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Honoring Your Employee's Contribution

The UM System is committed to supporting, valuing and empowering employees. Positive recognition for meaningful contributions honors that commitment and supports employee engagement, productivity and strong retention rates. Positive recognition also strengthens our teams and organizational culture.

As a manager or supervisor, you play a key role in recognizing the contributions of employees, including recognizing their years of service. The following guidance and list of resources can help you appropriately honor the service of your team members, including career milestones.

Planning Ahead

  • Know your team members' work anniversaries. Our step-by-step guide can help you find important dates, like your employee's birthday or work anniversary, using PeopleSoft. Plan your recognition as close to the employee’s anniversary date as possible. Guidance on finding these dates in PeopleSoft will be available when the functionality goes live.
  • Consider length of service as you plan an appropriate celebration.
    • Milestone years 1-5: Employees are getting comfortable with their roles and beginning to make contributions to the organization. Consider ways to show they belong, like providing branded gifts, as well as professional development opportunities that can help them grow in their role.
    • Milestone years 10+: Employees have made ongoing, consistent contributions. Present their personalized certificate (provided by the UM System) on milestone years and recognize and celebrate their unique achievements and contributions in a way that fits them.
  • Consider employee preferences. People want to be recognized in various ways.Would the employee you're honoring prefer public or private recognition, and would they find words of appreciation, a gift or an experience most meaningful? Planning recognition around these questions can help ensure your employee feels valued and appreciated.
  • Get others involved. Your employee’s career with the UM System has impacted many people. Consider getting other leaders, previous team members and even the employee’s friends and family involved in the recognition.

Ideas to Make Recognition Special

This is a time to say “thank you.” Consider these ideas to acknowledge and celebrate your employee:

  • Send a handwritten thank you note
  • Collect notes of appreciation from current and previous team members
  • Honor the employee at a staff or other meeting
  • Announce the anniversary in a department publication
  • Provide time for personal wellness
  • Flex the employee's hours for a day or week
  • Say “thank you,” publicly or privately

Recognizing Remote Work or Recognition During Social Distancing

We know that  social distancing measures and remote work can make recognizing service challenging. Below are some ways to publicly or privately recognize remote employees or comply with social distancing measures during recognition:

  • Send an email or a personalized note to the employee to recognize their service. Encourage colleagues to do the same.
  • Provide time for personal wellness or professional development, or offer the opportunity for flexible work hours for the day or week.
  • Publicly celebrate the employee’s service during existing meetings or a remote social hour via Zoom or other online meeting platform. You can also invite the employee’s family to join the virtual celebration, or invite them in if the employee is working remotely. Access and download a celebratory Zoom background to help recognize your colleagues' years of service.
  • Deliver food and drinks, flowers, balloons, cookies or another treat on the anniversary date. These items can be provided in a safe manner that respects social distancing, but it’s also a great way to support local businesses that may be struggling during the pandemic.

Creating a Culture of Feedback

Don't wait until performance reviews! Recognition and other forms of feedback should be given on an ongoing basis and as soon as possible after the positive actions or behavior occur.

Remember, while recognition from supervisors is especially meaningful, high-performing teams also prioritize ongoing peer recognition and feedback. Encourage your team to recognize outstanding performance

Meaningful Positive Recognition

Meaningful contributions to the organization should be recognized consistently and on an ongoing basis. Use this model to make your recognition Impactful:

Identify the behavior → Share the impact → Consider additional recognition

  1. First, identify the specific behavior and verbally communicate it to the employee. For example, note, “I appreciate your focus on including diverse voices in that conversation.”
  2. Share the impact of the behavior with the employee. For example, let the employee know, “We came to a better solution because of your actions.”
  3. Finally, consider additional ways to recognize your team member. This may include public recognition or some other form of appreciation. For example, ask the employee, “I would like to share your actions as a model during our next team meeting. Would that be alright with you?”

Additional Resources

See HR-305 Service Recognition for details on the program policies.


Reviewed 2022-03-03