Finance & Operations Rewards and Recognition Program

July 2019

Prepared by:                    Laurie Textor, Senior HR Representative, Finance and Operations

Campus Address:            105 Jessup Hall     Phone: 319-335-0012

Departmental Head:        Rod Lehnertz, Senior Vice President

The Value of a Rewards and Recognition Program

The F&O Rewards and Recognition Program demonstrates the division's commitment to recognizing and showing appreciation to employees.  Research shows that 'recognition programs positively contribute to the employee experience and impact employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction."1  Our goal is to create just that:  a workplace where employees feel engaged, motivated, and satisfied; and, a place where they feel rewarded for their contributions.

Purpose of Program

To provide a suite of resources and options to F&O supervisors and employees that demonstrate an open, planned system for recognizing the efforts of staff who support the UI mission and accomplish departmental and division goals.

Eligible Staff:  All regular merit and P&S employees in the University of Iowa Finance and Operations Division.

A Note About this Document: This document includes information on the Division of Finance and Operations' regulating guidelines for rewards and recognition programs.  Also included is a list of resources available for departments to use in customizing its own rewards and recognition program.  We would expect that a unit will customize a program for their unit, using a few of the options provided.  Your Human Resources Representatives are available to assist you in developing an appropriate plan for your work unit.

Finance and Operations Division Regulating Guidelines

Business Purpose:
Please keep in mind the use of University funds for food, beverages, flowers, gifts and incidental expenses for approved events, employee recognition, training, and university business meetings must have a clear University business purpose for incurring the expense.  A business purpose may be defined as an effort that is of primary benefit to the University and its mission.  Examples of business purposes include:  to recognize unit goal accomplishments, to acknowledge performance that supports unit goals, to celebrate the success of a major change initiative, to recognize improvement in processes and services, etc.

Department Executive Officers and their delegates are responsible for ensuring the funds are being utilized for a legitimate business purpose.

Funding for the events is evaluated based on the current budget, the type of event and the justification of the expense.  Non-General Education Fund resources are preferred where available.  Departments that do not have access to non-GEF resources should contact the Senior HR Rep, Finance & Operations (F&O).  Spouses/significant others or family members of employees (who are not also employed within the department or division and eligible for recognition as an employee) may be invited to attend departmental recognition, retirement, and/or going-away events as appropriate and approved by the department.

Generally, food and incidental expenses are limited to $10-$15 per employee, unless otherwise specified.  Justification should be provided for any exceptions.  Please note, staff represented in collective bargaining are not eligible to receive cash rewards or gift certificates for personal use. 

F&O Division Years of Service Recognition Program

Division staff celebrating service milestones are recognized with a certificate.  Units will determine the timing and method of presentation to the employee.  Gifts and/or celebrations to accompany the milestone may be provided as per University policy ( and within the guidelines below.  Gifts and celebration expenses are the responsibility of the departmental unit. 

Departments and/or units may consider the following model, with the maximum gift amounts* noted.

  • 5, 10, 15 years of service - certificate plus up to $25 gift
  • 20 years - certificate plus up to $25 gift
  • 25 years - certificate plus up to $30 gift
  • 30 years - certificate plus up to $50 gift
  • 35 years - certificate plus up to $75 gift
  • 40 years - certificate plus up to $75 gift
  • 45 years - certificate plus up to $75 gift
  • 50 years - (and every 5 year mark beyond) - certificate plus up to $100 gift
    *Please note gifts valued at $100 or more are taxable and must be reported to Payroll;
    Merit staff may not be given gift certificates per Merit Rules 
  • Standard certificate templates will be provided to departmental units.  The cost of certificates and folders will be funded by Finance and Operations.  Units will be responsible for printing the certificates and presenting them to the employees. 
  • The Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations will send a hand-written note to each employee within the Division at each five-year milestone after 20 years of service to the University of Iowa.
  • Milestone anniversary celebrations may be held during work hours, scheduled as operations allow and with consideration for the celebrating employee’s preferences. 

General Recognition Resources

Many tools are available at the University of Iowa to recognize employees.  Units and departments are encouraged to develop a local recognition program tailored for specific local needs and organization culture. Recognition provided can range from a note of thanks to meals and/or small gifts.  The following are examples of events and rewards that may be offered.

  • Employee Appreciation Events.  Examples include Unit/Departmental Staff Appreciation Luncheons or Annual Celebrations, Administrative Professionals Day, Holiday or year-end events, etc.  Smaller scale appreciation days may simply provide treats. 
  • Employee Milestones.  Examples include training graduations or promotions.
  • Recognitions/Celebrations. recognize employees for behind the scenes support, innovation-based process improvements, results-based project completion, customer satisfaction based, results based on cost savings or people working together etc.
  • SPOT Awards.  Individual non-organized P&S staff members may be eligible for Spot Awards of $150 or less or lump-sum flex pay awards (up to 10% of salary) per UI and F&O guidelines:
  • Extra Meritorious Pay.  Individual merit staff may be eligible for extra-meritorious pay per Board of Regents merit rules:  681-3.39(10) Pay for exceptional performance:
  • Create or utilize a "Thank a Colleague Program"
  • Write a card of thanks for a job well done.

Other Employee Support

Certain employee rewards are not recognition-based but may be appropriate to show support for staff at work and/or during life events.

  • Business Meetings/Training.  Departmental, project or other meetings (such as departmental retreats or all-day training events) may be scheduled to include lunch or dinner to better utilize the time of all parties involved
  • Funerals. Flowers for the funeral of an F&O staff member or their spouse/domestic partner, children, parents or siblings is typically limited to 60 dollars.  Departments may also choose to fund flowers for funerals through a personal donation process. 
  • Hospitalization.  F&O encourages departmental get well cards for hospitalization, but does not reimburse for this expense.
  • Other Life Events.  Cards are also encouraged for other life events, such as birth/adoption of a child or marriage.  Departments may also choose to provide a gift or flowers through a personal donation process as well.  
  • Employee Retirements and Departures.  The limits for retirement or departure events honoring those with at least 10 years of service to the University of Iowa or 5+ years of service within the department are: 
    Gift/Item:  $100 limit – Cash or gift certificates, regardless of amount, are considered taxable to the gift recipient and should be reported to Payroll. Non-cash gifts up to $100 are non-taxable to the gift recipient (retiree or employee).   (Remember that Merit staff may not be given gift certificates per the Merit Rules.)

Additional Resources

Other U of I Campus Rewards and Recognition Programs can be found here: and other campus information on other University of Iowa resources are available here:

Departmental programs must be reviewed and approved by the departmental DEO, Senior VP for F&O, the Finance and Operations Senior Director of Human Resources, and the Department Budget Officer.   Download the departmental recognition program form here PDF icon2018_fo_recognition_program_proposal_form_-_final.pdf

Communication of the Program

DEOs and unit administrators are encouraged to communicate Rewards and Recognition Program(s) to supervisors and employees.  You may want to share the information in your new employee orientation and onboarding sessions.  Employees are the lifeline to our mission of serving students at the University of Iowa.  Recognizing them for a job well done and for their service is essential.

Program Implementation and Evaluation

The program will be evaluated periodically to assess the effectiveness, cost, and impact.














1 ITA group - Trends in employee recognition (2013) ; CultureNext® Employee Engagement and Benchmark Study; Gallup - Employee Recognition:  Low Cost, High Impact 2016