Recognition award guidelines


The following is applicable to classified and wage staff. The purpose of the recognition award is to:

  • encourage excellence in university service;
  • recognize and reward individual achievements and contributions; and
  • recognize and reward team achievements or contributions.

When you recognize employees effectively, you reinforce the actions and behaviors you most want to see those employees repeat.  Recognizing employee accomplishments and efforts is just one tool available to managers in engaging, developing, and retaining good employees. These guidelines provide details on formal award options and informal ways to provide recognition.

Formal recognition awards are intended to encourage and reward the accomplishments and contributions of employees in ways separate from the performance appraisal process, the Employee Suggestion Program (ESP), or any other university-sponsored recognition program. Rather than recognizing overall performance, recognition awards acknowledge one or more specific instances of exemplary performance. They reward employees who demonstrate behaviors and values of the organization (customer service, teamwork, problem-solving, safety, productivity, etc.) and contribute to the goals and objectives of the organization or department. Receipt of a recognition award in this program does not preclude the same employee from receiving honorary recognition or an increase based on performance (when authorized by the Governor and General Assembly) when criteria for such recognition are otherwise met.

Recognition awards should not be used in place of paying overtime or compensatory time, and they are not meant to replace other traditional methods of recognition, but rather to increase supervisors' options in rewarding and reinforcing employee excellence.  The formal awards also are not intended to recognize the length of an employee’s service or to be used as a “holiday or birthday bonus.” There are cost-free methods for recognizing those kinds of events (see section entitled “Additional No/Low-Cost Recognition Ideas”).

Non-monetary (non-cash) awards are not permitted, regardless of source of funds.  Non-monetary awards include any non-refundable gift (e.g., tangible gift items, such as prints, season tickets, gift baskets, etc.) or gift certificate.

Recognition awards

Monetary and leave awards can be given, as described below, for various levels of accomplishments or contributions. Eligible employees include all classified employees with current performance evaluation ratings of "Fair Performer" or better and no active written notices; wage (hourly or student) employees are eligible as described below. 

Total recognition awards of all types covered by these guidelines cannot exceed $2,000 in a fiscal year and/or five days of leave per calendar year per classified employee or $1,000 per fiscal year per each wage employee.

  • Where monetary (cash) awards are permitted, any university fund source may be used to pay for a recognition award. Sponsored research (ledger 5) funds may be used as a source for payment if the payment is directly related to work on a grant or contract and the sponsor allows recognition payments.  Lump-sum payments are normally included in a single check with regular pay. Supplemental tax rates apply. However, the employee also has the option of putting the lump-sum payment into an account with the VCU Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) program or the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP).
  • Recognition leave (REC) can be granted as described below for classified employees, separately or in combination with monetary awards; wage employees are not eligible for leave or paid time off. Recognition leave expires within 12 months of the date it is awarded. Any active unused recognition leave is paid to the employee upon separation or transfer to another state agency and is subject to income tax withholding.