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Performance management handbook (recognition) - overview

In the Department, there are three types of recognition -- cash, non-monetary, and honor awards. Each type of award has its own specific criteria and documentation requirements. 

Cash Awards

Cash awards (one-time, lump-sum payments) may be granted to individuals or groups for various reasons such as performance or superior accomplishments (special acts, suggestions, or inventions). Cash awards offer employees and supervisors an array of recognition possibilities that are flexible enough to recognize and reward differences in individual performance. However, sound judgment is essential. Mistakes that result in undeserving employees receiving recognition, or deserving employees going unrecognized, will undermine both management’s credibility as well as the credibility of the program. Cash awards have their own unique technical requirements. In granting a cash award, supervisors must ensure that the award is based solely on merit and that the award amount is proportionate to the level of the contribution to the organizational unit to ensure that awards granted are viewed as reasonable and justified.

Normally, cash awards are paid by the operating unit(s) benefiting from the contribution. When an award is paid to an employee in another operating unit or another federal agency, arrangements must be made to reimburse the employing operating unit or agency. Refer to 5 CFR 451.104(d) and 5 U.S.C. 4502(d) regarding the administrative costs outweighing award amounts to determine the method of reimbursement.

Non-Monetary Awards

Non-monetary awards are more varied and unique than cash awards and offer two major advantages over cash awards -- they help meet employees' needs for recognition, growth, and responsibility, and most can be relatively inexpensive. In the Department, non-monetary awards range from small merchandise awards to certificates of appreciation. The technical requirements are equally varied, ranging from awards with no documentation (certificates of appreciation) to awards requiring management's signature (external awards) before being submitted to the Department. 

Honor Awards

Since 1949, the Department has granted honor awards in the form of Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals. The Gold and Silver Medals are the highest and second highest honor granted by the Secretary for distinguished and exceptional performance. The Bronze Medal is granted by the head of an operating unit or Secretarial Officer for superior performance. Honor Awards are granted in seven categories: Leadership, Personal and Professional Service, Scientific/Engineering Achievement, Organizational Development, Customer Service, Administrative/Technical Support, or Heroism.

 NOTE: Recipients of Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals are prohibited from receiving a cash award in conjunction with the medal award for the same accomplishment.