Employee Recognition Program Guidelines

The Employee Recognition Program Guidelines are provided to guide Texas A&M University departments with the development and implementation of recognition program(s). These guidelines are provided as a tool to assist departments with their recognition efforts and do not imply that each department must have a recognition program. Additional recognition resources are provided on the Texas A&M Human Resources website for all departments to use in their recognition plans.

A department's recognition program may include recognition for employees, supervisors and student workers; as well as, formal and informal recognition methods or both. A recognition program should strive to be aligned with a department's mission and/or core values to help create a positive work environment for employees, increase employee performance, engage employees, and improve employee morale. The steps outlined below will guide departments through the process of developing a recognition program.

Step 1: Establish an Employee Recognition Committee

An employee recognition committee's role is to identify, develop, and implement a recognition program for their department. When establishing an employee recognition committee, you will need to determine who will serve on the committee. The committee should consist of employees, management or both. Representation from each group is important to the overall success of the recognition program. Having employees and management serve on the recognition committee, ensures that each groups interests, ideas or preferences are included in the recognition program. Furthermore, if there are many units within a department, obtain equal representation from each unit to ensure all units share input into the recognition program.

Next, you will need to identify how committee members are selected to serve on the committee. Committee members may be identified by having employees volunteer to serve on the committee, elected by the employees in the department or appointed by management. After the committee members are selected, the committee will need to elect a chair or co-chairs to oversee the development and implementation of the recognition program.

Finally, the committee will need to determine the length of service terms for serving on the committee. The length of service terms can range from one year or as needed. Some committee members may have to serve a longer term, to ensure the training of new members and the continuation of the committee without interruption.

In the next step, the employee recognition committee will identify recognition program objectives for their department.

Step 2: Identify Recognition Program Objectives

The employee recognition committee will need to identify recognition program objectives for their department to provide opportunities for the employee to be recognized and rewarded. There are many factors to consider when identifying these objectives for your department. Here are some important factors to consider in this process:

  • The recognition program should meet the needs of the employees in the department or complement the kind(s) of job behaviors and performance the department wants to recognize and reward.
  • The program should be linked to the mission statement or core values of the department, division or the university.
  • The program should be fair and flexible to the employees in the department.
  • The recognition program should comply with university rules and regulations regarding merit increases, administrative leave with pay, taxation of special payments and awards to employees or any other rules and regulations related to awards.
  • Review other university award programs.

To assist with this process, gather input from the employees in the department. This can be done by developing an employee survey to identify work behaviors and job performances to recognize and reward, identify employee eligibility criteria and award criteria, and gather informal, formal and other recognition ideas such as retirement, birthdays, years of service, etc.

After the recognition program objectives are identified, the committee may determine that informal recognition programs are better suited for their department. Please visit the Texas A&M Human Resources website for recognition ideas and certification/card templates.

Finally, whether or not the committee decides that formal or informal recognition program objectives best serve their department, be sure to follow the SMART philosophy of Jim Brintnall, author of "What Makes a Good Reward?" Jim states that rewards should be:

Above all else, a good reward should reflect a genuine expression of appreciation. Token acknowledgments leave something to be desired.
To endure a motivating influence, rewards should be aligned with the values, goals, and priorities that matter the most.
The diverse workplace demands alternatives. Consider creative options to keep your program fresh. No single reward format works for everyone all the time.
Some personal dimension is essential to a good reward. No matter how formal or informal, expensive or affordable, the relevance of any recognition will be improved with a personal touch—it's a little thing that makes a big difference.
It is important that rewards respond to the behavior they are intending to reinforce. Don't let too much time pass or the reward may be devalued and credibility eroded.

The remaining steps will focus on the recognition committee setting-up a formal award program for their department.

Step 3: Identify Award Themes and Award Selection Criteria

The recognition committee will need to identify award themes for the award program that complement the employees and the department. This will help identify the selection process of the awards and help employees work towards setting goals so that they can be recognized.

Example award themes include:

  • Keys to Excellence Award
  • Exemplary Performance Award
  • Employee of the Year
  • Outstanding Employee Award
  • Employee Safety Award
  • Superior Customer Service Award
  • Teamwork Award

After an award theme has been identified, the committee will need to identify selection criteria. The selection criteria may be linked to a department's mission or core values or positive behaviors. To help with this process, create an employee survey to find out, what characteristics the employees value and think an employee should exhibit to be nominated and receive an award. Also, seek input from management on the types of behaviors they want to be recognized. Here are some examples of selection criteria:

  • Job Excellence
  • Customer Service
  • Unsung Hero
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Productivity
  • Innovative

Step 4: Identify Award Eligibility Criteria, Award Frequency and Award Selections

The committee will need to identify funding, determining award eligibility, award frequency and award selection processes. The committee will need to determine who is eligible to participate and/or be nominated for an award. They will also need to make sure that the award eligibility criteria complement the work environment of the department. Components of award eligibility criteria to consider are:

  • Employee status: are temporary workers, part-time employees, or student workers eligible to be nominated?
  • Length of service: is there a minimum length of service an employee must have with the department or University?
  • Can an employee win the same award more than once in year?
  • Are recognition committee members eligible to participate or be nominated?

After award eligibility criteria are identified, the frequency of awards will need to be determined. There are some factors to consider when determining the frequency of awards for a department such as:

  • Are department funds available to cover the cost of multiple awards?
  • Are there too few employees in the department to participate in the program?
  • Are there other recognition programs in the department?
  • Will awarding many employees devalue the award itself?

After you have identified the frequency of awards, you will need to determine the types of awards. The awards selected for a recognition program should be meaningful and relevant to the award recipient(s). The awards given to employees can range from a framed award certificate to cash.

The following are examples of awards:

  • Gift certificates/cards
  • Flowers
  • Award plaque
  • Lapel pin
  • Tickets
  • Fruit basket
  • Framed certificates

The subcommittee should involve the employees in this process, by asking them or having them complete an employee survey to determine the types of awards the employees want. An Employee Recognition Questionnaire form is available to assist you with this process and is available here.

Please note the cost of the awards should be within the department's budget and in compliance with the Texas A&M University Rules and Regulations. Also, cash and gift certificates are considered income and are taxable. Please refer to Standard Administrative Procedure 31.01.99.M0.01: Taxation of Special Payments and Awards to Employees for more information on this procedure.

Step 5: Award Nomination and Selection Process

The selection subcommittee will be responsible for carrying out the nomination and selection processes of a formal award program. The subcommittee should determine the following factors about the nomination process:

  • Is the nomination process confidential? Should nominators be known or remain anonymous?
  • Which employees are eligible to submit a nomination?
  • What employee information should be provided on the nomination?
  • How should the nominations be submitted? (email, electronic submissions, etc.)

The subcommittee will need to determine the following items for the selection process:

  • Defining rating procedures and processes
  • Determine who will review and score the nominations
  • Determine the length of membership for the selection committee
  • Determine who will make the final decision on the winning nominations
  • Determine if past recipients should serve on the selection committee
  • Determine if selection subcommittee is eligible for nomination

Step 6: Market Award Program

The marketing subcommittee is responsible for providing public announcements to their department regarding the award program. Public announcements should be made prior to the award program to announce the award program, after the award program and immediately following the recognition of the award recipients to recognize the employees. Here are some examples of how to market your department's award program:

  • Award program flyers
  • Email to department employees
  • Department newsletter
  • SharePoint intranet site
  • Department website
  • Department bulletin boards
  • Department meetings

Step 7: Finalize and Monitor Award Program

After the recognition committee has finalized the award program, the committee will need to confirm approval of the award program with the employees and management in their department. Award Presentation Tips are available on the HR website to assist with the award presentation.

Last, the committee will need to monitor the award program in its first year to determine its effectiveness and employee satisfaction with the award program. The following are factors to consider overtime to determine if changes need to be made to your department's award program:

  • Department reorganization
  • Department size
  • Changes to award program budget
  • Overall employee satisfaction of program

The seven steps provided in the text above outline guidelines for establishing a recognition program. Remember, recognition programs may consist of formal recognition, informal recognition or both. Please visit the Texas A&M HR Recognition website at for recognition resources such as ideas, certificate/card templates, or information about the President's Meritorious Service Award and Years of Service programs.

For questions about the recognition program guidelines or online recognition resources, please contact Human Resource at (979) 845-7995 or email emplrecognition@tamu.edu.

Resources used to develop this document

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Employee Recognition Handbook
  • Brintnall, Jim. "What Makes a Good Reward?" Recognition News Vol. 2, Issue 2.