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The purpose of this toolkit is to help departmental personnel offices, managers and supervisors find information about employee recognition tools and resources. This toolkit is regularly updated with new resources. If your department would like to share a resource, please make submissions to
Employee Recognition Resources. This is not an exclusive list. CalHR encourages each department to explore additional resources related to employee recognition.
California’s Public Service Recognition Week celebrates the work of its public servants and is held annually. For more information, please visit the
Public Service Recognition Week webpage.
Follow CalHR's social media web pages for monthly posts and prompts to promote employee engagement. Use #CAServingCA to connect your department's social media efforts to our initiative.
Check out our shareable, printable campaign posters and virtual backgrounds below. The posters are ready to be printed in color or shared digitally. If you choose to print and hang the posters, please use the appropriately sized poster file to optimize your results.
The virtual backgrounds are perfect for your next Teams, Zoom, or Webex meeting. Please note that when you use the background, the text will appear backward on your preview image. Do not be alarmed. The text will appear correctly to the other people in the meeting.
To join our Employee Engagement Initiative email contact list, email us.
Presentation: The Power of Employee Recognition (PDF) | Text Only (RTF)
Employee recognition programs reward employees for a variety of reasons, from performing their daily jobs well to going above and beyond the call of duty. Below you will find information about the authorized statewide Merit Award Program as well as examples of programs developed by departments. Obtain the necessary approval within your department before conducting formal recognition activities.
The Merit Award Program was established by the California Legislature in 1950 as an incentive award system to recognize employee contributions to state government and its operations. This recognition awards program is authorized for all state departments and each department has a Merit Award administrator.
Employee Suggestion Program
A formal system for rewarding employees who submit ideas that reduce or eliminate state expenditures or improve the safety or operation of state government.
Superior/Sustained Accomplishment Awards
These awards are for a performance resulting in an exceptional contribution to state government and are excellent tools for recognizing deserving individuals and teams. Many state agencies hold an annual awards ceremony to acknowledge their outstanding employees and increase employee morale.
Medal of Valor
The Governor's State Employee Medal of Valor is the highest honor California bestows upon its employees. In a public ceremony, gold or silver medals are awarded to state employees who risked their lives to save others or state property.
25-Year Service and Retirement Awards
This program was established by the legislature to recognize state employees who have completed 25 years or more of state service. There are two types of awards. The Service Award recognizes employees who have completed 25 years of state service. The Retirement Award recognizes retiring employees who have completed 25 years or more of state service.
The following are examples of employee recognition activities from department programs which can range from simple reoccurring appreciation activities to complex nominations and award ceremonies.
Presentation of a certificate to employees for milestone anniversaries (e.g., five, ten, fifteen years of department or state service).
An annual breakfast hosted by the management team to show appreciation to staff for their contributions to the department.
Director's Annual Recognition Program
During an annual nomination period, managers and supervisors may nominate eligible employees for achievements in the prior fiscal year.
Eligible employees may be nominated for one or more categories. The award recipients may be selected by the director or by an executive committee. The director presides over a ceremony to acknowledge all award recipients. Employees and teams are recognized for superior performance in various award categories:
Holiday Open House
Cookies and hors d'oeuvres hosted by the management team to show appreciation to staff for their contributions to the department.
Monthly Kudos Award Program
Kudos are submitted to the employee's manager or supervisor by peers or customers. On a monthly basis kudos awards are presented to employees during an informal unit meeting and then displayed in a common area. Recipients receive the kudos award after one month of display.
Service Excellence Awards
Nominations are submitted by peers, managers, supervisors or customers. Nominations may be made if an employee goes above and beyond their normal duties, demonstrates and practices innovation and process improvement, or provides excellent customer service. The employee's division reviews the nomination and makes a recommendation to the director. The director makes the final decision.
The following are examples of department handbooks used to administer recognition programs.
California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
CDPH Recognition Program(s) Handbook (PDF) | CDPH Recognition Program(s) Handbook - Text Only (RTF)
Recognition can be simple and delivered daily.
Once a year, senior management welcomes all employees at the workplace entrances with notes of appreciation that also promote the organization's mission and values.
Staff may informally recognize one another by posting star award certificates outside of one another's workspaces. The star award certificate includes the employee's name and the reason why they received the award.
A verbal thank you.
A written thank you in the form of an email, note or card.
The supervisor makes their way around the work area and expresses appreciation to the employees for their work.
Books and articles on employee recognition may be available through the CA State Library.
The following departments are willing to share information about their internal employee recognition programs. If your department would like to list a contact and share information about your department's employee recognition programs, please contact Employee Recognition Resources.
California State Teachers' Retirement System
Sean Carrington | SCarrington@CalSTRS.com
Manager, Employee Engagement
Department of Motor Vehicles
Sara Sepulveda | Sara.Sepulveda@dmv.ca.gov
Manager, Employee & Administrative Services
Franchise Tax Board
Paul Ogden | Paul.Ogden@ftb.ca.gov
Director, Business and Human Resources Bureau