Energizing Employee Recognition Programs

How to keep your DLC’s Rewards + Recognition program vibrant, accessible, and effective

The annual MIT Excellence Awards + Collier Medal are exhilarating—they inspire pride and celebrate many remarkable and unsung achievements at the Institute. But the annual Excellence Awards ceremony is just one part of MIT’s three-tiered recognition and reward program. For Rewards + Recognition (R+R) Key Contacts or administrators working on MIT’s recognition program, the task of keeping staff informed and engaged in the program is an ongoing effort.

Appreciation Awards and Infinite Mile Awards, which are administered and presented within individual DLCs, play equally important roles in motivating colleagues and promoting a supportive and productive work environment. If you are an R+R Key Contact or are otherwise involved in awards programs for your area, the following tips will help you keep employee recognition a vibrant and inspiring aspect of your DLC’s culture.

Square one—new employee orientation and general awareness

You may know a lot about Appreciation Awards (on-the-spot recognition given at the time of achievement) and Infinite Mile Awards (more formal, periodic acknowledgement of strategic objectives), but don’t assume everyone in your DLC shares your awareness of these programs.

  • Inform your colleagues about the criteria and selection process for these awards—it’s the single most effective step you can take toward building a successful program.
  • Include an explanation of the programs in your new employee orientation process, and provide links to the relevant pages of the Rewards + Recognition website.
  • Continue generating interest and enthusiasm about Appreciation and Infinite Mile awards by talking about them in team meetings and in conversations with colleagues.
  • Train or coach your colleagues about how to recognize the performance of others in your DLC—give examples or set criteria for what is appropriate recognition.
  • Outline a set of best practices for where and when to deliver recognition—your DLC’s staff will look to R+R Key Contacts for leadership in this area.

Why scheduling matters

Recognition may happen every day, but some times of the year are busier than others—especially leading up to Infinite Mile events and the MIT Excellence Awards + Collier Medal nomination period and ceremony dates. 

  • Take the long view as you schedule recognition events—adjust dates as needed around other major events in your DLC.
  • Consider not only the events themselves, but the nomination/selection process leading up to them for conflicts with other department events such as conferences, major meetings, or grant deadlines that may prevent people from submitting nominations.
  • Check with DLC senior leaders about date changes, and provide plenty of notice so they can attend.   

Include everyone in outreach

As an R+R Key Contact, you know that communication and outreach about the recognition program are a never-ending process. Even members of the staff who know all there is to know about the recognition program need reminders. Outreach should stay fresh, inviting, and compelling—no small task when most of the responsibility falls on one person. Avoid burn-out by including everyone in your communication efforts.

  • Senior leaders and department directors are important voices in raising awareness about recognition events or deadlines.
  • Your DLC’s staff can be just as helpful in getting the word out—often a fresh voice is the best way of hearing a simple reminder (not every email about the recognition program has to come from the R+R Key Contact, for example).
  • Previous Infinite Mile recipients, Excellence Award, or Collier Medal recipients know how fantastic it is to receive an award—encourage them to share what it meant to them.
  • Use any and every medium to get the word out—website, group email, paper mail, newsletter, even bulletin boards (yes, people still read bulletin boards).
  • Be creative with the use of logos, themes, and other design elements to give your program(s) a memorable identity.
  • Invite interested staff to develop logos or themes to help with outreach efforts.


The big payoff for all your effort is celebrating teams and individuals for their great work at MIT. When you include your DLC colleagues in these successes, you also reinforce the goals of the Institute’s recognition program.

  • Schedule regular times during team or staff meetings for people to comment on the successes and achievements of their colleagues.
  • Many DLCs include Spot Award winners in quarterly meetings or newsletters (these announcements can include reminders about how to request a Spot award for colleagues and invitations to recognize recipients in the Spot award itself).
  • Infinite Mile winners are announced differently in each DLC—however you choose to announce your recipients, be sure to follow up with formal announcements about the annual recipients.
  • If possible, include announcements of Infinite Mile recipients at the next all-staff meeting.
  • Notify managers of Infinite Mile recipients so they can be sure to attend the event.
  • Although managers inform Excellence Award + Collier Medal award-winners of their recipient status, you can, as an R+R Key Contact, make recommendations on whether the recipient would like to be notified privately or more publicly within the your DLC. 
  • After a recipient is notified, follow up with a more formal announcement, and encourage attendance at the awards ceremony.
  • If a member or members of your DLC staff receive an Excellence Award or Collier member, invite your staff to show their support—pom-poms, banners, and cheering, aka “Recipient Love,” is shown in many ways at the ceremony.
  • Finally, congratulations to you for making recognition possible—well done!

Above all, use your awards programs to celebrate one another, reinforce department goals and values - and have fun. If you’re not sure where to start, take advantage of the experiences of your communications colleagues and R+R Key Contacts—people are more than happy to share insights about creating and maintaining a successful program. And you can always email questions to Cori Champagne, R+R Program Manager in Human Resources.

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