VPs deliver update on Creating a Better Workplace

Staff sitting around a table discussing a document

Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration, and Patrick Monahan, vice-president academic & provost, have issued  this update to the York community on Creating a Better Workplace.

As we all know, York is living in challenging times. The internationalization of education, intensified competition, the revolution in information and communications technology, and fiscal constraints are having a profound impact on the postsecondary sector and higher education policy. Successfully managing through this change agenda requires two things: adequate human and financial resources to support York’s academic priorities, combined with a workforce that is informed, engaged, committed and feels valued throughout the change process. That’s why in 2010, the president established two key projects: PRASE (Process Re-engineering and Service Enhancement) and Creating a Better Workplace.

Over the past year, PRASE has taken steps to find better and more efficient ways of delivering our programs and services, to ensure that York has the resources and services necessary to fully support York’s academic priorities. Creating a Better Workplace is a University-wide, long-term commitment to valuing all York employees by improving working and professional relationships, by identifying and sharing knowledge and best practices, and by rewarding and recognizing those contributions.

These two initiatives are critical to ensuring York achieves its goals. PRASE is all about finding ways of best aligning scarce resources with academic priorities, while Creating a Better Workplace is about doing this in ways that continue to value and engage people. Going forward, these two initiatives must work even more closely together.

Up until now, Creating a Better Workplace has been a separate and centrally led project built around suggestions and ideas coming out of employee consultations last year. Four working groups were established to implement those ideas and suggestions. These groups – Leadership & Management, Information Sharing, Culture Change, and Rewards & Recognition – have now identified priority recommendations that are ready for implementation.

The time has come to move Creating a Better Workplace out into all parts of the University. To support this transition, we are pleased to announce that Suzanne Killick has agreed to assume the role of project director for Creating a Better Workplace, while continuing in her current position as director, learning & organizational development. Her solid leadership development and change management background and knowledge of current human resource division initiatives will ensure that we move quickly from design to implementation.

Suzanne will be accountable to the executive sponsors, the vice-president academic & provost and the vice-president finance & administration, and supported by an advisory council. She will also be working closely with the four PRASE project directors in supporting the organization through the processes of examining better and more efficient ways of delivering our programs and services.

Over the next few months, Creating a Better Workplace will focus its efforts on supporting initiatives in every division and Faculty. Suzanne’s immediate goals will be to:

  • meet one-on-one with deans and vice-presidents across the University to discuss their Better Workplace strategies as part of their integrated resource plans;
  • review change activities underway within Faculties and divisions; and
  • identify individuals within each division or Faculty who can lead or champion Better Workplace initiatives and/or participate as members of the Creating a Better Workplace Advisory Council.

For the balance of the 2011-2012 academic year Creating a Better Workplace will concentrate on successfully achieving the following results and outcomes:

  1. Doing a better job of communicating and sharing information with you.  That’s what you told us in the consultation process and that is going to be the single most important result we achieve by this summer.  Approval has been given to establish an employee portal – an electronic place you can go to find information about York and your workplace. We will be working with our management team to ensure they are equipped and able to keep you in the loop as we move together through these fiscally challenging times.
  2. Ensuring that our managers and academic administrators have the skills, tools and supports to provide the leadership York needs to ensure an engaged and committed faculty and staff. Those taking on new managerial responsibilities will receive onboarding training and development. We will ensure our managers know the contents of our collective agreements and manage according to a respectful and fair set of management policies. Workshops for academic administrators will continue to focus on needs identified by those taking on these positions.
  3. Increasing the importance of rewards and recognition programs and initiatives that value achievements and accomplishments.
  4. Assembling an inventory of best people practices that are happening across the University that will be available to everyone who has managerial responsibilities.
  5. Measuring and assessing how we are doing in making York a better place to work. By the end of this academic year we will have conducted a baseline employee survey that will be developed by working with our unions and employee associations. We will use the results of employee surveys to identify areas where we need to focus to ensure that York continually improves the quality of our workplaces. Success depends on Creating a Better Workplace cascading throughout the institution where every employee takes on responsibility for improving the workplace.

We are confident that progress in these areas will make a positive difference to our workplace. In parallel, our Human Resources and Employee Relations Department will continue to put in place the systems and processes needed to support all of our efforts. Succession planning is just one example of the supporting priorities that will be areas of focus over the next few years.

We know that lots already is going on in Faculties and divisions and most areas have developed integrated resource plans that include commitments around professional development and training, performance indicators, improved communications processes, enhanced leadership capacity and celebrating successes/engendering pride. Creating a Better Workplace will help support those initiatives by providing tools and techniques to assist Faculties and divisions by matching their commitments with CBW toolkits. It is also essential that Creating a Better Workplace is inclusive of all employees whether faculty or staff, full-time or contract, and to understand how needs and issues may vary for different employee groups.

If you would like to contact Suzanne Killick on any of these initiatives, she can be reached at killick@yorku.ca or ext. 77563.