Today, March 4, is National Employee Recognition Day, and WSU is celebrating the event by announcing a significant revision to its Employee Recognition Program.

Students and faculty are the obvious components of a university, but their work would be impossible if not for the staff who support their learning, teaching and research missions.

Recognizing this, Washington State University is implementing plans for more frequent and varied opportunities to thank and reward staff employees. Funded with approximately $100,000 per year, the Employee Recognition Program officially will begin in July.

“This is clearly the president’s program,” said Steve DeSoer, director of Human Resource Services and chair of the committee that has been working to enhance and expand employee recognition. “It is his vision of the institution, his decision to commit the effort and funds to focus on the staff side of the house.”

At least a couple of incidents occurred that encouraged President V. Lane Rawlins to sharpen that focus. First, he increased university salaries in fall 2003, but was dismayed to learn classified staff could not be included because of state regulations. Second, when Facilities Operations dispatcher Debbie Hill kept her head and kept WSU going during a subzero day in January 2004, Rawlins perceived the university needed a vehicle for recognizing such efforts. (Hill is recipient of one of the 2005 President’s Employee Recognition Awards; please see article on page 3 of this issue)

“The staff at WSU is the muscle that makes the place successful,” said Rawlins. “I feel strongly that they are underpaid and underrecognized, and I hope we can address these issues in the near future. I endorse this program as a small first step.”

Among the recognition programs WSU is working to implement are:

• An enhanced length-of-service program which will add 15, 35, 45 and 50 years of service awards, so the program will recognize employees at every five-year interval beginning with five years of service.

Employees will receive a certificate of service, as well as a gift or gift certificate worth in dollars their number of years of service. For example, someone with five years of service will receive a $5 gift or gift certificate, someone with 20 years a $20 gift or certificate, etc. Gift certificates will be from WSU vendors, and other options like donation to a charity will also be a available.

Employees will choose their own gifts. “We want to tell people we recognize and value their longevity,” DeSoer said, “but we want to allow the employee to say ‘This is how I wish to be recognized.’ “

WSU anticipates these enhancements will approximately double what it now spends on length-of-service recognition.

Those with more than 25 years also will continue to receive a plaque and recognition from WSU’s Quarter Century Club at it’s annual breakfast. Historically, faculty have joined the recognition program with induction into the Quarter Century Club and that process will continue.

“When we put more than 100 people into the Quarter Century Club, like last year, that’s a lot of people,” DeSoer said. “If that doesn’t tell you something about the quality of the place you’re working, I don’t know what does.”

Length of service will be recognized twice a year at cake, coffee and punch receptions held in March and October. However, the first recognition, in fall 2005, will be an “Oops” reception, DeSoer said. It will recognize employees whose longevity has been overlooked in the past.

“There hasn’t been a consistent recognition of longevity at WSU,” he said. Employees will be asked to identify one longevity milestone, probably the most recent, for which they were overlooked. They will be recognized at the “Oops” reception.

“We won’t argue with folks,” DeSoer said. “It’s their call.” The intent is to establish a baseline from where the improved longevity program can begin, he said.

• An “Everyday Hero” or “Cougar Spirit” award (the precise name hasn’t yet been determined. Suggestions are welcome; contact DeSoer at 335-4521). Beginning in fall 2005, monthly winners will earn gift certificates of $25-$50. Both faculty and staff employees will be eligible as often as once a year.

Employees will be nominated for quality service, exceptional creativity in problem solving, noteworthy effort, demonstration of trust and respect in a difficult situation, or other superior efforts in support of WSU’s strategic goals.

Any WSU community member can make nominations. Selection will be made by a review committee from the President’s Office, which will administer recognition. Nomination forms will be available online and at the CUB and various offices and departments across the university.

• A Mini-Grant Service and Excellence Recognition Program, planned for late fall 2005 or spring 2006 implementation. Colleges and departments may request funding for 12 months for classified or administrative professional staff development or recognition programs that advance the mission and strategic plan of WSU.

These could include seminars, speakers or training, as well as seed funds for innovative ideas and other programs. The parameters are intentionally vague, DeSoer said, to encourage applicants. “It’s amazing what people can come up with when you open the door,” he said.

Proposals will be evaluated by the director of HRS and a committee of members from the previous year’s grant recipients. They will be assessed on: support of WSU’s mission, brand and strategic plan; feasibility; desired impact; partnerships with other units; and eligibility requirements.

• Brochures explaining the Employee Recognition Program and guiding managers in how to implement and continue recognition efforts. These should be available this summer, DeSoer said.