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Recognition in The Real World
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Recognition Drives Employee Engagement at the University of Calgary

Posted By Sue Yoemans, Monday, August 20, 2018
By Elena Rhodes and Iryna Leonova on behalf of the University of Calgary

How to build a culture of recognition if you have more than 5,000 employees and your workforce is incredibly diverse? The University of Calgary approached this challenge by creating its Employee Recognition Strategy. The initiative is focused on recognizing individual and team behaviors and achievements which support university’s strategic goals and core values, while promoting a positive and respectful workplace.

However, creating a strategy is not enough. The university formed a dedicated recognition team in Human Resources to lead management of the strategy. It was also essential to find advocates across the organization to support its further development, implementation, and evaluation.

Three groups of recognition advocates help build a culture of recognition. The first one is the Employee Recognition Steering Committee. This committee of representatives from diverse employee groups worked on the Recognition Strategy. Following that, the Steering Committee has been guiding the strategy implementation. The Recognition Steering Committee is also responsible for using available resources, such as the information from a recognition preferences survey, to provide guidance on what recognition programs and practices are relevant to the employees. The recognition team collaborates with the Steering Committee in developing best practice recognition programs, education, and communication.

Local engagement or recognition committees in various faculties, schools, and departments represent the second group. Given that the University of Calgary is very diverse, the same practice will not fit all. The local committees help tailor university-wide recognition programs and practices to the units’ and faculties’ culture, goals, and unique landscape. The recognition team supports local committees through an ongoing consultation process.

Finally, the third group is the Employee Recognition Champions Network. The Network is a relatively new group created through an open call. Recognition champions are faculty and staff who are committed to acknowledging the great work that is happening across campus through formal recognition programs and informal recognition practices. Local recognition committees often provide a representative for the Recognition Champions Network. 

The champions learn about a variety of recognition tools and programs that are available at the university and exchange ideas among each other. They aim to promote effective recognition practices in their faculty or unit – individually or as part of a committee – with focus on peer-to-peer recognition. They also help the recognition team with feedback on recognition tools, practices, and programs and information on challenges and successes in their areas. The recognition champions meet bi-monthly to learn about recognition and exchange ideas. Between meetings, they communicate through a dedicated SharePoint site.

Together, these three groups of advocates provide robust guidance to the recognition team. They also help develop recognition into a grass-root culture campus-wide. The recognition advocates help build connections between different groups of employees, and create flexible and sustainable recognition programs and practices.

To learn more about this RPI award-winning initiative, please visit the University of Calgary website at https://www.ucalgary.ca/

The University of Calgary won the RPI Best Practice Standards® Award in 2018 form Recognition Professionals International (RPI). The RPI Best Practice Standards® Award honors organizations who implement the RPI Best Practice Standards®, which are based on knowledge gained from academic literature, professional conferences, and shared experiences in developing successful recognition programs. Standards are designed to be useful for the creation and evaluation of recognition programs in the public and private sectors, large and small organizations, and organizations with single or multiple locations or functions.

Tags:  employee engagement  employee recognition  RPI 7 Best Practices(SM) 

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