Office of the Chancellor

Staff Engagement Town Hall

Section 1

Staff Engagement Town Hall

Summary of Small Group Dialogues

May 16, 2012

The Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Staff (CACS) and UCI Staff Assembly hosted a Town Hall Dialogue on Staff Engagement on Wednesday, May 16, from noon to 1 p.m. in Moss Cove A. CACS shared aggregate results from the February 2011 town hall as well as preliminary findings from the Fall 2011 Staff Engagement Survey and facilitated a dialogue in small groups focused on steps the university and individual employees can take to increase staff engagement at UC Irvine. The small group discussions were lively and informative. Key points made by employees during the small group dialogues are summarized below.

Mentorship: Mentoring is an important vehicle through which staff engagement at UCI can be enhanced. Mentoring provides employees with support for their professional and personal advancement by providing constructive/practical advice and guidance, as well as a venue through which sharing knowledge and personal experiences can be shared in productive ways. The challenges to effective mentorship for staff at UCI include lack of a mentoring program for staff, lack of time for mentors to devote to mentoring activities, and lack of mentorship training, resources and tools.

Recognition: Another important mechanism for engaging staff is recognition of staff accomplishments on an ongoing basis and in a public way. This recognition can be accomplished through public praise by university leaders and managers that demonstrates their awareness of the achievement of departments and units, presentation of certificates acknowledging the contributions of individual staff, and support by supervisors for professional development and opportunities for advancement and promotion – at all levels. Also, a simple heartfelt "thank you" for work well done can be quite meaningful. One employee shared that his/her department encourages employees to recognize the work, contributions and dedication of their colleagues. Every two months, the accolades that have been submitted in the department are read aloud, and of those employees recognized, one name is pulled out of a drawing for a $75 gift card. The employee shared that the biggest impact is how surprised employees are to hear their work and efforts are appreciated by their colleagues.

Communication: Echoing results from the 2011 engagement town hall, communication is a key element for successful engagement of staff across campus. Clear communication to all staff is valued – in the sharing of professional development opportunities/trainings, challenges the university may be facing, and available resources to assist employees. Learning from senior leadership, as well as deans and supervisors, about the positive contributions and achievements of the university and the school/department was cited as a relatively inexpensive way to enhance the engagement of staff. In addition, outlining and acknowledging the role staff play and how their individual efforts contribute to the mission of the university would increase the level of staff engagement.

Connections: Making connections within a unit and throughout the university is a challenge as well as a valuable tool for staff engagement. Employees want opportunities to develop relationships with other employees across the campus. Administrators who make personal connections with staff at all levels are models for creating a greater sense of connection to the university. Challenges can include the siloed nature of departments across campus, within a department, as well as certain types of positions. Awareness by managers and supervisors of how the structure of their departments and the nature of the work of their employees may contribute to a sense of isolation can help them identify and implement initiatives to increase the connectedness of their employees to the unit as well as to the university. Examples include regular team meetings, opportunities and release time for employees to participate in cross-campus events, and adapting their approach to supervision to better engage employees from different generations, cultural backgrounds and communication styles.

In summary, staff recognize the difficult budget times the university faces, and have taken on additional workload in many cases to help offset the reduction in resources and staffing in their units. Many of the suggestions from staff at this town hall do not require investment of funds, but do require commitment from all levels to improve communication, recognize the work and contributions of staff, and invest time to mentor and connect staff.