Question and answer
On this page, you will find a collection of frequently asked questions about Recognition & Rewards. This program—aimed at a culture and systemic change to achieve recognition and appreciation of a greater diversity of talents within our university community. We would like to keep you as well informed as possible about the developments. The questions are regularly updated and supplemented.
What is the purpose of Recognition & Rewards?
The origin and urgency of the national Recognition & Rewards program lies in the dissatisfaction of many academics with the current system in which the emphasis regarding appraisal and promotion focuses on excellence in research. Other areas—education, impact, leadership, and team spirit—are undervalued. At the same time, academics are expected to do the impossible: combine roles in all these domains, regardless of individual talents or preferences. On top of this, recruitment and promotion policies have become increasingly focused on quantitative output indicators, resulting in hyper competition. This is further reinforced by the prolonged uncertainty about permanent contracts in a crucial phase of life. The national Recognition & Rewards program aims at a systemic and culture change with the objective of recognizing and appreciating academics more broadly and creating space for career paths that are life-cycle proof and offer room for everyone's individual talent, with an emphasis on education, research, impact, or leadership. At Tilburg University, Recognition & Rewards is part of Use (y)our Talents, the broader vision on talent development for all employees.
Tilburg University believes it is important that all its employees feel recognized and valued and that they can further develop their strengths. The new Performance & Talent Development system—aimed at facilitating continuous feedback, self-reflection, and open dialogue—is being implemented university wide. This also applies to Connected Leading (only accessible for staff members), Tilburg University's leadership program in which personal leadership and teamwork play a central role. For all our employees, sustainable employability is of great importance. Tilburg University wants to be a progressive employer that recognizes and appreciates everyone's talent and offers appropriate career opportunities. We want to support and encourage all employees in their talent development and the use of their strengths.
National and International Context
How do the Tilburg plans relate to the national Recognition & Rewards program?
In 2019, the Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), research-funding organization (NWO and ZonMw), the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), and the KNAW jointly published the position paper Room for Everyone's Talent. It is a plea for a new way of recognition and rewards that does justice to the changes science has gone through in recent decades, by recognizing all the different domains in which scientists are active: education, research, impact, and leadership. On a national and also international level, universities, research institutions, and research-funding organization are working closely together in this. After all, the culture and system change that Recognition & Rewards aims to achieve can only be achieved together.
In March 2023, the roadmap Room for Everyone's Talent in Practice was published. This sets out how Dutch academic institutions will implement Recognition & Rewards in the various domains in the coming years.
Within the national program, an important focus is on different ways to shape academic careers (diversification). In Tilburg, the Recognition & Rewards program is part of the broader vision of talent development: Use (y)our Talents for all employees. Tilburg University thus explicitly broadens the recognition and appreciation of talent to the entire university community. The Tilburg vision focuses on developing strengths, working together in teams, a culture of continuous feedback, reflection and open dialogue, and personal leadership.
Why does the Tilburg program have different domains compared to the national program?
In the national position paper, the following domains are mentioned: education, research, impact, leadership, and (for the UMCs) patient care. Since Tilburg University does not have a UMC, we leave patient care out of consideration. However, we have added team spirit as a separate domain. The national position paper talks about team science, but in Tilburg we see this in a broader context. The culture change that Recognition & Rewards aims to bring about has already partly been initiated at Tilburg University with Connected Leading. We are already working on a different—more inclusive—leadership culture with a focus on employees and their talents. Within Connected Leading, as within Recognition & Rewards, the team also plays an important role. We all have our own roles and work together towards common goals. Team spirit, however, is not a separate domain in the sense that it is possible to accentuate it in the context of an academic career. Team spirit supports the other domains. It is something that we expect from all our employees, regardless of their position or role.
What about the international context?
The change of Recognition & Rewards is inescapable; it is in line with the developments in science in recent decades. For example, scientific work has become primarily teamwork. Such great changes have occurred in computing and data that a scientist needs others to answer a research question. The major innovations in science are often at the intersection of disciplines; interdisciplinary collaboration, often even across national borders, is much more common than before.
Yet, the change in recognition and appreciation of scientists is also seen as an exciting change. Both for employees who wonder what impact a change through Recognition & Rewards will have on their international careers and for our institution and our international reputation for which it may raise questions. But Tilburg University and the other Dutch universities are certainly not alone in this change: institutes and institutions throughout Europe and beyond are working on this issue.
- Within the framework of ENGAGE.EU, Tilburg University also works on talent development initiatives in an international context
- Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) works closely with the European University Association (EUA) and the Association of American Universities (AAE)
- Grant providers collaborate internationally on Recognition & Rewards goals (NWO, ERC).
- The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is also committed to Recognition & Rewards at the European level.
- The Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is an international declaration that states that the content and quality of research should be paramount and more important than quantitative indicators. It has been signed by many organizations worldwide.
- Advancing Teaching is an international initiative dedicated to recognizing, valuing, and evaluating academic education at universities.
- In 2022, the European Research Council (ERC) signed the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment. At the end of 2022, the Tilburg University Executive Board also signed this agreement. This declaration has also been signed by more than 500 scientific institutions worldwide.
With Recognition & Rewards, we want to create space for a greater diversity of talent, for all our employees. By emphasizing personal strengths and working together in teams in which we complement each other, we expect to maintain and even reinforce our position as a good university.
As an academic, do I have to excel in all five domains?
It is emphatically not the intention that everyone should excel in every domain. Given the university's core tasks, the starting point is that all academics are involved in the domains of education and research. The emphasis on the five domains may differ from person to person and may change during your career. It is possible to place an emphasis on societal impact, but impact always stems from education and/or research. Tilburg University considers personal leadership important for all employees. In addition, it is possible to put an emphasis on leadership in the sense of formal leadership roles. The domain team spirit is of a different order. It is not possible to place an emphasis on this; we expect team spirit from all our employees.
What do we mean by a team and what does team spirit involve?
Within Tilburg University, we are usually part of a basic team (an organizational unit), and we also work together in various teams in the field of education and research. Students, external partners, and colleagues from the Divisions also form part of these teams. We also increasingly work together across Department and Division boundaries. Within these teams, everyone contributes from their own strength and expertise. In a well-functioning team, all team members make an active contribution to the team, look after each other's well-being, and make a joint effort to achieve the team's objectives (Bindl & Parker, 2011). By team spirit, we mean offering an active contribution to the greater whole (team, School, university): active participation in the team, contributing to team goals, and creating a positive culture within the team (Brief & Motowidlo, 1986; Smith et al., 1986). Concrete examples are helping or supporting a team member, for example in the role of buddy or mentor; participating in working groups or steering committees; and participating in an assessment committee.
In the literature on teams and team spirit, there is often refered to the concepts of
'Proactive work behavior' and 'Organizational Citizenship Behavior'. Would you like to read more background information about these concepts? Then click on the articles below.
- Bindl, U. K., & Parker, S. K. (2011). Proactive work behavior: Forward-thinking and change-oriented action in organizations.
- Brief, A. P., & Motowidlo, S. J. (1986). Prosocial organizational behaviors.
- Smith, C. A., Organ, D. W., & Near, J. P. (1983). Organizational citizenship behavior: Its nature and antecedents.
When will employees notice something about the Recognition & Rewards program?
Use (y)our Talents, a program Recognition & Rewards falls under, has been given a place in Tilburg University's new Strategy for the period 2022–2027. This is based on dialogue sessions on the ideas of Recognition & Rewards within the Tilburg University Schools. The outcomes of these sessions have been published on the Recognition & Rewards page and—together with input from working groups in the various academic areas and discussions with, among others, the participation body and the Tilburg Young Academy—form the basis for concrete recommendations to the Executive Board and the Deans.
In 2023, the following focal points will be:
- Differentiation of academic careers
- Strategic Personnel Planning (SPP)
- Vision on Open Science
Aren't the plans too ambitious/optimistic?
The plans are indeed ambitious: they involve a culture change for the entire organization. However, we are not alone in this; we are working together with the other Dutch universities. This ambition is also in line with the university’s strategy for the period 2022–2027 and the core values that are central to this strategy: Connected, Curious, Caring, and Courageous. More importantly, the plans are a response to the needs of our staff and have been developed in dialogue with scientists from different Schools, from PhD candidates to full professors. Of course, there is also support from the Executive Board and the Deans, but these are not top-down plans.
As an academic, will I now have more time for education (or research, impact, leadership tasks)?
This question cannot simply be answered with “yes” or “no.” The starting point is to create more space for individual ambitions and talents. For some people, this could mean more time and space for education, research, impact, or leadership. The basic principle is that all our academics are and remain involved in both education and research. Individual preferences must of course be balanced with the needs and (financial) possibilities of the organization. A choice for a certain domain or a choice to switch domains must be in line with the composition and strategy of the Department so that justice is done to both individual and collective interests.
Does recognizing and rewarding mean we stop using metrics like the impact factor or the h-index to measure scientific performance altogether?
What we have in mind is a more nuanced approach to scientific quality. Of course you can be proud if you have made a great scientific discovery and made it world famous through a publication, for example. But it is also important when you have an innovative vision of education and have designed a curriculum based on that. We want to move away from the one-sided assessment of scientists based on bibliometric indicators and look for evidence-based approaches, for example. Impact factors can play a role in this, as underpinning of a narrative. So we are looking—together with other universities (national and international)—for ways to determine the different forms of scientific quality.
The Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment is confirmation of this: by signing this declaration, more than 500 scientific institutions and universities (including Tilburg) commit themselves to no longer using metrics in a defective way. Even the Strategy Evaluation Protocol (SEP 2021–2027) already assumes quality, social relevance, and viability when assessing research groups. NWO and ZonMW are experimenting with an evidence-based narrative CV when assessing grant applications submitted, and in the context of DORA, good practices are also being collected for alternative methods of research assessment.
At what point can you choose a career path with a particular emphasis?
At the start of an academic career, it is important to become acquainted with the different domains so that a choice can be made for a combination of domains that suits the individual employee in terms of talent and ambitions. In practice, this means that a choice for a particular emphasis will usually be made when a staff member has been working as an assistant professor for several years. The exact moment can be determined in consultation between the employee and his/her manager. During his/her career, the employee can also choose to shift his/her focus (see the next question).
Is it possible to switch between the domains during my career?
Changing domains during your career is possible. This will be facilitated as much as possible, but individual choices must be in line with the composition of the team and the organization’s strategy. There will always be a balance between what the individual needs and what the organization needs or can offer. It is important to properly align the needs of the individual and the team. Having “the good conversation” about this is the shared responsibility of the supervisor and the employee. A training program is being developed to guide those in leadership positions and employees in this regard. To make a switch possible, it is important not to lose sight of the connection between the domains.
Is the new system of recognition and rewards the solution for the high work pressure at universities?
No, but paying attention to your talents and more recognition for what you do well in your work can give you energy so that you can cope better with the work pressure. It can also contribute to more focus in your work. A common problem is that academics feel they must be able to do the impossible. Recognition & Rewards aims to break the pattern that all academics have to excel in all domains. Workload is a major problem, also at Tilburg University. Reducing the workload is not the aim of the Recognition & Rewards program. The aim is to give employees more room to develop and use their talents. If employees can work more from their strengths and no longer need to excel on all fronts, this can lead to a reduction in the (perceived) work pressure.
If you have any questions about your own career, development opportunities, and what Recognition & Rewards can mean for you, you should contact your manager in the first instance. More general questions about the program and its consequences for the organization you can contact email@example.com.
We look forward to hearing from you!
If you have any questions, comments or would like to share your views please contact drs. Marjan van Hunnik