-potentials because if you don't, someone else will."

Rewarding employees frequently and as often as they deserve it will help to build a positive work environment and can help to achieve greater productivity while reinforcing behaviors that the organization wants to emulate.

These thoughts are adapted from (Risk Management magazine, September 2001)

"It is important for any organization to treat its employees with respect, since it is employees that make the difference between success and failure for most organizations." Jack L. Howard

Additional Reading

The Care and Feeding of High-Potential Employees by Robert J. Grossman. HR Magazine, August 2011.

The Four Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement by Kenneth W. Thomas.

No Budget to Reward Staff, News Brief, May 2010.

"Thank You" Goes A Long Way by Billie Swift. Risk Management magazine, September 2001.

What Motivates Employees According to Over 40 Years of Motivational Surveys by Caroline Wiley. International Journal of Manpower, vol.18, num. 3, 1997.

The Use of Non-Monetary Motivators in Small Business by Jack L. Howard. The Entrepreneurial Executive, vol. 13, 2008.

Bonus Questions by Percy Smith. Safety Incentives, June 2005.


Last modified December 07 2011 02:59 PM