What is recognition?

Recognition objectives

At the University of Ottawa, recognition is part of a respectful and fair workplace. It’s everyone’s responsibility, at all levels, to create such a workplace and encourage individual and group achievement.

The recognition objectives are as follows:

  • Praising efforts made — honouring people for work well done
  • Rewarding results — recognizing people who bring measurable improvements
  • Honouring achievements — celebrating career milestones and honour those who achieve great things
  • Increasing individuals’ influence — encourage everyone to better show appreciation by recognizing all who spearhead a culture of change

A deeper level of employee engagement gives an organization a competitive advantage, as it increases client trust and loyalty. According to studies, employee recognition appears to be a key factor in employee engagement towards an organization.

The power of recognition

The University wants to foster an environment where employees are recognized and appreciated for their dedication and hard work. We want to make praising an employee for good work and rewarding those who achieve great results part of who we are as an organization — part of our organizational DNA.

When employees feel they work for an organization that cares about their wellbeing, three important things happen:

  • They embrace the goals and vision of the organization.
  • They feel their contribution makes a difference.
  • They become inspired to do great work.

Employees who are recognized for doing good work feel a greater sense of self-esteem. These positive feelings play a significant role in how they view themselves and work with others.

Understanding the different types of recognition

The University of Ottawa has a long history of celebrating excellence through awards and recognition. The best recognition strikes a balance between formal and informal recognition. While we have many successful formal types of recognition in place today, it is the day-to-day feedback and informal appreciation for positive changes that make the most difference for employees.


Day-to-Day Recognition

This type of recognition is the most frequent practice and has the greatest ability to make an impact on employee performance. It provides genuine appreciation for efforts made and acknowledgement for employees who go the extra mile, by helping a colleague prepare for an event or volunteering to cover for a co-worker who is off sick, for example. It can take such forms as a verbal “thank you,” handwritten note, e-card or kudos notice board. This type of recognition has the potential to reach 100 percent of employees and provides an ideal opportunity for peer-to-peer or student-driven recognition.

Informal Recognition

This type of recognition is unstructured, timely and easy to deliver. It singles out individuals or teams for progress toward milestones, performance achievements and goal accomplishments. Informal recognition encompasses a wide range of acknowledgement and includes no or low cost mementos, team celebrations and development opportunities. It creates an atmosphere of continuous improvement by celebrating positive behaviour.

Formal Recognition

This type of recognition is a structured program with defined processes and criteria linked to organizational values and goals, a nomination and selection process and an awards ceremony.  Employees receive public recognition, generally on an annual basis, in a formal setting. Formal recognition programs promote organizational goals and values and foster a sense of unity and pride. 

Examples of formal recognition

For excellence in teaching or research

For excellence in service

Practicing effective recognition

As much as possible, recognize people “in the moment.” Day-to-day recognition is best given immediately after a positive action has occurred. Recognition that is attached to specific accomplishments creates a lasting impression and helps reinforce the best behaviours.


Recognition must be linked to clearly defined goals and behaviours. Employees must clearly understand what behaviours warrant recognition and reward. It is important to highlight the action that deserves the reward and stress what strategic goal it supports.


What is motivating varies from person to person. It is important to ask employees what form of recognition they prefer. 


A consistent application of recognition programs by the faculties and services is essential to making feedback part of the workplace fabric. It is helpful to include recognition goals and practices in the annual performance scorecard to keep track of progress. It is also important to establish recognition goals and plan at the start of each year to understand what behaviours are needed to be reinforced and which recognition techniques will be included.

Creative and innovative

Creativity is the spice of life. The most motivating rewards cost little or no money. Everyday recognition programs should be fun, flexible and easy to administer. Remember, recognition should be a celebration of a job well done.

For more information

550 Cumberland Street
Tabaret Hall, Room 012

Wall of fame

Back to top