FAQ Recognition and Rewards

This FAQ offers an overview the most frequently asked questions. We try to answer the questions as well as possible, and the list is updated regularly. Select your topic here: 

  Career opportunities
  Assessment
  Sustainable employability
  Education
  Research
  Impact/Leadership
 Implementation at UM

Career Opportunities

 What impact does Recognition & Rewards have on the career opportunities of academics?
  How much room do I have to create my own career?
  What do we mean when speaking about a career path?
  How many career paths will there be?
  Can I change focus throughout my academic career?

What impact does Recognition & Rewards have on the national and international career opportunities of academics?
Nationally, all Dutch universities, research institutions and funding institutions subscribe to the principles laid out in the position paper ‘Room for Everyone’s Talent’.
However, some academics might have the ambition to move beyond the Dutch academic labour market. Internationally, we do not stand alone in this development; several countries such as the UK, Denmark and Sweden are undergoing similar transformations, the number of DORA signatories is steadily increasing meaning the use of journal-based metrics is becoming less standard and the EUA and the European Commission are very interested in the Dutch approach, seeking to make it go European. Open Science has also become the European norm for scientific policy. In November 2021, the European Commission has published the scoping report "Towards a reform of the research assessment system’’ which identifies the goals that should be pursued with a reform of research assessment, and proposes a coordinated approach based on principles and actions that could be agreed upon by a coalition of research funding and research performing organisations committed to implement changes. The UM has been consulted repeatedly when drafting this report. The YUFE alliance also continues to offer many career opportunities for our academic staff seeking international careers. International job mobility thus remains an attractive possibility.

How much room do I have to create my own career? How do we balance the needs of the organisation (team, department, faculty) with the needs of the individual?
The aim for the system is to gear it towards the interests and talents of the individual while also catering to the needs of the team. This presents a difficult balance. Through dialogue with your leadership and the involvement of other colleagues you may identify your own development goals and talents. However, should your specific focus not fit the needs of the organisation or should sufficient funding not be available at a certain moment, this might require you to change your focus. By involving more academics in your development talks, you also achieve a broader perspective on your own development and a more nuanced reflection on how these fit the needs of the team. Clear and open communication from your leadership and transparent opportunities for all colleagues should be key. Hence, the role of leadership development and organisational strategy are key

What do we mean when speaking about a career path?
When referring to career paths, many think about a vertical path leading to a subsequent position higher up the (academic) ladder. However, when we speak about career paths, we not only refer to the vertical ways in which a career can be developed but also the horizontal ways in which an individual can develop him or herself. Examples of horizontal development include changing your focus from one domain to another or switching from an academic position to a position as a non-academic staff member.

How many career paths will there be? Will each be worked out to the same degree?
Career paths as such will be personal, we will not pre-define a standard set of career paths in which every member of the academic community has to fit. We are, however, developing academic profiles that allow you to – together with your leadership - choose a personal focus according to your own development plan. The academic profile is not meant to lock you into a pre-defined path from which you will not be able to switch. It does, however, provide guidance to help you categorise and to help assessors assess your personal development plan. It starts with the same basis: every academic from assistant professor level onwards has to combine both education and research to some degree. For those with clinical responsibilities, patient care forms a third core activity. However, the custom components of the academic profile leave you a lot of space to fill in the remainder and to specialise in one or multiple domains. You are not locked into a specific focus or domain and will be able to switch domains over time. The combination of your own personal development plan and the assessment components provided by the profile allow you to shape your personalised career, always in coordination with your leadership.

Can I change focus throughout my academic career? 
Yes, your focus is not set in stone forever. One of the aims is the vitalisation of academic careers. Once every few years, you will be able to switch your focus in dialogue with your leadership and those who support you in your development talks. Deciding the right moment and direction for such a switch will also be part of the development talks. 

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Assessment

 Do employees who are more talented at writing have an advantage?
  Will there be threshold or baseline criteria for the different domains?

  How can you assess quality in the various domains?

The ‘narrative CV’ or ‘portfolio’ are becoming increasingly popular. Does Maastricht University plan on using it? And would that give those who are more talented at writing an advantage over other staff members?
Maastricht University is indeed looking into the use of narrative CVs or portfolios in the vein of other universities and funding organisations. A new format for presenting evidence in the different domains should facilitate a discussion about the quality of your work. We aim to reduce the bias of this new approach as much as possible, for example by including more people in your assessment. Furthermore, you may still include quantitative evidence and other forms of evidence to support your narrative. Bias is unavoidable, but we aim for the new system to be less biased than the old output focused system. 

Will there be threshold or baseline criteria for the different domains?
Yes, there will be minimum requirements in all domains for the employees in a certain academic function. In fact, the UM always requires a basic degree of education and research from academics from the level of UD onwards. A degree of personal leadership is expected of everyone involved in academia and a basic degree of impact stems from your performance in teaching and research. The awareness and fostering of that impact for the UM community is expected of everyone in their development as academic citizens. However, it is nearly impossible to introduce standard thresholds for every possible combination of assessment components. We aim to provide guidelines to help you and your assessors determine the minimum requirements for your chosen career through an instructive manual which will be provided alongside the academic career profiles. And of course, differences between the diverse academic disciplines should also be taken into account.  

How can you assess quality in the various domains?
Assessing quality may be difficult to do compared to using a set of quantitative indicators. To help you with this, a manual will be developed with guidelines that help to assess quality in the different domains. Performance and therefore quality may come in different shapes and forms in the different domains and may also be influenced by differences between the academic disciplines. There is no single indicator of quality within the different domains. Furthermore, quantitative indicators, if placed in context, may also still support qualitative evidence. 

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Sustainable employability

  Is a new culture of Recognition & Rewards the answer to the high workload at universities?
  How do we prevent that we create extra work-pressure
  Does the Recognition & Rewards lead to an increase in permanent positions?

Is a new culture of Recognition & Rewards the answer to the high workload at universities?
By shifting the primary focus of the current system away from the overly one-sided emphasis on mainly research output, focusing in several academic disciplines mostly on traditional, quantifiable output indicators, we do aim to reduce one of the main causes for heavy workload. The aim is to stop requiring staff members to be the proverbial jack-of-all-trades. By shifting the focus of our assessment from (often) a very heavy focus on research to include achievements in other key domains such as education, impact, leadership, and -where relevant- patient-care while at the same time allowing academics to unfold themselves in personalised careers, we aim for diversification and a fairer division of attention over the key areas that already define academic life. Furthermore, by also applying qualitative indicators rather than only quantitative indicators it becomes possible to value different tasks in your work and provide a more adequate balance in our assessment approaches.
In short, we do not aim to create more tasks, but reward the tasks you already do and the quality you deliver. The aim is to shape a more diverse, fair and transparent culture that takes into account and rewards the hard work already being done by academics. In other words: to make the implicit explicit.
We are also aware that not all work-pressure related issues can be solved through this programme or other sustainable employability initiatives alone. Proper funding for higher education and academic research is fundamental to these problems as well. Hence, the Dutch universities remain united in their efforts to bring this issue on to the national political agenda. Note that the new Government (January 2022) has allocated substantial additional funding to our sector.

How do we prevent that we create extra work-pressure as you have to fulfil all the requirements belonging to a certain domain?
A new culture of recognition and rewarding is not aimed at maximisation of output in all key areas. It is meant to end the practice of expecting outstanding individual performance in all domains – whilst predominantly assessing individuals on their research output for promotion decisions – and allow for different academic careers based on the common goals of a team. You no longer need to excel in all domains (at the same time). This should free up time to focus on the domain or domains in which one wishes to excel and reduce the workload for the other domains to a certain threshold. Thereby, in the new culture we aim to create a more adequate balance between assessing the quality and quantity of your work. Leadership will play a vital role in this transition and their support and council can be an important resource in dealing with a heavy workload.

Does the Recognition & Rewards programme lead to an increase in permanent positions at the university?
Where possible, we strive to improve development opportunities and job security for our staff. In line with these ambitions, the 2021 Collective Labour Agreement ensures permanent contracts for the majority of those in an assistant or associate professor position. However, this does not cover everyone within our academic community. Although we are changing the culture of recognition and rewarding, university funding will not increase overnight, and there will still be competition for permanent positions. Modernising the system requires a cultural change in which we re-evaluate the composition of university staff and what we value as a meaningful career. One of the most noticeable differences will be that future requirements for a certain position will be open and transparent, and competition will be based on more than an individual’s research output. This will reshape and vitalise academic careers by making them more diverse and creating possibilities to change course during one’s career. 
Though we as a university still require some degree of flexibility in the size of our workforce, especially in our teaching staff, we strive to provide more development opportunities and job security through the Recognition & Rewards programme. For example, UM aims to introduce more development opportunities for teachers and researchers, providing them with more straightforward ways towards a permanent contract or more clarity earlier in their career.

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Education

  Is there an education focused career path I can follow without a PhD?
  Can I have an academic career focused exclusively on education?

Is there an education focused career path I can follow without a PhD?
As was already the case in some faculties, we will no longer require you to have a PhD for the position of teacher 4. However, it must be noted that for most people without a PhD, teacher 4 will be the highest step one can reach. In exceptional cases, a (temporary or permanent) position as teacher 3 might be offered to an academic without a PhD. For promotion in academia beyond teacher 3, all academics will have to attain a PhD. This could lead to a position in the track from UD2 onwards. The new academic profile for Assistant and Associate Professors allows you to focus predominantly on education with a much smaller focus on research.

Can I have an academic career focused exclusively on education?
The UM believes that in the positions of Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, every academic position requires a combination of education and research. However, this does not mean that you have to heavily focus on research. In the new academic profile for Assistant and Associate Professors, academics may opt to focus more on education instead. This would mean that you only have to fulfil the basic criteria for research and predominantly focus on other domains.
Additionally, some people might choose to stay within the teacher profiles, which do not require research.

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Research

  Does Recognition & Rewards pose a threat to the quality of research?
  Does the Recognition & Rewards programme entail that researchers will get more time allocated for research?

Does Recognition & Rewards pose a threat to the quality of research in The Netherlands? research, and the high quality of research?
No, Recognition & Rewards does not obstruct an academic from focussing on fundamental research. UM considers investing in fundamental research of crucial importance. As long as this type of research contributes to the set objectives of your department or faculty and you can support your choice and the quality-indicators chosen with ample (qualitative) evidence, this may still be your focus. Hence, this doesn’t alter the fact that one can still find a career in more fundamental research, it will simply no longer be the sole path to success.  
There is still enough room for high level research and publication in prestigious journals. However, the only difference is that this is no longer required of all academics. Additionally, it should no longer be the practice that young academics get the advice not to focus on education because this is not beneficial for their career.

Does the Recognition & Rewards programme entail that researchers will get more time allocated for research?
This depends on your personal academic career profile and the needs of your department, team, and/or faculty. At its core the new culture of recognition and rewarding should align the mission and strategy of the organisation with the ambitions of the individual employee. The individual contribution and performance should be weighed in the light of a fair and integral overview of the aims, tasks and responsibilities of a team. This will allow for diversification (also in terms of time allocated for certain domains) among academics and the recognition of an individual’s abilities and performance. While this will not preclude discrepancies between individual and organisational interests, it will at least open up new possibilities for both and allow for an open and fair dialogue about development possibilities.

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Impact/Leadership

  Does UM allow for more time to be allocated for the domains of impact and leadership?

Does Maastricht University allow for more time to be allocated for the domains of impact and leadership?
As with all domains, the amount of time allocated to specific domains depends on your personal career and the needs of your team, department or faculty. Within the UM academic profile for Assistant and Associate Professors, education and research always form the basis of an academic career. For those with clinical responsibilities, patient care forms a third core activity. Within this model these domains always intrinsically entail a level of leadership and impact. Providing education and conducting research and patient care is in itself impactful. Additionally, our university’s dedication to academic citizenship and Open Science fosters an integration of science and society. Leadership is also a prerequisite for everyone, whether it comes to the everyday personal leadership of organising your own work or interpersonal leadership involved in working in teams. However, some careers explicitly allow an increased focus on development in these domains.

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Implementation at UM

 What are the (HR) policy implications of this programme?
  Will this culture change be accompanied by a broader array of funding mechanisms?
  When will Recognition & Rewards be implemented at UM?
  Will there be room for implementation at faculty level?
  How do the plans of Maastricht University relate to national developments?
  Does that mean that we will be awarding awards for everything?
  Does the new culture of Recognition & Rewards only concern academic staff?

The vision and the four narratives stipulate a picture of what should be recognised and rewarded on a general level. What are the (HR) policy implications of this programme?
The Recognition & Rewards programme touches upon many aspects of the HR policy cycle. It entails a review of hiring and promoting practices, evaluation and personal development talks, leadership, the reward systems, and in general a new framework of diverse, fair and transparent academic careers. In general it entails a shift to policies that focus on personal development while also putting more emphasis on team efforts and strategies, striking a careful balance between the two. The emphasis will be on personal growth in the broadest sense of the word rather than the original culture heavily oriented towards merely a vertical growth. It will therewith also entail a series of new training modules, specifically in the area of leadership which over time will become available to all in leadership positions. At UM we believe that leadership is owned by everyone and is for everyone. Over time, the UM Leadership Academy facilitates all our employees and in particular our leaders in their development. Supporting you as a UM employee in your leadership development will help you grow as a professional, can make it easier to execute your job and supports us as an organization to reach the goals we have set.

Will this culture change be accompanied by a broader array of funding mechanisms for tasks not traditionally compensated?
In the current culture, activities other than research such as impactful activities or leadership tasks that are a ‘service to academia’ often do not directly contribute to (individual) career progress. Even though many would agree that these tasks are an essential part of keeping the university afloat, individuals nor teams are (structurally) rewarded spending time or effort on them. Research is often the primary (and only) field of output that holds any extra rewards, financial or personal. Although there is only so little we can structurally alter within the UM without adaptations in the funding systems, this needs to change. And in order to do this, the range of activities that are considered in one’s job performance needs to grow. Note however, that this does not imply an increase in the work load. It would rather be the starting point of a conversation on what not to do in the future. Ending the one sided emphasis on research performance means less time spent (by the overall staff capacity) on endlessly submitting papers to high impact journals and writing less research grants that have a low probability of being granted. The team outcome takes primacy and individual performance is judged as a part of that. Teams will therefore have to be composed in such a way that each individual’s talents and focus add to the team’s output in all domains required. This approach is already central to the new Strategy Evaluation Protocol (SEP) and will be encouraged as the standard approach within our university. 

When will Recognition & Rewards be implemented at UM?
The Recognition & Rewards programme will enter the implementation phase towards the end of 2022. However, as this is a long-term large-scale culture change, time and diligence are required. Hence, one cannot say that at one point the whole programme has been implemented. It will likely require a series of small and large policy and practice changes over the years to come. The national programme of Recognition & Rewards will run (at least) until 2026, hence this may be an indicator for the time scope envisaged for the culture change and its implementation.

Will there be room for implementation at faculty level?
Recognition & Rewards is a centrally coordinated programme which means that, in principle, general policies are coordinated centrally. However, depending on the subject there may be more or less room for local interpretation of these policies. For example, when it comes to the academic profiles you may see some differences per faculty. There are large differences between disciplines and owing to that some faculties operate differently than others. Therefore, it may be that not all electives (or all elective assessment components) are applicable to all faculties. However, in the end we as a university are one employer. It is therefore important that we ensure equal rights and possibilities for all of our employees.

How do the plans of Maastricht University relate to the position paper ‘Room for Everyone’s Talent’ and the national actions with regards to Recognition & Rewards?
In 2019 the Dutch universities (VSNU), research funders (NWO, ZonMw), university medical centres (NFU) and the Royal Academy (KNAW) published a position paper on recognition and rewards, kicking off a national transition. All Dutch universities have in turn started their own local Recognition & Rewards programmes and are each committing to their own visions on how to bring about this culture change. We are all bound to a set of common principles, yet universities have a lot of autonomy in how to put these ideals into practice. On a national level universities keep each other updated through formal and informal channels and coordinate new requirements and incentives with funders. Best practices are shared and where possible collaborations are initiated to prevent each university from having to re-invent the wheel.
In addition to the ambitions from the national position paper, the UM decided to also focus on support staff, PhD candidates, teachers and researchers in its new policies. Though we had to start somewhere, this broader focus in the long run will help blur the lines between the different staff groups and bring Recognition & Rewards to the broader community.

The encouragement to reward more aspects of academic work is clear, but does that mean that we will be awarding awards for everything?
Awards are not inherently unsuitable to reward academic performance, but they are just one of the many (HR) tools available for recognizing and rewarding staff. Moreover, when recognising and rewarding, we should not solely focus on individual achievements. If we acknowledge that education, research, leadership and impact all involve teamwork, then we’ll also have to apply that to the new culture of Recognition & Rewards. Putting the desire to allow pluralism into practice will also involve expanding the activities for which teams are rewarded.
Awards are only motivating if they meet conditions such as exclusivity and scarcity, but the behaviour to be encouraged by the new Recognition & Rewards culture involve aspects such as inclusion and changing ‘the norm’. If we wish to show appreciation or hold a team up as an example, it may be more useful to consult with the colleagues themselves to inquire in which ways they could be recognized and rewarded for their efforts. After all, a suitable reward depends greatly on the context: more autonomy in the next project, training in a different competency, more time to develop in specific areas, or extra hands to help set up a learning track may serve as more effective displays of recognition than a certificate or a trophy.

Does the new culture of Recognition & Rewards only concern academic staff?
Academics were the starting point of this programme but we have from the outset indicated that a transition like this will not be successful without the involvement of the broader academic community. This means including all colleagues who work at our university. 
The aim of Maastricht University is to blur the lines between academic and support staff. In the short term, this means that we aim to provide more development support and opportunities for all of our staff. Furthermore, we have included the perspective from support staff specifically in the leadership domain through the rewriting of the leadership vision and the creation of the new leadership policies and programmes by the Taskforce Professional Leadership Development. We are also developing a new policy for talent development and for recognising and rewarding these talents. Thereby we recognise the vital roles of administrative and support staff in education, research and creating impact. In the long term, our Rector announced the ambition to start a similar initiative aimed at enhancing the career tracks for our support staff in her 2021 Dies Natalis lecture.

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