Total Talent Management

Develop a recognition program

Last updated: August 1, 2022

A best practice is to plan for the long term when you set up a recognition program. A well-established award holds more sway than an award which evaporates after a year or two. Each year of your program, you will need employees to staff a committee and the budget to support your award.

1. Define your program’s purpose, criteria, and budget

Typically, recognition is tied to your department’s goals and it reinforces your group’s core values. The criteria used for recognition in your department must be understood by all employees, to ensure fairness.

    • Will you reward people for work aligned with your department’s mission and values, or the University’s values (integrity, diversity, excellence, collaboration, innovation, respect)?
    • Will you reward people for skillful leadership? For excellent research? For serving the public in an extraordinary way?

Familiarize yourself with the UW policy on funding recognition rewards and activities, which is based in state law (RCW 41.60.150). Next, define a clear budget for your award program and consider how you will publicize awardees. You can ask employees to identify preferred types of awards, so that when you do present one, it is tailored to the individual.

2. Form a committee

Choose a mix of employees and managers to ensure a transparent process. The committee must be aware of and remain in compliance with the University’s recognition program policies as they go about soliciting nominations and selecting awardees.

    • Appoint a chair or co-chairs, and select members through election, appointment, or volunteerism.
    • Include employees from each work group to ensure diverse representation.
    • Establish term lengths for all committee members.
    • Make sure a handful of members stay on the committee long enough to ensure continuity and cross-training.
    • Ask prior awardees to serve on the selection committee; their knowledge is unique.
    • Determine the “sponsor” of the committee (this might be you, or another manager).
    • Define voting procedures and the processes for nomination review. Numeric rankings for evaluations are popular.
    • Decide on the final decision-maker for the award: does the committee make the selection or is a recommendation forwarded to a senior manager?

3. Define award eligibility, frequency, and process

Define eligibility and how often the award will be presented:

    • Employment status: is the award available only to permanent employees or to nonpermanent employees as well?
    • Length of service: is there a minimum length of service that the employee must have with the University or the department in order to be eligible for the award?
    • Frequency: can the same individual receive the award just once or multiple times?
    • Participation in the process: can a member of the selection committee be nominated for the award?

Define the nomination process:

    • Are nominations made online, or through another method?
    • Are nominations anonymous or confidential? Will the nominee receive a courtesy copy of their nomination?
    • Who is eligible to submit a nomination? (Permanent employees? Nonpermanent or temporary employees?)
    • What information is required on the nomination?

4. Monitor the program

Keep your program fresh and updated. A good practice is to periodically review awards and criteria to make sure they’re still meaningful. Parts of the program may need revision. You can survey employees to rate the program’s value and for ideas and enhancements to improve it. The selection committee can vet the proposed changes and make recommendations to management.