Engaging employees to do great things at UST: St. Thomas launches new employee recognition programs

It is impossible to overemphasize the valuable role that employees play in helping the University of St. Thomas achieve its strategic priorities and carry out its mission. Our 1,500 staff and faculty represent our richest resource. I agree with those who say that St. Thomas is fortunate to employ such a large number of extremely dedicated and talented employees.

In recognition of this fact, members of the Academic and Administrative Leadership Group and the President’s Staff recently approved several new employee recognition programs. These programs comprise the new "Circle of Engagement." Its mantra is “engaging employees to do great things.”

Included within the Circle of Engagement are seven programs. Of these seven, five are new and two have been implemented by the Human Resources Department. Each program signals our intention to make employee recognition an important and intrinsic aspect of work life at St. Thomas. The programs’ goals are to acknowledge and reward employees for their tremendous contributions and to demonstrate the university’s commitment to fostering excellence, communication and respect throughout the campus community.

Provided below is a brief description of each program. Employees also can learn more by visiting the Human Resources Department Web site.

Employee Suggestion Award Program
The Employee Suggestion Awards Program recognizes and rewards eligible staff and faculty for creative ideas that, when implemented, result in increased efficiencies, net savings, new revenue, or significant improvements in operations. This program contemplates contributions that may fall outside or beyond an employee’s normal job responsibilities.

Two types of rewards are granted – a lump-sum monetary award and time-off award. Both awards are in addition to an employee’s regular pay or paid leave time or vacation. The award ranges from $500 to $1,000, and the university pays the employee’s personal income taxes associated with the award. You may obtain more information about this program here.

Professional development
The Leadership Academy is St. Thomas’ professional development program. It provides an opportunity for all employees to enhance their professional skills and effectiveness in meeting the changing needs of the university. Employees may choose from an array of different programs, workshops, and seminars offered throughout the year. More information is available here.

Welcoming new employees
Many of us know intuitively that most individuals want to work for an employer that offers a welcoming work environment. There are many characteristics of a great workplace. One characteristic that reflects the overall culture of an institution is the employer’s commitment to creating a welcoming atmosphere in which all employees – especially those just joining the campus community – truly can feel a part of something special.

At St. Thomas, two programs of this type exist for staff – the New Employee Ambassador Program and the New Employee Welcome Program.

New Employee Ambassador Program is an informal program designed to help ease the transition for new employees into the St. Thomas campus community. It also assists employees in becoming more integrated into the day-to-day activities of their units and the St. Thomas culture. An ambassador typically is a new employee’s co-worker who understands the intricacies of the unit. At the time of employment, the hiring unit will identify an employee within the unit to serve as the unit ambassador. Additional information is available here.

New Employee Welcome Program includes greeting cards for new employees and public announcements of their joining St. Thomas. They receive a greeting card from Human Resources, and a public announcement appears in Bulletin Today as a way to introduce new employees to the campus community.

Staff Mentorship Program
The Staff Mentorship Program is a collaborative effort between Human Resources and Office of Institutional Diversity.

Mentoring long has been shown to foster learning and self-improvement for employees at all levels. Seasoned employees share their knowledge and experience with staff members who are less experienced. This mentoring relationship provides mentors an opportunity to gain a fresh perspective and develop new relationships while affording mentees a knowledgeable and friendly resource from whom they receive guidance, coaching, and encouragement.

This one-year pilot program begins July 2. Applications and nominations are accepted from May 7 to 25. Additional information, including nomination and application forms, is available here.

Staff Recognition Award Program
The objective of this program is to recognize annually two staff members who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, service, and achievement in education or community building. The awards are the Lifelong Learner Award and the Distinguished Citizen Award.

Lifelong Learner Award recognizes a staff member who has demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning, self-renewal and professional development. The focus of learning should transcend the specific requirements of the individual’s current job responsibilities. Though the award is given annually, activities documented on the nomination form likely will address learning over a longer period. Awardees receive a $2,500 St. Thomas budget, which they may use to fund their own professional development or donate part of or the entire award in their own name to a St. Thomas scholarship fund.

Distinguished Citizen Award honors a staff member whose contributions reflect the qualities of good citizenship, such as providing service to others and advancing the common good for the campus and broader communities by enhancing the quality of life for others. Awardees receive a 40-hour, paid recognition leave to engage in community activities with a nonprofit organization of his or her choosing. This paid leave may be used at one time or incrementally during the calendar year in which the award is granted.

Additional information about the Staff Recognition Award Program, including nomination and application forms, is available here.

Years of Service Award Program
Each year, employees are recognized for their continuous years of service to St. Thomas through a public ceremony hosted by Human Resources. Employees who reach the five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and beyond years-of-service milestones are honored and receive a special recognition gift from the university.