Each initiative grew out of extensive employee feedback collected through a survey and five discussion groups over the summer, all geared toward achieving the Principal’s goal of making McGill a true Learning Organization. All administrative and support staff were invited to take part and more than 1,200 people shared their views, helping build the My Workplace plan below.
10 new initiatives sparked by your feedback
My Workplace now has a mandate to explore the initiatives summarized below. They are described in greater detail on p.13-17 of the Learning Organization report approved last week.
- A pipeline to bring employee ideas to fruition
Throughout the survey and discussion groups, employees repeated time and again that it’s difficult to bring great ideas to fruition at McGill. When they come up with better ways of doing things, McGill must push its bureaucracy out of the way. The My Workplace team will look at ways to solicit and advance employees’ ideas.
- Give employees time and space to make McGill better
During the My Workplace consultations, staff continually said that they want to find more innovative ways of doing things, but that they lack the time and support they need to do this. The My Workplace team will study how other institutions make space/time for innovation, and use that information to propose an action plan for McGill.
- Training and support for new academic administrators
Faculty members who take on administrative roles must learn new supervisory skills on the fly with no formal management training available, and sometimes struggle to empower their staff, provide constructive feedback and manage their teams effectively. Together with Organizational Development and the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), the My Workplace team will assess training offerings at McGill and elsewhere and propose an action plan for McGill.
- Additional training for administrative and support staff supervisors Administrative and support staff managers have more training available to them than academic managers do, but we can do more to help supervisors empower and lead their teams. In partnership with Organizational Development, the My Workplace team will study how other institutions encourage continuous learning and development for supervisors, and propose a plan that’s suited to McGill’s needs.
- Publicize avenues of escalation for staff
At the discussion groups and in the survey, some administrative and support staff members expressed concern about isolation and inequity – stemming both from their workplace culture and their supervisors’ management styles. As a result, some individuals feel “stuck” and powerless, unaware of avenues through which they could voice their concerns. In partnership with Human Resources, the My Workplace team will prepare an inventory of current escalation avenues available to staff, and promote these via the HR website.
- Reward and reinforce good management An unwelcome side effect of McGill’s budget management approach is that it sometimes incentivizes short-sighted financial management. When units generate savings, they should be rewarded. The My Workplace team will look for ways to do this.
- Build ties between My Workplace and other big-impact projects My Workplace will connect with and support projects with significant implications for our administrative workforce – including the new HR information system (R2R). It makes strategic sense to support cross-fertilization between major change initiatives at McGill.
- Job shadowing and employee mentoring
Employees have repeated time and again that McGill units don’t always work together. Job shadowing, staff-to-staff mentoring and greater networking opportunities across units could help build mutual trust and unblock communication lines, all the while supporting employees’ career development. In partnership with Organizational Development, the My Workplace team will explore ways to achieve this.
- Change the tone, change the narrative
In the survey and discussion groups, some employees pointed out that senior administrators can sometimes seem distant, bureaucratic, and disconnected from local realities. That narrative is reinforced when we communicate through excessively formal, complex language. A more conversational tone, simpler phrasing and the elimination of jargon would make messages easier to digest and significantly more effective. Wherever possible, the My Workplace team will work to make McGill’s messaging clearer and more human.
- Lower-cost professional courses for employees
Certain non-credit courses offered by the School of Continuing Studies do not qualify for the staff tuition waiver. Executive Institute courses can be quite expensive as well, despite their 50 per cent discount for McGill staff. It was proposed at our Macdonald Campus discussion group that when these courses are not completely filled by paying students, the remaining spots could be offered to employees at a large discount. The My Workplace team will explore the feasibility of this idea.
Earlier this year, My Workplace surveyed McGill’s administrative and support staff to gauge what it’s like to work at McGill. Are employees empowered to make the right decisions? Do they have opportunities to grow in their careers? The idea was to take the pulse of McGill’s workforce and generate ideas and initiatives like those listed above, aimed at making McGill better.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of the 2,754 employees surveyed filled out the survey, a relatively high response rate reflecting substantial enthusiasm for this discussion. You can read the survey results in detail on p.4-12 of the Learning Organization report, but some key findings were:
- Inviting different perspectives
79 per cent of respondents said multiple viewpoints are welcome in your units either “always,” “sometimes” or “most of the time.”
- Better ways of working
It’s clear that resources are tight and we need more efficient ways of working. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents told us that deadlines and work volume stand in the way of top-quality work either “always” or “most of the time.”
- We must encourage smart risks and bold ideas
Fully 60 per cent of respondents said they’re only “somewhat” or “not at all” comfortable trying new ways of doing things, because of the risk of failure. That’s understandable, but it harms our ability to improve.
- The negatives outweigh the positives
Generally speaking, there were more negative responses than positive ones. These focused on risk acceptance, employee empowerment and recognition, innovation, and performance management.
• Strengths to build on
Generally, issues related to the clarity of mission and goals and the alignment of a unit’s objectives with those of the University were seen favourably.
About My Workplace
My Workplace is a series of initiatives aimed at making McGill work better. The goal is to get employees at all levels thinking about ways they can learn, improve processes and work better together, and to connect staff with the tools and expertise they need to make their great ideas a reality.
At its core My Workplace is about learning, and about taking an occasional step back to examine what we do, why we do it that way, and whether we should be doing something different. And it has been identified as one of Principal Fortier’s top five priorities, because with shrinking financial resources and growing competition, McGill must tap into the skills, ideas and ingenuity of its workforce to stay ahead of the curve.