|April 23, 1999||Volume 6, Number 15|
ORGANIZATION & EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENTEditor's note: The following is one of a series of three pieces by O&ED staff.
O & ED: shaping the course of a river
Linda McCann, coordinator of the Organization & Employee Development (O&ED) unit at the University, is echoing words offered to her by a workshop facilitator, words now printed in delicate script and tacked onto her office wall amid photos and memorabilia from the many workshops and retreats she has facilitated.
"I would like to think that we can change the course of a river," she continues, envisioning each of the unit's initiatives as one more pebble moved. As the river changes its course, she explains, the University culture becomes one in which every employee and every unit is valued and is provided with opportunities to enhance their capabilities and strengths.
"I hope that O&ED influences the river's course by contributing to a better quality of worklife and encouraging the University to work as a community as it achieves its goals."
O&ED is a sub-unit of the Human Resources Division (HRD). Its services focus on employee learning and development, conflict management and prevention, and on initiatives aimed at enhancing organizational relationships and effectiveness, such as facilitating strategic planning at the college and departmental level. The O&ED approach is highly collaborative, with representatives of stakeholder groups participating in setting direction, problem-solving, and decision making.
Organization and employee development became a function of HRD largely due to the vision of four University divisions - Facilities Management, Computing Services, University Libraries, and Consumer Services. These "forward-looking" divisions, McCann says, saw the urgent need for staff development and planned organizational change, and they were prepared to invest funds to make that happen. "They really laid the groundwork for a shift in direction at the University," recalls McCann.
During its first year of operation, the O&ED unit consisted of McCann and one associate, the two of them managing all aspects - design, communications, finances, logistics, and facilitation.
Then in March 1996, Sharon Cochran, associate vice-president, joined HRD and shortly after her arrival demonstrated her support for O&ED functions by re-allocating resources to the struggling unit.
"It was clear from an external review of HRD services that had been conducted in 1995 that there was a big gap in our strategic direction," Cochran says. "The University community desperately wanted training and development as well as a process for working through conflict."
The resources provided by the HRD re-allocation and a one-time grant from the President's New Initiative Funds enabled O&ED to begin some long-term, systematic planning.
In 1996, the unit conducted a campus-wide Learning Needs Assessment, began addressing needs and issues uncovered by the Assessment, and put together a Conflict Management team.
Currently, six people comprise the O&ED team, some of them funded by a provincial "special initiatives" fund shared by the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina for partnering in the area of employee development. In addition, the unit has an auxiliary team of consultants who augment O&ED's services in conflict management and workshop facilitation.
University students, too, are a common presence in the unit, as they participate in a variety of projects.
As one of its major initiatives, O&ED distributes to all employees its calendar of no-cost learning programs. The calendar has been getting thicker, thanks largely to the special initiatives funds, peaking at 21 learning programs in the 1998-99 edition.
The unit also collaborates with departments, divisions, and colleges to design programs specifically for their employees, such as the extensive Management Development program at Facilities Management and the Leadership Skills program developed for University Libraries.
Other areas of focus for O&ED include leadership development programs for academic and administrative leaders within the University community, which are developed in collaboration with other university departments, and program development specifically for employees in the CUPE 1975 group, again developed by working closely with an advisory group from among potential participants.
The unit has come a long way since its first offering of four workshops in 1995. To date, close to 3,000 employees have participated in O&ED learning programs alone. That many people can move a lot of pebbles.
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