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CDes Student Services Lead Staff (Kate Maple and her administrative staff) 4-30-07

1. What started you or your organization down the path to look at staff engagement issues?

Kate: experiencing management mistakes, she became strategic – looking at the staff for clues to improve.

2. How does your organization define staff engagement? How do you define it?

* Wanting to come to work – not just for the pay check.
* Wanting to continue to improve – creating a constant loop of what can be changed for the better
* Being around other people who do their jobs well – knowing they are committed at the same level of involvement and will follow through on their commitments
* Trusting others – sharing the same values: serving students, believing in the value of higher education and the value of working with students, making a positive difference – these values brought them to the job.

3. Why do you find staff engagement is important to your organization?

Relationships with people at work are rewarding – they don’t hang out after work, but function as a supportive family while at work – it makes it fun to come to work.

4. What does your organization do to engage staff?

* Kate has tea at her house
* Regular staff meetings – even though their staff is split between St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses
* Meetings every other week of the function lead team
* Meetings of other project teams (new student team, advising team)
* A daily e-mail report on what’s going on keeps people connected
* Staff development planning each year
* Effort to come to big decisions as a group – because expertise is spread out through the staff, and no-one can make decisions as an island, but needs to consult throughout the staff to make sure all the expertise out there is brought to bear on the decision.
* This relates to hiring practices: they hire for congruent talents to build a strong team
* No micromanagement from higher leadership: they are supported right up to the Dean level
*They have had adequate resources to do their work.
* They employ a family-friendly approach (flexibility related to caring for young children, aging parents, “emergency house cleaning?) – this connects to the trust that people will do their jobs and not take advantage of flexibility
* The shared work ethic is very strong – people are accountable to get things done
* They take time to have fun at work, enjoying the time together in meetings, etc.
* In the prior CHE, there were monthly birthday parties, seasonal parties such as Halloween, a celebration for Staff Appreciation Day.
Cross college (CHE) and cross administration, there was a general feeling that people play an equal part: staff, faculty – that everyone is in this together.

5. Who is responsible for increasing or improving staff engagement?

Everyone! But the tone is set by the Dean and central administration (legacy of CHE) – their former Dean set the tone by empowering people and showing respect (such as the P&A leave options)

The current Dean is taking the time to have breakfasts and lunches with small groups of employees over several months.

6. How is staff engagement worked into job descriptions?

Professional development has been a part of job descriptions for everyone. At the point of performance review, everyone is asked about professional development and goals. The prior college had a fund to help individuals take part in professional development activities. (Kate mentioned sending new staff members to _______ training).

7. How do you assess the level of staff engagement?

The measure is how satisfied the staff is. They haven’t done formal measurement, but Kate always asks – takes time at the outset of meetings, where possible, to have people check in – she checks in routinely with supervisees.

8. What rewards and recognition does your organization provide to motivate or acknowledge staff engagement? Are these effective motivators?

They had (CHE) an awards ceremony in the spring, recognizing all staff and faculty, at all different levels, connected to Commencement. (The newly merged college culture has a bigger chasm between staff and faculty than the prior college.)

9. In what ways has there been a connection in your organization between access to training and staff engagement? What sorts of training opportunities do staff seek out or desire?

In CHE: they sent one to two people to major national professional conferences, and especially encouraged attendance at local ones. Everyone when hired was sent to the Franklin Covey training. Staff have been encouraged to participate in the study abroad site visits experience through Learning Abroad Curriculum Integration project.

10. In what ways does your organization provide career support and mobility to staff? Is there a correlation between staff perception of mobility and engagement in your setting?

Within existing jobs, they encourage each other to explore new tasks (or swap out tasks that they don’t want to do). Especially when they have GTA or student workers, they support the person in growing professionally to go out to new jobs. There’s a lot of support for individual growth toward new opportunities, and support to grow in place in existing jobs – everyone’s jobs have changed, and they make conscious efforts to spread out the “distasteful? 20-25% of any job (though they find that what’s distasteful to one person might not be to another, so swapping tasks keeps people happy). They strongly support the use of tuition benefits. They actively work to help student hires develop professionally, not just do the tasks of the job.

11. Are there ways that communication in your organization fosters or impedes staff engagement?

It’s hard functioning across two campuses – holding frequent meetings helps – e-mails have become a problem for people to wade through, and it’s hard to get busy people on the phone. It’s harder and harder to control the flow of information, because different people want their information in different forms (some what information ahead of time, others don’t) – which makes it hard to get everyone on the same page when decision-making needs to happen.

There’s an information overload problem – too much detail, too many attachments – it’s hard to know who has read it all and who hasn’t. They try to find ways of matching communication to people’s preferred style, but really can’t do this for everyone.

12. In what ways is there a connection in your organization between support for work/life balance and the level of staff engagement.

It’s enormously important. (Already discussed above – flexibility combined with trust.)

13. Is there something else related to staff engagement in your setting that these questions didn’t touch on?

People need to have some control over their own work destiny and have some control over the conditions of their work. It empowers everyone to have input on these things.

14. What are some highlights you would tell someone who wanted to improve staff engagement?

ASK the employees – everyone who works there – honestly take the feedback, and not take it personally.

15. How does workplace staff engagement connect to staff connections/engagement/service to the wider University community and beyond?

(Mary) – when she worked at CCE, she didn’t feel attached to the wider U – but now is proud of representing her college and work unit in wider activities/groups. There needs to be support for people taking the time off to serve on U-wide committees, but getting people out there pays off: they have the opportunity to network and get to know people outside their work unit, they experience increased satisfaction, the service to students improves as people learn good approaches from other colleagues around campus, etc.


University Services Employee Engagement Project

For more than a year, the University Services unit has been in an active planning process to improve employee engagement. Last winter, this process was formalized when three leaders applied for and received a process improvement grant (this is the notice that Vic brought to us.)

University Services has 150 leaders (personnel in supervisory positions) and 2500 total employees, with an additional group of student employees bringing the total to 3000.

Headed by Kathy O’Brien, the unit is aligning their efforts with a larger system-wide revisioning process on the enterprise side (with parallels the academic strategic positioning effort). There have been changes already put in place affecting supervision and performance evaluation activities during this employee engagement development process which have already had results in lower levels of grievances, as one concrete measure.

At the end of May, the steering group, chaired by Linda Bjornberg (the individual we interviewed), will roll out the plan to the group of 150 unit leaders for their feedback. Included in the overarching employee engagement initiative are these teams:
* Services Values/Leader Behavior Congruence
* Work Environment & Employee Satisfaction
* Developing Human Capacity
* Performance Management

Each team is developing measures which will allow ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of changes as they are put into place and over time.

Each team has a charge and works independently, coordinating with others through the Steering Committee.

Here are the notes from our conversation with Linda, reflecting her responses to the questions of our survey:

= = = = = =

The process of the project getting set up was a bit bumpy, because it is quite ambitious and is being done on top of people’s jobs. One of the key planners (Lori Anne Williams?) left the unit after the process improvement grant was received. After some floundering, the group split into work teams with a steering committee keeping their efforts aligned. Linda has been keeping in touch with colleagues outside the University, looking at best practices elsewhere, and is thinking about attending a national Great Places to Work conference after attending a Twin Cities award breafast for area industry honorees. (She mentions Petters Worldwide, Ecumen, and Webber Shamvick – spelling?)

1. She’ll send their definition of employee engagement – the Great Places to Work definition is the “alignment of maximum job satisfaction with maximum job contribution.? Contribution includes not just doing things well, but doing the RIGHT things well.

2. Their example (she can send us team brainstorming materials) – the military sends people into battle, where there are lots of decisions needing to be made all the time that have critical impact – these need to be in line with the objectives of why they’re there. Employees need to have their attitudes in line to be the best ambassadors of their workplace.

Their top 3 goals: performance management: clarifying expectations – getting things in alignment – constantly doing the education piece.

A challenge is to communicate expectations and provide feedback to supervisees. They are experimenting with a “survey monkey? related to training they did with staff on this last January in facilities management, and find out how well it’s working. Then they need to find out how to engage the rest of the organization.

Who’s responsible? Everybody.

Job descriptions need work: this is moving forward, not retrofitting to the past.

Assessment: they are working on it.

Rewards and recognition: they are working on it.

Access to training: staff can’t be engaged if they don’t have the skills for the job.

Career pathing: she was on a joint civil-service & U work group on engagement, and came up with a worksheet on job expectations and what skill building needs to happen to move forward in job categories.

This goes beyond training to an individual development plan: experience, education, training, and feedback – which creates a creative loop.

It can’t be a program, but needs to be embedded throughout everything you do, so that people come to work excited to be there.

Career support and mobility: career pathing hasn’t been put in place through the organization yet – they started in Facilities Management, where there are expectations of training plus evidence of proficiency and three levels of advancement. They are working on doing something like this in Engineering. They (central HR) work with the unit to determine what’s needed at each level. Linda said that this effort has improved engagement. They used to carry 50-some grievances, which are now down in the 20’s – they have a very different relationship now with the Teamsters. They have been coaching supervisers in how to coach.

She said that typically in the past 80% of superviser/HR attention has been placed on the 30% of disengaged employees (on a spectrum where 17% are fully engaged) – the effort needs to shift away from these to the middle 53%.

Community building: she wrote this into one of her charges. The Pulse survey showed that only 18% identify with the U – this surprised her. She feels people DO identify with the U. There always seems to be good news coverage in the paper about the U and people take pride in it. She feels that the way we align each individual’s role with the U’s initiatives will improve this over time. She has a work team working on this.

Beyond the U services: there are no current plans to export this initiative to other U of M units right now – perhaps after their own people have a chance to respond and get on board. However, down the line, there needs to be a measure U-wide of some sort and expectations of written feedback on performance for everyone.

Next year, they have a goal of developing some web-based technology to keep track of this process (compliance with performance evaluation expectations), and they will be able to track and see trends by superviser. They can do feedback audits and quality audits (including grievances and customer complaints). They found, for example, that there were 30% of customer complaints in one audit related to a single supervisory area. They can use turnover information and exit interview data. They need tools to make decisions.

One of the work teams is looking at other units –U of M enterprise-wide practices.

There are also models of assessment elsewhere – such as Gallop’s Q12 survey from the 1990’s. This brief 6-question survey could pop up on employees computers and could take a pulse of employee engagement at any time.

They are looking at corporate models: a colleague of hers at Comcast has a process based on employee surveys

What are the benefits from attending to staff engagement in building community – both in the unit and the wider U?

(New wording of question)

Best Buy went from an annual to a continual pulse Q12 model. Using a standard like this allows the unit to benchmark against other work places.

Another best practice model: the Studer Group in Sarasota Florida – during a 2-day training, one of the suggestions was that, more than money at the end of the year or an increase in salaray, getting personal recognition makes a big impact – when a staff member was especially productive, the CEO worte a handwritten letter sent to employees homes telling the family about how valued the work of the individual was.