Recognition is an important part of engagement and a way to show appreciation for your colleagues. From day-to-day recognition to formal recognition, letting others know the positive impact of their work is a great way to build relationships and provide feedback. Employee recognition also is a powerful way to develop and retain employees, enhance performance, and build university culture.
The Recognition Toolkit provides ideas and resources to help you provide and promote meaningful recognition.
Recognition can be given in many ways: through saying thank you, giving praise, supporting flex-friendly schedules and more. Many studies on the workplace have shown that being recognized for specific achievements and knowing that overall contributions matter to colleagues and the organization all have a considerable impact on employee satisfaction, commitment, and motivation.
For more information about GW Recognition Programs, please contact us at [email protected].
By providing genuine, informal expressions of appreciation, day-to-day recognition has the greatest ability to impact employee performance. It is typically low- or no-cost, often intangible, and helps peers and managers communicate gratitude. These can include thank you notes, certificates that employees give to one another, and verbal praise.
Day-to-day recognition can create a great place to work by establishing higher levels of employee motivation, engagement, and retention throughout your immediate workplace and the university.
Not all employees like to be recognized in the same way. A good starting point is to have your staff complete the Employee Recognition Profile to learn more about how they like to be recognized for their good work.
The Power of “Thank You”
A simple “thank you” or “great job” can be one of the most meaningful forms of recognition, yet basic praise is often overlooked or too vague to be effective. Follow these straightforward steps to make sure that your praise is truly meaningful:
Thank the person by name.
Specifically state what they did that is being recognized. It is vital to be specific because it identifies and reinforces the desired behavior.
Explain how the behavior made you feel (assuming you felt some pride or respect for their accomplishment!).
Point out the value added to the team or organization by the behavior.
Thank the person again by name for their contribution.
Day-to-Day Recognition Ideas
Hand written thank you cards
Personalized sticky notes
Recognition Print & Post Cards (PDF) - fun cut-out cards you can send to colleagues to express appreciation
Bring in breakfast (bagels, doughnuts, muffins, etc.)
Start staff meetings with recognition of recent tasks completed
Show you care about what's important to your employees
Send an email to your boss praising an employee (CC the employee)
Keep a recognition box in your office for all employees to recognize their co-workers for a job well done
Informal recognition focuses primarily on performance achievements, goal accomplishments, and other milestones by individuals or teams. It provides an atmosphere of continuous and spontaneous praising and rewards. It may occur monthly or quarterly and impact fewer employees than Day-to-Day recognition. The types of contributions that might be recognized in informal programs are:
Staying late to help someone prepare a presentation for the next day.
Volunteering to cover for a co-worker who is out sick.
Going out of your way to help boost morale or create a positive, inclusive work environment.
Exceeding expectations for a goal or milestone in a long-term collaborative project.
Implementing a business process improvement idea.
Employee Recognition Profile
Not all employees like to be recognized in the same way. A good starting point is to have your staff complete the Employee Recognition Profile (PDF) to learn more about how they like to be recognized for their good work.
On the Spot Recognition & Rewards
On the Spot Awards are delivered at the time of achievement. These acknowledgments provide praise for contributions when the desired behavior occurs. This type of recognition can be given to individuals, teams, or work groups. They may come in the form of candy, flowers, lunches, group events or outings, movie tickets, etc. These awards should not exceed a value of $100 per individual per year. Make sure you are familiar with the GW Policy on the Taxation of Gifts, Prizes and Awards to Employees (PDF).
Publicly thank, congratulate, or recognize a GW colleague on either a job well done or a special occasion. Positive Vibes peer to peer recognition can be used by employees and managers to recognize and appreciate each other. This is a great nonmaterial recognition vehicle.
Other Informal Recognition Ideas
There are many great no-cost and low-cost ways to give recognition. The Recognition Profile should be used to find out employees preferred ways to be recognized.
Write a letter/email of praise recognizing specific contributions and accomplishments. Send a copy to senior management and the employee’s personnel file.
Allow employees to leave early or take a long lunch.
Support “flex-friendly” schedules
If you have a department newsletter, publish a “kudos” column and ask for nominations throughout the department.
Encourage and recognize staff who pursue continuing education.
Establish a place to display memos, posters, photos, and so on to recognize progress towards goals and thank individual employees for their help.
Send handwritten thank-you cards to employees who go the extra mile. Optional: include a set of movie tickets or a chocolate bar (based on preferences).
Give Certificates of Appreciation or Recognition (PPT) highlighting what they did.
Hold informal retreats to foster communication and set goals.
Bake/bring a gift (cookies, bread, etc.) for an outstanding employee or team.
Encourage and allow employees to attend university events.
Plan a surprise achievement celebration for an employee or a group of employees.
Formal Recognition Programs
Formal recognition is different from informal and day-to-day recognition in that it is typically supported by a defined structure and process. GW’s formal recognition programs foster a sense of unity and promote institutional goals and values across departmental divisions.
Faculty, Staff, & Students
The MLK Award is the highest honor someone can achieve in recognition of service within the GW community. Students and staff member are recognized for their contributions to the GW and D.C. communities with the university’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.
This recognition program is presented by the Dean of Student Consortium, Hallmark Events and honors individuals, student organizations, and university employees whose efforts have enhanced the university and student life at GW. Offices from across campus come together to present over 20 awards during GW's largest celebration of excellence. One of the awards is the Wall of Fame, which is dedicated to the men and women who, as students, staff, and faculty, provide leadership and service and contribute to the quality of student life at the university.
Faculty & Staff Only
This HRMD-sponsored event recognizes all faculty and staff for their contributions to strengthening our academic excellence and making to make GW a great place to work.
GW Holiday Party
The GW Holiday Party is an opportunity for faculty and staff to come together and enjoy each other’s company while celebrating the holiday season. The holiday party is planned and executed by an all-volunteer committee. This committee plans the decorations, promotes the party, selects the menu, organizes the popular door prizes, and also organizes charitable initiatives such as the blood drive, Toys for Tots, Give a Gift, and the GW Faculty/Staff Campaign Fund.
Student Activity Center - Excellence in Student Life Awards Presented by DOS, Hallmark Programs
The Spark A Life Award is granted to a selected number of faculty and staff who have significantly impacted the holistic development of a student or registered student organization thus causing a “spark” of inspiration. Individuals eligible for this award are faculty, staff, and GPS Guides who have formed a positive mentoring relationship which has impacted the development of the student or registered student organization and the contributions they make to the GW and or Washington, DC communities.
Career Milestone Awards
The Career Milestone Award scheduled for December has been temporarily postponed.
The annual Career Milestones Celebration honors those who have achieved milestones (every five years of service at GW). Employees are notified of their milestone during the month in which it is achieved and are encouraged to choose a recognition gift.
In December, recipients from the past calendar year are invited to celebrate their milestones together. Employees celebrate milestones of 20 or more years are invited to a luncheon in their honor. Employees celebrating milestones of 5, 10, or 15 years are invited to a reception in their honor.
For questions about this year's Career Milestones Celebration, please email us at [email protected].
Upon request, employees who achieve a Career Milestone (of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, or 45 years) and retire before the occurrence of the Career Milestones event, will be eligible to receive their gift. To request a gift, please call Brenda Singletary at 202-994-6551.
The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award is the highest form of recognition given by the university and The George Washington Alumni Association to an alumnus/a on an annual basis. Each recipient has made a lasting impact on society though outstanding professional, voluntary, or philanthropic accomplishments.
The Alumni Outstanding Service Award is given to those alumni who advance the mission of the university through dedicated volunteer efforts in support of its programs, thereby ensuring the university's impact on our community and future generations of students.
The Jane Lingo Alumni Outstanding Service Award is awarded annually to a faculty or staff member who is also an alumnus/a of the university and who consistently advances the mission of the university through dedicated volunteer efforts in support of its programs, thereby ensuring the university's impact on our community and future generations of students.
These resources provide guidelines as well as ideas and materials for recognition.
Positive Vibes are a free and easy way to publicly thank, congratulate, or recognize a GW colleague on either a job well done or a special occasion! Submit a Positive Vibe today!
Thank you so much for taking the time to brainstorm with me for census file tweaks and teaching me new skills!!
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Tony goes above and beyond the call of duty in working with our students, families and staff! He embodies the value of respect!
I wanted to give a shout-out to Geetha Chilukamarri with GW IT for her superb problem-solving skills.
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Happy Employee Appreciation Day! This is just a quick note to let you know how much you are valued and appreciated!
MFA Payroll Analyst Naila Samuel has been a great addition to our staff since 2019, want to THANK YOU for all your hard work!
From J. Buchanan
Thank you for your crash course in reading chemo orders. You truly keep this department afloat, and thank you for all you do.
You’re an amazing person to work with. Your help has made my job so much easier and more enjoyable. I really appreciate your tim
From Lady Di
Amer is nothing short of awesome. Extremely responsive, knowledgeable and always positive. Thank you for your professionalism!
From Tammy P Tideswell
You're incredibly good at what you do. Thank you for being such an amazing person to work with. GW is so lucky to have you!
Thank you for your thoughtful collaboration and leadership to pull together and finalize the GW Diversity Resume Book.
Thank you for your prompt and efficient assistance with the Security Scan on EMS Project!
From Mira Smith
Thank you for your knowledge, dedication and patience on EMS Project! It wouldn't have been successful without your input.
From Mira Smith
I wanted to highlight that Nicole at CCAS has been of superb and rapid assistance.
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Thank you for your guidance and support! It would be hard to overestimate your help with PC7. THANK YOU
From Mira Smith
Thank you for your commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion, and impactful leadership of staff dialogues and discussions.
Ms. Mallepally, is hardworking, knowledgeable, talented. Possess deep core values, respects everyone.
From Vani Valluru
Professor Fletcher did an awesome job organizing the bi-annual University Writing and Research Conference!
From Caroline Smith
We appreciate your support and encouragement throughout the org. cDavid went above and beyond to help one of our trustees. He dropped everything to help and for that, we are so thankful!hanges. Thank you for believing in us!
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