Human Resources > Employee Recognition

Employee Recognition

Associated Universities, Inc. and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory support the recognition of employee excellence and loyalty through a variety of awards programs.  These programs include Employee Service Awards, STAR awards and the Distinguished Performance Award (DPA).  Additional information about each award is shown below.

Service Awards

 

Program Objective and Administration - In recognition of their service to the Observatory and the Associated Universities, Inc., eligible employees are presented a specially designed award and certificate of appreciation upon the completion of 10, 20, 30, and 40 years of employment. The awards are presented annually, usually at a ceremony held during the first half of the following year.

Eligibility - For the purpose of establishing eligibility for a service award, "years of employment" shall include the following:

  1. All periods of full-time and part-time employment spent in the employment of the Associated Universities, Inc. or any of its operational units (i.e., the NRAO);
  2. All time spent as an assigned or a loaned employee when the salary is either paid or reimbursed by AUI or when AUI exercises control or direction over the employee's work; and
  3. Leave of absence and other authorized absences.

Tax Withholding - Service Awards are taxable as earned income and subject to Federal, State, local, and Social Security taxes. Awards do not increase an employee's base pay rate; therefore, an award will not be included in the calculation of benefits. The Fair Labor Standards Act considers awards as a discretionary bonus. An award to nonexempt employees will NOT be included in the regular pay for calculation of overtime.

Star Awards

Star Award Nomination Form

Program Objective and Administration - The Star Award Program enables NRAO supervisors to recognize exceptional contributions and noteworthy achievements of their employees or groups of employees in a timely manner. The objectives of this program are:

  1. To reward specific one-time achievements (event driven); and
  2. To provide an incentive for continued excellence through the recognition and reward of exceptional performance.

The Human Resources Office, on behalf of the Director, administers the Star Award Program.

Eligibility - Eligibility for the award includes all current employees EXCEPT:

  1. Division Heads, Deputy Assistant Directors, Assistant or Associate Directors, the Deputy Director, and the Director.
  2. Other employees in ungraded salary classifications.

Award Amount - Award amounts are determined by the Assistant or Associate Director and may be granted in $50 increments. The individual gross award amount may range from $50 to $900 before mandatory taxes.

Award Allocation - Awards are allocated, for the fiscal year, according to the eligible population within each Assistant or Associate Director's organization. Allocations are calculated and provided with instructions to Observatory managers at the start of each fiscal year. Allocations may not be carried forward to future periods. The use of all awards is not required each year. The allocations for the fiscal year are (determined each year):

  1. Green Bank Operations,
  2. Administration,
  3. Director's Office,
  4. Socorro Operations,
  5. Central Development Lab,
  6. Data Management, and
  7. ALMA Project.

Award Conferral - Awards are presented by the Observatory organization of the extraordinary accomplishment and after the required approvals are obtained. Awards may be granted at any time during a fiscal year as long as funds are available. Names of recipients may be published in the Point Source, with division approval.

Nomination Procedure - A Star Award form is used to obtain the Associate or Assistant Director's approval on individual selections and Human Resources Office's approval on availability of award budget funds for that organization. The form is available through the Human Resources Office at each site. A description of the extraordinary performance is required on the form to document that the award is consistent with program objectives. For recognition of team achievement, there should be a description of the extraordinary performance and a statement to characterize the contribution of each member and the recommended amount of each award. After the Associate or Assistant Director's approval is obtained, the form is forwarded to the Human Resources Office for final approval and processing. The Payroll Office will issue checks upon receipt of the approved form. The Human Resources Office will forward the check and Star Award certificate to the employee's Organization Head for presentation to the employee.

Criteria for Selection - Supervisors may nominate an employee or a team of employees who have demonstrated a short-term performance of an extraordinary nature. The performance may be related to a particular assignment given by a supervisor or be an accomplishment initiated by the individual or the group. In either case, the activity must have been of significant benefit to the Site, Division, Group, or Observatory.

In general, the award is intended to recognize short-term performance of a period from several weeks to several months. It should not replace recognition by promotion for significant permanent changes in responsibility or salary increase for sustained performance levels.

To assist in ensuring consistency throughout the Observatory in granting awards, two criteria are used to choose individual accomplishments appropriate for an award. The criteria definitions are:

  1. Benefit to the Observatory: The Observatory or some subunit should have benefited in a significant way through either cost savings, efficiency of operations, satisfaction of work requirement, or some similar gain; and
  2. Exceptional Nature of Effort Required: It is expected that award recipients will have overcome problems which could be considered the most difficult for their classification or even beyond the expectations for employees in their classification.

Tax Withholding - Star Awards are taxable as earned income and subject to Federal, State, local, and Social Security taxes. Awards do not increase an employee's base pay rate; therefore, an award will not be included in the calculation of benefits. The Fair Labor Standards Act considers awards as a discretionary bonus. An award to nonexempt employees will NOT be included in the regular pay for calculation of overtime.

Distinguished   Performance   Awards (DPA)

Program Objectives and Administration - The Distinguished Performance Awards recognize the Observatory employees who have distinguished themselves by their outstanding contributions and performance in support of the Observatory's mission. Outstanding sustained performance in the fields of science, technology, management, and administration can be recognized under this program. The objective of this program is to recognize outstanding contributions and foster an atmosphere of excellence. The Human Resources Office administers this program on behalf of the Director.

Eligibility - All employees are eligible except for the Assistant or Associate Director, the Deputy Director, and the Director.

Award Amount/Number - The Distinguished Performance Award gross amount is $2500. Throughout the Observatory, a maximum of four awards will be granted each year.

Award Conferral - Awards will consist of a check and an engraved memento indicating the award name, the employee's name, the purpose of the award, and the year of the award. Award checks and mementos are to be presented at an annual ceremony and reception.

Selections Committee - The Selection Committee consists of an Associate or Assistant Director, the Deputy Director, the Observatory Chief Scientist, and the Human Resources Manager. The committee will screen the nominations and recommend a maximum of four award recipients to the Director who will have final approval on selections.

Nominations Procedure - Nominations are to be forwarded by the Associate or Assistant Director to the Human Resources Office after a solicitation period in the fall of each year. Because this award is Observatory wide, the Associate or Assistant Director may nominate employees from other NRAO observatory organizations after informing the affected Assistant or Associate Director. Nominations will be made privately and nominees will not be informed that they have been submitted for consideration.

Required Documentation - Nominating Associate or Assistant Directors will prepare documentation in support of the nominee that clearly describes the distinguished performance and specifically addresses how this performance meets the awards criteria. Endorsement letters from other supervisors, co-workers, or collaborators may be submitted.

Evaluation Criteria - The overall criterion for the award is an employee's exceptional contribution to the Observatory. The committee will evaluate each nominee specifically with respect to these five criteria:

  1. the exceptional nature of the employee's contribution,
  2. the difficulty level of the contribution,
  3. the benefit of contribution(s) to the Observatory,
  4. the consistency of sustained superior performance level, and
  5. the length of time over which the contribution(s) were made.

The review committee will consider the nominee's job level and job function when evaluating the exceptional nature, difficulty, and benefit of the contribution(s) to the Observatory.

Tax Withholding - The $2500 award is fully taxable as earned income. Appropriate taxes will be withheld by the Payroll Office. Awards do not increase an employee's base pay rate; therefore, an award will not be included in the calculation of benefits. The Fair Labor Standards Act considers a discretionary bonus. An award to nonexempt employees will not be included in regular pay for calculation of overtime.