Building a Strong Colonial Community

December 07, 2011

Work-life, wellness and recognition programs offered through George Washington’s Colonial Community program help create a tight-knit community.

Work shouldn’t be just, well, work. That’s what those heading up Colonial Community, the George Washington University’s program to engage and recognize faculty and staff, say.

Employees should be able to balance work with their personal life. They should be recognized for a stellar job. And they should be rewarded not only with standard benefits but with added perks like employee discounts, fitness challenges and support during pregnancy.

It’s all for a common goal. “We want to attract talent and retain it,” said Brenda Jones, Colonial Community program coordinator. “We want to keep our employees engaged and motivated. We want to keep them healthy, wealthy and wise.”

The smattering of Colonial Community programs outlined below aim to do just that.

Childcare: Is the sitter sick? Starting Jan. 1, parents will have back-up child care available up to five days per year if they need it. Through a partnership with Children’s Creative Learning Center, parents need only pay a small co-pay to have a babysitter come to their home ($6 per hour) or drop the child off at one of the in-network care centers ($10 per day). The new offering is a “real enhancement” to employees’ work-life benefits, said Erica Hayton, director of benefits strategy in Human Resources.

Fitness challenge: Employees who get their move on—in teams or individually—can do their health a favor and win prizes in a fitness program in partnership with the American Heart Association’s Start! Campaign, an initiative to fight heart disease and stroke. Participants log their activities into an online tracking system, which translates their exercise—from pumping iron to running—into a certain number of steps. The eight-week challenge starts Jan. 23; registration is underway here.

Weight Watchers: Those who ring in the New Year with a weight-loss resolution will soon find a revamped Weight Watchers at Work program that’s cheaper, easier to use, and offering both in-person or online-only options.

Work-life balance: Available 24/7, George Washington employees can, with the click of a mouse or quick phone call, get advice on finances, parenting and academics; get help finding a doctor or understanding a medical condition; and receive counseling on relationships, stress and alcohol or drug problems.

Recognition: Giving a simple wink and nod for a job well done can brighten someone’s day. Maybe a professor went out of his way to make sure you learned the material. Or a coworker stayed late to help you with a project. Colonial Community gives George Washington community members the chance to submit a Positive Vibe, which is then “out there for the entire community to see,” said Ms. Jones. Best of all, this informal recognition is a “free and easy resource that anyone can use,” added Mrs. Hayton. Positive Vibes gets an average of 20 submissions per month.

Meanwhile, events like the Proud to Be GW Festival in June and Career Milestones Awards Program in March formally recognize George Washington faculty and staff for their commitment to the university. The holiday party, sponsored by External Relations, is another example of formal recognition. This year’s party will be held Wednesday on the Foggy Bottom Campus and Friday on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

Recognition is important regardless of the medium, said Ms. Jones, and managers have lots of options when it comes to thanking employees. For those who want to gain insight into their employees’ recognition preferences, Colonial Community’s Recognition Profile, available here, can help. “That is the most powerful tool a manager can use, because you do have some people who like all the recognition glitz and glam, and then there are some that appreciate a simple ‘thank you,’ ” said Ms. Jones. “And as a manager you need to know that.”

All the added benefits and programs for recognition offered through the Colonial Community play an important role in building a tight-knit George Washington community.

“What we’re trying to do in the end through all of our programs is to showcase why GW is such a great place to work, connect our faculty and staff to the university, and let them know that we care about them as individuals,” said Mrs. Hayton.

2011 Proud to be GW Festival