University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Make it count by getting SMART with staff recognition

Group of people congratulating a coworker

Staff recognition doesn't have to be hard, but it should be SMART. Use this acronym to make the most of your thank yous!

S - Sincere

Sincere appreciation and recognition for good work goes farther than recognition for its own sake. Be specific about the appreciation, such as saying “thank you for helping with inventory,” rather than a general thank you.

M - Meaningful

Recognition should also be meaningful to the employee.  Some employees find a one-on-one thank you to be highly validating, while others find public recognition more meaningful.

A - Adapt

This also connects to adapting recognition. As a reminder, employers should consider each staff member as an individual.

R - Relevant

The recognition can also be made more meaningful when relevant to the action that prompted it. For an employee who helped pilot a new menu idea, maybe that employee can be the current holder of a fun symbol of the kitchen, like a golden spoon.

T - Timely

Lastly, make sure that recognition is given in a timely manner. It’s better late than never, but an employee who was a leader for a large holiday meal in winter probably should not be recognized all the way at the end of the school year.

Personalizing staff recognition is important for everyday accomplishments and milestones alike. Still, don’t forget about annual opportunities to celebrate school nutrition and spread positive vibes among staff!

School Lunch Hero Day

School Lunch Hero Day is celebrated on the first Friday in May. School Lunch Hero Day provides you with the perfect opportunity to recognize the hardworking professionals in your school cafeterias. School Lunch Hero Day is a partnership between the School Nutrition Association and Jarrett J. Krosoczka, of the “Lunch Lady” book series, to remind everyone that school nutrition employees are superheroes that deserve some recognition. The website has sample press releases, greeting cards, social media posts, and more!

National School Lunch Week and National School Breakfast Week

President John F. Kennedy created National School Lunch Week (NSLW) in 1962 to promote the importance of a healthy school lunch in a child’s life and the impact it has inside and outside of the classroom. NSLW is observed in October and NSBW in March. National School Lunch Week and National School Breakfast Week are sponsored by the School Nutrition Association. Each year they come out with a theme and toolkit. The toolkit includes social media posts, graphics, activity sheets, and other items to help you celebrate with the whole school and recognize the people who make it all happen.

Come back next week for even MORE on staff recognition – including more tips and specific ideas!