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Leader Guidelines

People walking around Lake Devo with reflections of the trees and buildings in the water.

Carving out time for recognition can seem challenging when you have a busy workload. However, recognizing your employees results in more engaged teams, delivering better performance. Make use of these guidelines to help you target your employee appreciation more effectively.

Why Recognition matters

 Research shows that engaged employees are more likely to:


  • be motivated to do their best work
  • be productive
  • provide better customer service
  • have greater job satisfaction
  • have lower turnover and absenteeism
  • be happy!

Research has even found that praise from immediate managers, attention from leaders and the opportunity to take the lead on projects or tasks can be even more likely to motivate employees than financial incentives.

Providing specific and timely recognition that is tied to department or faculty values is a great way to encourage specific behaviours and achieve objectives. 

Recognition is an important part of being a good leader. When employees feel valued at work, they are more likely to be engaged, satisfied and motivated. Leaders are responsible for:

  • Recognizing employees for specific contributions and achievements.
  • Ensuring equity and inclusion in the distribution of recognition and awards. Review keeping things fair and how can I embed equity, diversity and inclusion in my recognition practices.
  • Recognizing contributions and achievements promptly.
  • Soliciting input from employees when appropriate about the type of recognition they prefer. Make use of the employee recognition preferences questionnaire.
  • Developing and using informal types of recognition to acknowledge employees' activities or services e.g. writing a letter of appreciation, posting a sign or banner that praises an employee, giving a gift of nominal value, etc.
  • Identifying and making employees aware of the constraints of recognition e.g. unable to provide pay increases, gift cards or large material goods, etc.
  • Give someone a positive reputation with senior leaders by regularly mentioning their great work.
  • Give an employee the chance to lead a project that you would ordinarily lead yourself.
  • Provide development opportunities as recognition.
  • Invite employees to host lunch-and-learns on topics of expertise.

TMU’s diverse workforce will benefit from diverse recognition practices.

  • Ask for feedback from your employees on what inclusive recognition looks like to them. It could be something as simple wishing them well for a religious holiday or a cultural observance. TMU’s Human Rights office has the religious and cultural observances calendar that you can get familiar with. 
  • For more tips on equitable recognition practices, review keeping things fair.

For assistance in creating equitable and inclusive recognition practices, contact or consult with the Office of the Vice President, Equity and Community Inclusion.

It’s a misconception that employees are only looking to be rewarded with more money. In fact, studies on motivation have found that recognizing and engaging employees in their work can have a greater impact on their retention and productivity than cash rewards.

Intrinsic motivation is the key to great performance. Engaging employees in interesting and meaningful work will lead them to be more creative and better problem-solvers.

Recognizing employee contributions is an important part of being a good leader and can actually save you time in the long-run. Many types of recognition are quick and simple. See the Ways to Say Thanks section for ideas and inspirations.

It is important to stay in tune with your employees and what types of recognition they value. An easy way to do this is by using the employee recognition preferences questionnaire. 

As with any program, it is good to take a step back and re-evaluate from time to time. The type of recognition they value today may not be what they appreciated last year or what they will appreciate a year from now. Ask employees what they would like to see going forward and refresh your activities accordingly. Often, the most valued recognition costs nothing at all. Acknowledging a great job can go a long way. Just remember to keep any recognition you give timely, specific and meaningful. Tips for everyone has more information on this topic.

If you aren’t sure what would make your employees feel valued, take a few minutes to find out. This could be through one-on-one discussions, asking for suggestions through email, or even a short survey. Consider using the employee recognition preferences questionnaire to get started.

Once you decide on a couple of types of recognition, make sure you clearly communicate what actions or behaviours will earn the recognition to ensure everyone understands your expectations.

With such a diverse workforce, it's important to stay focused on keeping recognition personalized. Don’t spend time worrying about demographic groups or recognition trends. Instead, take the time to find out what individuals value and you will find that your recognition will be meaningful and have more impact.