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Ways to say thank you

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it" - William Arthur Ward

We all like to feel appreciated but how often do we take the time to say thank you and praise a colleague for a job well done? From a University perspective, recognition and appreciation are vital: they create a positive working environment, motivate people, make them feel valued, help them to see the purpose and importance of their work, and improve performance by reinforcing positive behaviours and embedding values.

The 2019 Staff Survey highlighted the need for all of us to get better at recognising and appreciating the work of our colleagues. We all know how important it is, but it can sometimes be hard to think of ways for us as individuals and for our institutions to say thank you well and sincerely and to embed appreciation in our institutional culture. This guidance/information is intended for anyone looking for find new and interesting ways to say thank you and for those wishing to encourage others in their institution to do the same.

This page is intended to be dynamic and to evolve over time. We will be using it to share stories and best practice and to reach out to colleagues for ideas. If you have suggestions to make, we would love to hear from you. Please contact 

"The smallest thanks is always worth more than the effort it takes to give it"


There are lots of ways to express appreciation and say thank you - both formally and informally.

Informal Recognition

There are many different ways in which we can ensure our colleagues feel appreciated. The type of approach you take will depend on the particular circumstances of your team/department and the environment in which you're working.There is no one approach so below are a range of ideas for different things you can try. We hope you find them helpful and if you have any great examples of your own we would love to hear about them. Please contact if you have anything you would like to share.

  • Use the praise function on Yammer and Microsoft Teams to publicly acknowledge something great that your colleagues have done/are doing.
  • Thank-you cards 
  • Pinboards (virtual and in person) see this case study on the Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology thank you board to see how it can work in practice
  • Marking long service - it can be very straight forward to mark an occasion as you will see in Amanda's story about celebrating long service at Cambridge Assessment.
  • UIS inititiated a Leadership Community of Practice to focus on reward and recognition actions which resulted in a number of activities, read more about them in this case study
  • Recognition schemes - the Cambridge Institute designed a staff recognition programme called Spotlight, giving people the opportunity to nominate their colleagues for excellent work.
  • Positive 360 - for smaller teams you can ask everyone on the team to write down one thing they appreciate about each of the other members of the team (can be done anonymously) and then collate the feedback and give to each individual. This could work well for a team meeting, away day or as part of the annual review process.

Formal Recognition

The University operates a number of contribution reward and progression schemes for different staff categories. More details about these can be found by visiting the Reward Schemes page on the HR website.

The University normally operates an annual Contribution Reward Scheme for Academic-Related and Assistant staff in grades 1-11. However, as a result of COVID-19 and its resulting impact on the University's financial situation, the 2021 scheme will only be available to Assistant staff in grades 1 to 5. For more details please visit the Contribution Reward Scheme webpage. 

The Professional Services Recognition Scheme aims to recognise, highlight and celebrate the very best work across all professional service areas in the University. It is open to individuals and teams across the University whose work supports research and education. Find out more by visiting the Professional Services Recognition Scheme webpage.



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