Putting People First: Recognizing Excellence at Ryerson

by julia.hanigsberg | February 1st, 2012

A couple of days ago I was browsing through the Harvard Business Review online. The following quote jumped out at me from a great little piece by Tony Schwarz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project:

Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter – that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we’re recognized for it.

I completely agree. Stopping to recognize the small things and the large is how we remind each other and ourselves that it is the people who truly matter.

Encouraging success

Highlighting the way that our people matter—“employee engagement” is the jargon in the literature—is both about every individual and about making us a better University.

A recent UK government report entitled Engaging for Success makes this point about the contribution of employee engagement to organizational success:

If it is how the workforce performs that determines to a large extent whether companies or organisations succeed, then whether or not the workforce is positively encouraged to perform at its best should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager.

Simply put, and you wouldn’t think you’d need a report to tell you this, great organizations rely on great people doing great work. What can we do to stimulate this virtuous circle?


Don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating group hug-fests and cupcakes for all (although I’m the last person to snub a good cupcake). Rather, in addition to privately and simply thanking people for doing good work, and compensating people fairly for what they do, I believe that bigger, more organized and public recognition of individual and team accomplishments is important for Ryerson’s success. Why? To

  • encourage awareness, recognition, innovation and collaboration across and among academic and administrative groups; and
  • foster our University’s culture of respectful, diverse, inclusive and engaged community-building.

It’s an overused phrase, but all of us really are better, smarter and more effective than any of us individually.

Bringing us together

The newly launched Ryerson Awards Night  was created with these goals in mind. It is the start of a new tradition at our University: bringing our SRC, teaching, and administrative award winners together so we can all celebrate their accomplishments and contributions to Ryerson.

Beginning the evening of April 4, 2012, Ryerson’s teaching award recipients will mingle and celebrate right alongside with SRC winners, who will rub shoulders with University administrators all being honoured for excellence.

Simply put, it’s about putting people first.

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