Informal Recognition

Offer recognition immediately, meaningfully and generously 

Who Can you Thank Today?

Informal, or everyday, recognition can be just as impactful as formal recognition, but it is usually much easier to deliver.

This more casual type of recognition includes various approaches to demonstrate appreciation to an employee or a team. Informal recognition can include anything from annual Stampede or holiday celebrations to coffee meetings, potlucks, development programs and eNotes and print cards.

The best practices of informal recognition are symbolic, meaningful, individualized, spontaneous, and consistent. Below are some informal recognition ideas for recognizing the contributions of your fellow employees and team members.

Tell us about the informal recognition programs or practices in your area! Send ideas to, and we'll add them below.  

Informal Recognition Ideas

Use Town Hall meetings to discuss various achievements, showcase projects, and provide updates pertaining to faculties, schools, and units. 

Share information about your team, department, or organizational activities, increasing employee awareness and understanding. 

Meetings on a different scale can be used to acknowledge individual, team, or organizational success and recognize milestones (e.g., years of service, retirement, new staff, project success, and more).

This event varies for different faculties, schools, and units: it holds annually, semi-annually, or quarterly for staff to meet the Dean and to discuss a variety of questions. Some areas at the university use this meeting to recognize Support Staff for their contribution.

This example of informal recognition may take the form of coffee, lunch, dinner, or a holiday reception, though more often it takes place at the Dean's office.

You can create a Team Building event with a unique plan by combining different activities based on your current projects and the team's interests:

  • Short conferences, discussions and roundtables
  • Speakers and presentations
  • Work overview and updates
  • Indoor and outdoor team games
  • Various campus tours 

Team members can take turns organizing this event. Use the Recognize Results template to plan a meaningful event.

Professionals Days are great reminders to be thankful for the people who work so hard in their area of expertise. You can plan a Team Building event, team meeting, or potluck to mark this day. 

Some examples of Professionals Days include but are not limited to:

  • Administrative Professionals Day is celebrated on the last Wednesday of April. Established in 1952, now it is one of the most celebrated workplace holidays, especially amongst support staff.
  • International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on May 12 (the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth) to mark the contributions nurses make to society. The Canadian Minister of Health instituted National Nursing Week in Canada in 1985.
  • National Receptionists' Day grows bigger and is now celebrated on the second Wednesday in May by companies across the globe including the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. 

Based on your area's portfolio, you can celebrate international days as your professional days, e.g., World Theatre Day, International Museum Day, World Philosophy Day, World Development Information Day, Earth Day, World Environment Day, World Water Day, World Oceans Day, International Day of Forests, etc.  

And, of course, you can consider the International Day of Happiness founded by the United Nations in 2012 as your professional day!

The first Friday of March organizations and employees across Canada are celebrating Employee Appreciation Day - a day dedicated to recognizing and appreciating the hard work and contributions of your colleagues and peers!

Established in 1995, the holiday focuses the attention of all the employers and managers in all industries on employee recognition. It is a perfect time to thank your colleagues, peers, and teams for their everyday hard work, support, help, and encouragement.

Career Achievement celebrations honour an individual’s great work over time. It is a great opportunity to deliver personal, meaningful recognition. A monthly event can be planned in your area to celebrate both birthdays and years of service. This template will help you create a meaningful event or send a Service Milestone Letter.

Be aware that the University of Calgary formally recognizes employees who have reached a service milestone of 15 or 25 years through the Long Service Awards program. Employees who reached 15 years of service will be invited to the President’s Reception every following year - reach out to the President’s Office for more information on the program.

Use the Celebrate Milestones or Acknowledge Retirement templates to plan a meaningful event.

A Memory Book is a great idea for your colleague's career milestone celebration or retirement. It can be delivered as a presentation, collage, printed copy, etc. You can divide your book by content - by chronology, by different  projects, or by professional milestones. To take the project-based approach, make a starting list of major projects and consider how well your photos, memorabilia and stories flow into the list.

Recognize your team results, celebrate career milestones, or refresh your team meetings and events by organizing a tour of one of the university’s many faculties, units or schools and see the campus differently.

Explore a new destination and learn more about the work of your campus colleagues and foster pride in our university family, e.g., theatres, museums, libraries, collections, archives, herbarium, labs, Security office, and more.

Contact the area you’re most interested in directly to schedule a tour, or check out one of the tours offered by the Office of Sustainability. Reach out to your university connections in other areas to arrange the tours or contact the recognition team for ideas and support.

When your faculty, school, or unit have won an external award or fundraising goals are met, it means a wonderful reason to celebrate success. The form of recognition may vary from a Town Hall meeting, a Team Building day to a special potluck event. 

This template will help you create a meaningful event.  

Informal recognition can be delivered in the form of development programs. Support and encourage employees to use Tuition Support benefits, recognize their learning and development as an approach to increasing engagement, professional growth, and movement within the organization. As a form of recognition, invite MaPS and Support Staff to participate in local conferences and seminars supporting Academics they work with.

The diversity of the University of Calgary influences its strength and productivity and enriches teaching, research, and community involvement. There are a variety of semi-formal and informal recognition programs and practices across the campus to satisfy diverse needs of the university's population, e.g., "Shout Out" at the Schulich School of Engineering or "Pop Up Recognition" at the Haskayne School of Business.

Coffee, tea, lunch, or dinner - any meal is an excellent opportunity to meet your colleagues for a discussion or a brief celebration. These events can be used to recognize project efforts, celebrate milestones, provide status updates, showcase projects, and discuss success.

Celebrating a colleague's birthday or life event is one of the most common practices of Informal recognition. Also, it is one of the simplest ways we can show the individuals on the team how valued they are. 

Putting employee anniversaries and birthday into a spreadsheet or tracking software is a great way to make sure no one is overlooked. An employee birthday or anniversary card might be passed around for everyone to sign. A cake or a small token of appreciation may become a nice addition to the celebration. 

Whatever you celebrate - Western New Year, Chinese Lunar New Year, or even End of Fiscal Year - it is a wonderful opportunity for Informal recognition. Cards, small tokens of appreciation, parties, games, concerts, shows, dances, funny costumes, or a simple "thank you!" will help to recognize your peers' and colleagues efforts during the year.

Potlucks, picnics, and BBQs are hosted around various specific holidays such as Canada Day, Stampede, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. They may be combined with various competitions and games with prizes.

Recognition print cards are a great resource for your day-to-day recognition efforts. Recognizing fellow employees cultivates a more positive, engaged and productive workplace and helps build the sense of One University Family. The cards are available to all university employees who would like to commend or say thanks to peers at any level of the university.  

University of Calgary branded cards are available for online ordering.

If you want to be sustainable or send a note of appreciation immediately, eNotes are the best option for it! They can be sent at any time throughout the year, for any occasion. Simply click on your preferred eNote and customize your message of appreciation. 

The recipients will receive the note directly to their email inbox. You can also forward your note to the recipient’s manager and multiple recipients.

Are you among those 330 million people who actively use Twitter or are you still thinking about joining? If you are already on Twitter, let the world know how great your colleagues are with a shout out on social media. Show your gratitude and tweet your recognition moments using #UCalgaryRecognition. Use this hashtag to share photos from recognition events, celebrations, and gatherings, information about your programs or to say ‘Thank You’ to a colleague.

If you haven’t yet, join Twitter and use it as a recognition tool!

Verbal recognition of employees and teams, their work and effort at meetings, workshops, and during daily work routine is crucial for developing a culture of recognition across all levels of the University of Calgary. 

A little recognition goes a long way! 

Electronic recognition is close to verbal: you can easily recognize outstanding work via email, voice-mail, text message, and some other forms of modern technology.

Remember that it may not be the best idea to replace all personal and verbal recognition with electronic communication.

Candies, chocolate, or flowers can be used as small tokens of appreciation to celebrate your colleagues' professional and personal milestones, recognize their contribution to a big project and everyday assistance or acknowledge their life events.