Recognition & Rewards: key takeaways from the roundtables

How do we strike a new balance in the Recognition and Rewards system? What challenges do we face? And what opportunities are there? Employees at Radboud University and Radboud university medical center discussed these and other issues during a series of roundtable meetings. Below we share the key takeaways.

During the first discussion round, the memorandum drafted by the Recognition and Rewards Committee was the focal point. The participants, ranging from PhD candidates to professors to postdocs, represented various academic disciplines at the university. An additional four roundtable discussions were held later in the year based on the four themes from the memorandum: team science, career diversity in science, quality above quantity, and an eye for the human dimension. Which lessons did we learn from these conversations with employees? We share the key takeaways below.

A crucial role for supervisors

Supervisors play a crucial role in the new Recognition & Rewards system. If we demand more support, peer review and personalisation from them, we have to give them more time and more room to achieve this. During the themed discussions it was noted that supervisors may have to be decoupled from the current academic hierarchy. This means the HR department will play a key role, as they are responsible for developing leadership programmes.

Smaller gap between theory and practice

According to many of the participants, there is a discrepancy between theory and practice. To them, the memo felt like ‘icing on a non-existent cake’. There is also a difference between how far the faculties are with implementing the new Recognition & Rewards system. The responsibility for bridging these gaps largely lies with the Executive Board. According to participants, the Executive Board will have to encourage the faculties - through financial and other means - to identify challenges and opportunities on the road towards implementation.

Different opportunities for career growth

Participants want the university to look beyond vertical promotion as the only road towards career growth. They believe there should be room for horizontal career growth as well. Individual grants should not be the only path to promotion. Instead, they would prefer to see a more flexible solution with more autonomy, temporary promotions, financial compensation for certain (ancillary) activities, and less top-down control. Good education and leadership should be the cornerstone of career growth.

Not everyone can afford to escape the rat race

The participants noted how difficult it is to actively change the Recognition & Rewards system. This is easier for employees with a permanent contract, but PhD candidates, postdocs and assistant professors don’t have the luxury of escaping the competitive rat race. It is important to create clarity about their career prospects and provide them with good mentorship.

Similar themes

Teamwork was discussed extensively during each of the themed roundtables. While defining ‘team science' in clear, unambiguous terms is no easy task, examples of collaboration and team effort emerge frequently in the best practices.

Too many negative incentives at the university

Negative incentives often stand in the way of positive change. Participants noted the importance of systematically removing smaller, but influential negative incentives. While most of these incentives were developed with the best intentions, few deliver the intended results. Participants have asked the board to take a clear stance on this.

A lot of young people are committed to Recognition & Rewards

Young academics in particular can benefit a lot from positive changes, as they are at the start of their careers. However, this process creates a lot of uncertainty and job insecurity in addition to the pressure to perform. It is important to value their contributions and efforts and give them a prominent place in roundtable discussions on shaping the university-wide vision of a new Recognition & Rewards system.

Good education is a crucial aspect of working at the university

There is currently too little recognition from above for the contributions lecturers make to the university - especially given that they spend half their time teaching. Lecturers want to feel heard and appreciated. Participants call for clearer career paths in university education and the freedom and resources to develop and innovate. Radboud University should place as much value on teaching as it does on research.

Visual reports of all roundtable meetings

On this page we present the visual reports of all roundtable meetings (in Dutch, English translations will follow in due course). These summarise the outcomes of each discussion. As you will see, there is considerable overlap between the topics discussed, but there are also key differences. In the coming months, the Recognition & Rewards Committee will work on a university-wide vision on this theme based on the insights gained during the roundtable discussions.

Share your stories or ideas!

Do you want to contribute to the new Recognition & Rewards system? Can you think of a way to promote the Recognition & Rewards system among your colleagues or in your faculty? If so, we would love to hear from you. Send an e-mail to erkennenwaarderen [at] (erkennenwaarderen[at]ru[dot]nl).