Rewards, Recognition & Incentives

Main page content

Every employee at UW Tacoma is valuable and plays an important role in helping our campus fulfill our mission. Our goal is to retain the employees we have and encourage them to develop at UW Tacoma, both personally and professionally, while providing them with the tools to do so. And since each employee is different, we have a number of methods available to accomplish this.

Perhaps the best place to start is by asking your employees directly how they would like to be recognized and rewarded. The insights they provide may open your eyes to the variety of opportunities available and enable you to more effectively demonstrate that you appreciate their contributions to the work place. The following presents some popular ways to recognize and reward your employees. Review information on UW's Employee Recognition Programs.



Give employees the freedom to move around within their position, without sacrificing job performance. Employees who feel some ownership over their positions care more about what they do and feel more responsible for its success. This translates into benefits for the department in the way of new ideas, increased efficiency and more interested employees. (D. Adkerson, 2000)

  • Allow for freedom to work independently (not micro managed)
  • Allow for flexibility in work hours (where position allows)
  • Allow individuals to develop/improve processes for accomplishing tasks (where appropriate)


Having knowledgeable and competent employees is a key to our success. Providing them with the tools and opportunities to increase and hone their skills gives you a more qualified staff to work with.

  • Allow staff to take advantage of formal training opportunities, especially those brought to the Tacoma campus. (Also, e-Learning and Training and Development courses at UWS)
  • Allow staff to utilize the new skills they learn as soon as possible.
  • Give employees the opportunity to brief you or others in the department on what they learned in training.
  • Provide in-house training and cross-training opportunities.
  • Talk to staff about their career goals and try to incorporate some into the job as appropriate and relevant.
  • Empower staff to make decisions about their jobs to enhance the position (See #5)
  • Reclassify positions as appropriate


Doing something fun once in a while allows employees to let go of the stresses of the day (week or month) and re-energize themselves to be more productive! This can also create better relationships within the office if employees are allowed to "goof around" a little with their work mates.

  • Write positive comments on Post-It® notes and leave them for your employees to find unexpectedly. (M. Gregory, 2001)
  • Give your team members Silly String® to let off a little steam during high stress times. (M. Gregory, 2001)
  • Provide staff with kazoos to "voice" frustration. (M. Gregory, 2001)
  • Provide opportunities to laugh and socialize.
  • Throw lunch parties to celebrate special events.

Meaningful Work

There are tasks to everyone's job that are less enjoyable than others, but there may be opportunities to assign work that is challenging, fun and/or meaningful to the employee and that furthers the department in reaching their goals. Of course, the less enjoyable tasks must still be done, but providing opportunities for a variety of tasks may enhance the job enough to make those duties less tedious.

  • Recognize individual talents and interests when assigning work projects
  • Let staff cross train on other functions
  • Allow for some expansion/variety of job duties which may break up the monotony of a position (but not necessarily an increase in complexity – which could lead to a reckless)
  • Rotate interesting projects among employees
  • Allow employees to participate in campus committees (UWT Staff Association, Diversity Task Force, Combined Fund Drive Committee, etc.)

Piece of the Action

Give your employees a piece of the action. Employees don't necessarily want to run the department, but they may like to contribute to bettering the department. This makes them feel a part of something and that their opinions matter. You as the supervisor will still make the final decision, but their insights may help broaden your perspective and help you make an even better decision.

  • Ask staff directly for their opinions and ideas—individually and in meetings
  • Encourage them to provide you feedback at any time
  • Have staff participate on committees and in meetings
  • Recommend your employees to others as a resource or subject matter expert
  • Assign staff projects which draw on their ideas and creativity.


Just like money, little prizes can go a long way in saying ‘thanks' even if the monetary value is not high. Be creative and customize the prizes that you are giving to the employee that you are giving it to. This lets your employee know that you recognize and appreciate their work and that you are interested in them as individuals. Prizes can be given for completing special projects, making significant departmental improvements/contributions, reaching goals and other noteworthy accomplishments.

  • Flowers
  • Chocolate!
  • Lunch with you
  • Various little prizes promoting teamwork and excellence that they can use at work.



Employees should know how much their work is being valued – by their supervisor, by their department and by the campus. While recognition need not be done by means of a lavish ceremony, it should be done quickly and clearly. Employees should know what they are being recognized for and be encouraged to continue contributing in a positive way.

  • Extend a personal congratulations for a job well done
  • Write a personal note or letter of thanks (especially from department directors)
  • Recognize individuals and teams at staff meetings
  • Hold special meetings to celebrate successes and special events (Service Awards, special accomplishment/awards, goodbyes, etc.)
  • Create a "Good Tries" booklet to recognize those whose innovations didn't achieve their full potential (B. Nelson, 1996)
  • Name a space in your department after an employee and put up a sign (B. Nelson, 1996)
  • Develop a departmental award program and create a certificate
  • Nominate employees for campus-wide awards like the Distinguished Service Award

Time Off

Recognize that your employees have a life beyond work. Allow them reasonable flexibility within the scope of departmental needs to establish a balance between work and their personal lives. This may result in them working better when they are here.

  • Allow for flex-time, if appropriate for position.
  • Consider alternative work schedules.
  • Allow them to temporarily decrease FTE during your department's slow months.
  • Professional staff can be given up to 6 days of discretionary leave each year for exceptional performance. (Contact HR for more information or review information online regarding Discretionary Leave.)