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Administrative Policies - Policy 0029

State of Vermont
Agency of Administration

Policy 0029


Applicable To:     Permanent and Limited Service, Classified Employees of the Department of Buildings & General Services

Issued By:           Department of Department of Buildings & General Services

Approved by:      Christopher Cole, Commissioner

Date Approved:   July 16, 2019 (Supersedes draft policy dated April 1, 2017)


PURPOSE:  This memorandum establishes Department policy and criteria for merit awards and establishes procedures for submission, review, and approval or denial of nominations and associated awards. 

POLICY:  It is important to recognize employees for significant contributions and outstanding achievements within the Department. These contributions come in varied forms including, but not limited to, sustained high quality work over an extended period, successful efforts on projects, stand-out “moments of success” such as an outstanding customer service or problem resolution effort, or the helpful effects an individual has on his or her organization through positive attitude and collaborative efforts.

GENERAL GUIDELINES:  Merit awards will be implemented in accordance with this policy, the State Personnel Policies and Procedures, and the Outstanding Performance article of the Agreements between the State of Vermont and the Vermont State Employees Association, Inc.

Commissioner’s Authority:

  • The Commissioner, or his/her designee, reserves the right to modify this policy and may directly issue a merit award.
  • Awards to the Department’s designated managers will not be reviewed by the Merit Committee.
  • The Commissioner reserves the right to propose and approve any merit awards without submitting such award to the Merit Committee.

Qualified Employees:

  • This policy is restricted to permanent and limited service classified employees.
  • Employees in original probation or in work test period or under disciplinary action do not qualify for awards under this policy. 

Source of Funds: 

  • All funds for employee awards come from the awarded employee’s program budget.

Frequency of Awards:

  • Peer to Peer Awards:  No individual employee may receive more than one “Peer to Peer” award and one merit bonus within the same fiscal year without the prior approval of the Commissioner of Human Resources. An employee may receive up to two “Peer to Peer” Awards in the same fiscal year.
  • Merit Step Increase:  An employee receiving a two-step increase may receive a bonus or time-off award in the second year.

MERIT AWARDS COMMITTEE (MAC): There is hereby established a Merit Awards Committee (MAC). The MAC will consist of a minimum of four members, and a Chair, each appointed by the Commissioner for two-year terms.  There is no prohibition from serving multiple terms.  The Chair will be a member of Senior Management.  Regular meetings of the MAC will be held monthly.  The Chair may call special meetings at any time.  Meetings of the MAC may be held in person or by other means as the Chair deems appropriate.  The purpose of the MAC will be to review merit award nominations for internal equity and consistency, make recommendations on approval of awards to the Commissioner, and to review and recommend to the Commissioner changes to the criteria to be followed in evaluating nominations.

Using the criteria outlined in this policy, any award must be approved by a majority.To provide uniformity and consistency, the MAC reserves the right to recommend a modification to the proposed compensation for any award.Once the MAC has developed a recommendation for awards, including the employee and compensation, they will submit the recommendation(s) to the Commissioner for his or her approval.


  1. Nonrecurring Awards:  A nonrecurring award is a lump sum or cash equivalent award granted on a one-time basis.  It does not alter the employee's current hourly rate of pay.  There are two types of nonrecurring awards:

1.A Peer-to-Peer Recognition Award: Peer recognition awards are for a range of employee accomplishments and contributions. This type of award is appropriate for collaborative acts of an employee that assisted other employees in achieving the mission. Nominations may be made at any time by employees.

  • The amount of this award will not exceed $250 or may be a time-off award up to 4 hours.

1.B Merit Bonus:  A merit bonus is a one-time payment appropriate for special recognition of exceptional performance on a project or other specific short-term (i.e., less than 12 month) activity.  During the period being recognized, the employee's overall performance must be satisfactory or higher. 

  • A bonus may range from $250 to an amount not to exceed 8% of the annualized base salary of the employee, payable through the payroll system, or a time-off award of 8 to 40 hours.
  1. Merit Step Increase:  A merit step increase is a permanent adjustment to salary that advances the step level of the employee by one or two steps.  A step increase may be warranted when faster than normal salary advancement is appropriate due to sustained long-term (i.e., at least 12 months for one step and 24 months for two steps) performance that significantly exceeds all standards, or other exceptional achievement. 
  • An employee is not eligible to receive more than one step increase in any 12-month period or two step increases in a 24-month period. 

​Performance Evaluation Guidelines for Merit Step Increase:

  • The employee must have received an outstanding performance appraisal for the period for which the performance or special achievement is being recognized, i.e.,
    • One current outstanding evaluation for a one-step award, and
    • Two consecutive outstanding evaluations for a two-step award. 
  • The employee’s latest evaluation(s) must be current for all Merit Step Increases, with date and rating accurately noted on the nomination application. 

AWARD CRITERIA:  The following is a list of criteria to consider in evaluating employee nominations.  In most cases, any one of these behaviors may warrant recognition.  Nominees for bonuses and merit increases will, most likely, exhibit many the behaviors

  • Collaboration
    • Makes and implements service improvement suggestions
    • Brings in new information, techniques, or materials to support and encourage fresh thinking
    • Takes initiative and calculated risks to try new things
    • Builds enthusiasm and optimism among co-workers to expand their belief in what's possible
    • Encourages individuals to volunteer and get involved in projects that are of special interest
    • Helps others think things through and get "unstuck" so they can act within constraints
  • Communication
    • Increases positive visibility with our customers; promotes mission of the department
    • Resolves conflicts through constructive engagement
    • Provides service perceived as quality by both external and internal customers
    • Is proactive rather than reactive
    • Writes and prepares documentation that is clear, concise, and accurate
  • Competence
    • Demonstrates problem solving skills 
    • Participates in job skill training
    • Streamlines tasks
    • Eliminates waste or duplication
    • Ends unproductive tasks
    • Manages work time to focus on priority tasks
    • Delegates while maintaining quality
  • Teamwork
    • Displays a positive attitude toward tasks, public, and co-workers
    • Uses humor constructively to keep self and co-workers energized
    • Addresses conflicts with co-workers so a positive climate prevails
    • Acts in a manner which contributes to other workers having a positive attitude and working more productively
    • Places the needs of the team above his or her individual needs or motivations
  • Other
    • Increased employee’s efficiency
    • Demonstrates excellent customer service
    • Other


Nominations for Nonrecurring (One-Time) Awards

Peer Recognition Award will be submitted on a Peer Recognition Form, which should be completed as thoroughly as possible, detailing the circumstances warranting recognition.

Merit Bonus Award will be submitted on the Merit Bonus form.  The form should be completed as thoroughly as possible, detailing the circumstances warranting recognition. 

Nominations for Merit Step Awards

  • Nominations for all Merit Step Awards will be submitted on a Merit Step nomination form. 
    • The nomination shall include a complete and thorough write up detailing the circumstances warranting recognition. 
    • The nomination should clearly identify the elements of the Award Criteria (listed above) which are being identified for consideration.
    • The information will include the date(s) and rating of current evaluations
      • Must have a current Outstanding evaluation for a one step increase
      • Must have two consecutive Outstanding evaluations for a two-step increase
    • Supporting documentation may include:
      • Comments and recommendations from the employee's supervisor, manager, and/or appointing authority
      • Letters of commendation, support, or appreciation that speak to the employee's interactions with other departments, customers, clients, and public or private contacts
      • Examples of work products, documentation of achievements, or other forms of documentation as appropriate insofar as it relates to the employee's job performance and the award under consideration
      • Specific details that illustrate how the nominee exhibited the award criteria of collaboration, communication, competence, and/or teamwork
      • Current supervisory feedback that is associated with the nomination
      • Current annual, special, or promotional performance evaluation


Routing All Completed Nomination Forms - Once the online nomination form has been filled out:

  • Nominator:  Submitted form is electronically transferred to the nominee’s Division Director
    • If the nominator or nominee is a Division Director or Commissioner’s Office staff, the form goes to the Commissioner’s Executive Assistant.
  • Division Director:  Director reviews the proposed nomination
    • Verifies performance evaluation dates/rating
    • Adds comments for either support or modifications
    • Submitted form goes to the Commissioner’s Executive Assistant
  • Executive Assistant
    • Collects all nominations
    • Spreadsheet is populated with details of each nomination as they are submitted
    • Directs to MAC monthly for review/recommendations
    • Schedules meetings as necessary
  • Merit Advisory Committee:  MAC reviews
    • Reviews nominations and Division Director’s input
    • Makes recommendations for each nomination
    • Forwards to the Commissioner
  • The Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner may
    • Approve and forward to DHR for review, or
    • Modify/deny and notify MAC of changes.
    • Additionally, the Commissioner, or his/her designee, reserves the right to directly submit an award without submitting such award to the MAC.


  • Notification of an award shall first go to the employee’s unit Manager.
  • The Human Resources Administrator will process the award for payment.


The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of BGS may offer additional recognition and reward programs which promote and honor specific Department goals (i.e. Employee Retention Bonus). Commissioner Office Recognition Programs will be administered directly by the Commissioner of BGS, Deputy Commissioner of BGS, and the Human Resources Administrator. Please contact your Director or Committee Chair with any questions about the Meritorious Awards Program.

Merit Award Nomination Form

Peer Recognition Form

Department Approval:  Christopher Cole, Commissioner