Employees set to discuss results of staff survey


McMaster's administration hopes that the best way to address issues of concern from employees is to allow them to contemplate and work through solutions in a manner that is constructive for everyone.

The University conducted a survey of non-teaching staff in late 1998 in order to better understand the issues that affect their workplace and any concerns they may have. The results of the survey were made available to the community in the late spring 1999 in the form of a summary of the findings. Those suggestions haven't been forgotten.

“The University's response to the survey has been delayed for a number of reasons; however we do not believe that the passage of time has negated the need for action,” said Peter George, President and Vice-Chancellor, Harvey Weingarten, provost and vice-president academic, and Paul Donoghue, vice-president administration (interim), in an open letter to the University community on March 7.

The survey identified four key areas for attention:

* communicating about what the University is doing to manage the current environment;

* the level of staff involvement;

* the level of recognition provided for good performance; and

* staff development.

In the next month, a spectrum of employees will work to find solutions to those issues. Participants will be chosen on a random basis. These individuals will be invited to participate as a member of a work team and, upon their acceptance, their supervisors will be advised so that release time for team activities may be arranged where required.
The plan involves the non-teaching staff.

“We also believe that it is critical, from the beginning of the process, that the response is sponsored, supported and encouraged by the most senior members of the University's administration,” said the letter. “Therefore, we have initiated a plan to ensure that the non-teaching staff participate fully and openly in the generation of solutions to perceived areas of concern.”

Mary Williams, associate executive director, university advancement, will act as project manager.

After an orientation session, scheduled for Tuesday, March 21, participants will be assigned to one of four projects groups, each consisting of 12 employees.

Each team will be assigned one of the four key areas identified by the survey and will be asked to come forward with a series of concrete suggestions as to how McMaster may best react to the concerns in these areas. The teams will be given support throughout the process to ensure that all members of the team understand the challenge and the expect
ations and that they have the support they need to complete their task.

Any recommendations will be assessed in terms of the contributions to the quality of working life for the people of the McMaster community, any resource implications of the suggestion, as well as how it meshes with the mission of the University.

When the work teams have finished their work, they will present their findings and recommendations to the leadership team, which will be comprised of George, Weingarten, Donahue, Williams and the four chairs of the work teams. The leadership team will review the teams' work and be given sufficient time to consider their reports.

The work teams and leadership team will report back to the entire McMaster community in a town hall session and, at that time, will provide its responses and rationale for those responses in the open session. Where needed, the leadership team will also provide a time frame for implementation on each suggestion.

“We believe that this process is the first step in addressing some of the concerns raised by the survey,” said the letter. “Specifically, it involves staff from all areas and levels of the organization and, by its design, will see the results of that work communicated in an open forum.

“It will require a great deal of hard work from those selected for the work teams but we trust that the results will be well worth the effort.”

This project will not address issues of compensation and benefits. Those concerns will be discussed during upcoming negotiations between the recently certified McMaster University Staff Association (MUSA), which represents a large percentage of non-teaching staff, and the administration.