Planning together for the future

How often have we heard that change is the only constant? Because this is indeed the case in the workplace – any workplace – how do we equip ourselves to deal with change? This is an important individual and unit question that many of us may be asking ourselves lately. Read more »


How often have we heard that change is the only constant?  Because this is indeed the case in the workplace – any workplace – how do we equip ourselves to deal with change?  This is an important individual and unit question that many of us may be asking ourselves lately.  

When change occurs, it is important to recognize evolving needs and to focus on the positives – those strengths that can help us tackle the uncertainty that comes with change.  While many may wish to retreat to their bunkers when they see change approaching on the horizon, we are truly well served to build on the exciting opportunities at hand.

“As units and faculties face the “one-for-two” program, brought about by budget constraints and Bill 100, teams are reflecting more than ever on the changing needs and expectations in their environment.  In striving to meet evolving demands, increase efficiency and optimize team functioning, we are seeing more and more effort to simplify work processes, ensure cross-training, and involve the client and other stakeholders in the solutions.  We’re encouraging units to consider what they can simplify and let go of, in terms of tasks, as well as how they most want to add value.”

“Across units, we need to strengthen our capacity to plan for and adapt to change in support of the University’s goals and priorities – whether this means streamlining and documenting processes, sharing best practices, mobilizing diverse teams, or investing in the ongoing skills development of our employees,” says Johanne Houle, Director of Organizational Development and a strong ambassador for continuous learning and career development.

When is the right time for change?  With the need to replace one administrative staff for every two voluntary departures, leaving fewer resources to deal with the challenges that lie ahead, the timing is right to develop a more formal approach to managing the workforce.  This first important step, workforce planning, is a core component of a more comprehensive talent management program, currently under development in the context of McGill’s Strategic Reframing Initiative (SRI).  Talent management is about having the right talent with the right skills at the right place to support the University’s goals and priorities.   The hard work we are doing now, around processes and people, represents an invaluable investment in our individual and collective future.  

Workforce planning – a key component of talent management 

The University has mapped out a more proactive, longer-term approach to talent management, by putting in place the building blocks to address change – starting with workforce planning.  In the following year, it aims to achieve alignment between university objectives and workforce capabilities.  Faculties and units will be equipped to define their staffing objectives and build a workforce plan that enables them to face the anticipated changes ahead, e.g. eventual retirements.

 This approach is based on three guiding principles:

  •  The opportunity for employees to sharpen their skills through training and development; to seek greater alignment between their choice of job and their career aspirations, leading to employees more engaged in their work, in turn leading to greater client satisfaction. 
  • The importance of all faculties and units working together to anticipate and manage change, breaking the silos that will favour greater sharing of knowledge, skills and solutions. 
  • The importance of listening to what employees have to say:  they have a unique, first-hand perspective and their input is invaluable in understanding stakeholder needs, establishing new structures and streamlining processes.

Three levels of support

Three levels of support have been identified to help manage workforce planning across the University.  Level 1 is self-directed, with tools and templates available as a guide, used as needed. For more information, click on the following link:

Level 2 focuses on basic capacity-building to sharpen skills through training and development of change agents responsible for change initiatives in the various units.

Level 3 involves developing pilot projects with in-depth consultation and customized intervention from HR specialists, coupled with project management expertise to guide the initiative through training and coaching.  Two pilots are currently being structured – one in the academic sector and the other in an administrative unit offering services to diverse areas of the University (updates will be communicated shortly). 

Structure, roles and responsibilities

An executive committee has been mandated to steer the workplace planning initiative stemming from the Strategic Reframing Initiative launched two years ago.  This group is responsible for strategic direction, priorities to be established, resources required and decision-making.  Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) spearheads this committee.  An advisory committee offers diverse expertise and support in the design and rollout of various aspects of the Workforce Planning Program.

The project team is core to the workforce planning initiative with Human Resources as the key driver. The Organizational Development team plays a critical role in training, development and coaching. This team is also responsible for providing tools and communicating specific projects as models for inspiration. 

HR subject matter experts act on a more ad-hoc basis, providing expertise sought in employee relations, total compensation, staffing, communications and other HR-related expertise.

Updates on this important initiative will be communicated regularly to keep you abreast of the areas that are undergoing major change toward a more nimble organization.  In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts.  Click on the following email address: and your email will be forwarded to the right source for response. We look forward to hearing from you.