This type of recognition is done at the local department or unit level, and is reserved for moments of note and when we want to recognize and reinforce specific activities and behaviors. For it to be meaningful to both the awardees and others in the unit, it should be tied to the department's goals, mission, or values.
It is important that this type of recognition be fair. Everyone in the unit must know and understand the criteria used for this type of recognition, and tying it to stated goals, mission and or values helps clarify this.
For example, if your department is going through a process improvement, then people know if they focus their energies on making good, viable suggestions for process improvement they may receive some type of recognition. Or, tie your unit's program to your department's values or those of the institution, or around your core purpose (customer service, technical proficiency, etc), or some challenge you're currently facing (lack of resources, space, time, etc) and behaviors or activities will work best to help you get through it.
Don't let this type of informal recognition program get stale! If it's lost its luster or purpose after 3-6 months, get your team together and come up with a new set of "moments of note" and criteria.
What does your unit/department value? Here are just a few examples of the types of contributions that might be heartily acknowledged:
- 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 to create a positive, inclusive work environment
- Exceeding expectations for a goal or milestone
- Working collaboratively on a long-term project
- Contributing or supporting the success of a co-worker, or
- Suggesting a better way to serve an internal or external customer or improve a process
Here's a suggestion to get started. Have a staff meeting and ask everyone to think about a time when the team was really "clicking"; or to think about the best team they ever worked with; or how they think everyone would be interacting or behaving on the "ideal" team. Each person then writes down 3 -5 behaviors or activities that were or would be happening at that time. Talk about the results as a group, and then set up your informal recognition around the behaviors the group identified. Encourage the staff to recognize each other when they spot the behavior too. Revisit this activity every couple of months for new ideas and to keep it fresh.
Remember, when delivering this type of recognition to individuals, it is important to always know in advance what kinds of recognition each person on your team prefers. The wrong type of acknowledgement has little or no power, and can have a negative impact.
Informal recognition is extremely powerful and can be a lot of fun. Make it so!