Valuing People - Communication

(Annual Quality Initiative)

 

Current Facilitator: Chris Fletcher

 

August 18, 2001 - Opening Faculty and Staff Meeting
Project identified
a. Listen b. Consider needs of people who are affected by decisions Allow input up front. "Communication is vital in order to develop of good relations. Communication requires speaking and listening. A suggestion was made that supervisors visit subordinates monthly, or at least periodically, to see how everything is going. Listening to subordinates could be powerful." (S. Ellis, M. Gillan, G. Granberg, J. Imdieke, A. Milliken, K. Sweeney, G. Volk, M. Yates)

 

September 24, 2001 - Project priority assigned

 

October 4, 2001 - AQIP Meeting
Initial discussion about prioritized results

 

November 2, 2001 - AQIP Meeting
Facilitator assigned: Chris Fletcher

 

November 20, 2001 - First Quality Team Meeting, 1 p.m., Bluestem Room, Student Center
Support staff should have a chance to give input before a decision is made that will affect them. There should be an established process whereby input is sought from constituencies, however, that doesn't necessarily mean talking with every individual. The process needs to be publicized.

 

Supervisors are accountable for disseminating information. They are supposed to be doing that (i.e., minutes from Cabinet), but many are not. The President assumes it's happening, but it's not.

 

Some faculty aren't looking for more information. There is an information overload. Between department meetings and school meetings, faculty are fairly well informed. This seems to be a staff issue rather than a faculty issue.

 

Employees should feel that their contribution to the college community is valued. How can we foster acceptance of staff by supervisors?

 

We need to realize that important ideas can come from new employees.
Staff members don't have anyone safe and secure to talk to about problems. Perhaps an ombudsman would be helpful.

 

Suggestions:
Develop an outline highlighting all the minutes of the major committees could be developed every two weeks or so. Four to ten topics would be listed for each group. Individuals could click on those topics to get more information if they wanted to.
All units should have office meetings.

 

Members of committees are responsible for representing their constituency, but they are also responsible for bringing information back to that constituency.
Do we need a Support Staff Senate? This would let people know that they have a voice.

 

Supervisor training is an essential part of this process. Many supervisors have never been trained in this area.

 

As part of the yearly evaluation, there could be a section that lists ideas that came from employees and examples of how employees were given opportunity to provide input to decisions.

 

Questions/Concerns:
Should we concentrate on changing individuals or changing the process?
Perhaps a survey of needs should be the first step.
We need to be sure that what we come up with is not a costly, time-consuming, burdensome process.

 

Outcome:
It was decided that a brief summary of this meeting that will provide more detail about this issue should be sent out campus-wide since there are probably many people who would be interested in this issue if they knew more specifically what we were working on. Chris Fletcher agreed to create that summary and e-mail it to those present for approval before release.

 

Summary to be published prior to next meeting:
HELP MAKE WAYNE STATE A BETTER PLACE TO WORK!!
All faculty and staff are invited to an AQIP discussion about Communication & Valuing People. This discussion will focus mainly on ways support and professional staff can provide input before decisions are made that will affect them. We will also be discussing ideas that will help every employee feel that their contribution to the college community is valued. Another area of interest will be determining how we can foster acceptance of staff by supervisors.
If you are interested in joining in this discussion and helping to implement some changes on the Wayne State College campus, please come to the Cottonwood Room at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 4th. Please help us improve communication at Wayne State. (If you are interested in this topic, but can't attend the meeting, please contact Chris Fletcher.)

 

December 4, 2001 - Quality Team Meeting, 1 p.m., Cottonwood Room, Student Center
Notes from the December 4, 2001, AQIP Quality Team Meeting on Communication:
We need to teach or re-teach people (especially support staff) that serving on committees (like AQIP) is a part of their job. Many feel that if they want to attend a meeting, they are asking a favor of their boss. Others don't attend because of negative peer pressure. There are a number of supervisors on campus who don't encourage, and in fact discourage, their employees from serving on committees. It may be direct or it may be an indirect comment like, "Who are you going to get to answer the phones?" The process of change here needs to start with upper-level administrators getting the message to their subordinates that committee involvement by all employees is desired.

 

1. E-mail and other correspondence
Getting information out to all involved was a major topic of discussion. Why don't people send e-mails and memos to supervisors and their office assistants? Supervisors are not getting information to their employees. Perhaps it's because they're too busy and don't think about it. Other times it seems a deliberate attempt to keep information from the employees and by doing so, keeping control and power for themselves.

 

Cabinet and other appropriate minutes could be sent out via an all-campus e-mail instead of relying on supervisors to distribute the information.

 

Another possibility is assigning one person in each office/department/unit the duty of disseminating information. E-mails would be sent to that person and they would know that they needed to forward it to others. Many times it is assumed that people are getting e-mails and they aren't. If one person was assigned that duty, that problem would be solved.

 

A simple solution would be to indicate in the first lines of an e-mail who is getting that e-mail (i.e., deans, department chairs, etc.) and asking that the e-mail be forwarded to staff members. Again, many assume people are getting e-mails they are not.

 

Problems with getting information through the bulletin boards were discussed. Several people indicated that they had access to the bulletin boards, but don't anymore. There are some concerns that when John Dunning makes changes, access to bulletin boards is terminated. When a phone call is made to John, he can fix the problem quickly, but how many people do or should make that phone call.
It would be helpful if we could send e-mails to office names, rather than names of staff. If you don't know the name of the person in the office, how do you e-mail them?

 

2. Processes are publicized
Many times processes are not clearly mapped out. Administrative Services has had meetings about their forms and processes, but there are many new people on campus who weren't here then. Also, how do you get people to attend those meetings?

 

3. Appointments to Committees
The way people are chosen to serve on committees is offensive to many. Committee members should be chosen by constituents, not by upper-level administration. It is the perception of many that people are chosen to be on committees, not because they are good representatives, but because they are easy to work with or will go along with what supervisors and administrators want. Examples that were given were the campus master plan focus group and the AQIP Council. Why weren't those things publicized so that people who might have been interested could have been considered? Why weren't groups allowed to select their own representatives? There will be times, because of time or other concerns, that this process won't be possible. When that happens, explain it to employees.

 

4. Training
Supervisors need training on supervising. Many have been promoted from other staff or faculty positions and don't have those skills. They also need to learn to value the staff under their supervision. Employees need training on self-esteem, etc. Training would have to be mandatory or the people who really needed it wouldn't come. Another area of concern/training is confidentiality for all employees. This is a real problem on campus.

 

5. Support Staff Senate
Further discussion of a Support Staff Senate was suggested.

 

6. Other Suggestions
Department office assistants should be included in all faculty searches, as participants, not just as the person responsible for the letters and files.
It would be very helpful if staff would wear nametags. Most staff have them; few wear them.

 

December 18, 2001 - Quality Team Meeting, 8:15 a.m., Cottonwood Room, Student Center

 

The committee decided that we should create a survey about communication and ask all faculty and staff to complete it. Most of the meeting time was taken with development of that survey.

 

We discussed several possible ways to improve communication:

  1. Mailboxes for custodians in the buildings in which they work.
  2. Review the evaluation process. Check to be sure all employees are being evaluated. Review the evaluation tools and see if they need to be revised. Make the evaluation process collaborative. As part of the evaluation process, each employee would have a goal sheet. Training for supervisors in the evaluation process.
  3. Training in supervisor skills.
  4. Updated training for e-mail.
  5. Create a support staff senate.
  6. Focus more on new employee orientation. Be sure that a new employee is shown around the campus and introduced to the appropriate people.
  7. Have all employees wear nametags.
  8. Have a picture directory on the website or in the bulletin.
  9. Have a mentor assigned to each new employee. Have lunches with both old and new employees.

The next meeting will be Thursday, January 17th, at 8:15 in Curt Frye's conference room.

 

January 17, 2002 - Quality Team Meeting, 8:15 a.m., Room 201D, Student Center (Curt Frye's conference room)

 

We discussed the survey and made appropriate changes. Chris will edit the document and e-mail a final copy to all committee participants. The survey will be in campus mail on January 18th. We are asking for employees to return the survey by January 31st. Several of the committee members will get together after that time and tabulate the results. Results will be distributed to committee members prior to the next meeting.

 

Several new issues were brought up. The first was the need to keep Campus Security informed of any meetings, groups or organizations that will be on campus. This is most often an issue when class space in academic buildings is being used. If the person organizing the event would inform Campus Security or be sure the event is on the main campus calendar and provide temporary parking permits to participants, it would be very helpful.

 

The President's Council on Diversity is drafting a document regarding harassment. This committee was asked to consider and review this document since the issue of communication is fundamental when discussing harassment. That document will be e-mailed to all committee members.

 

Other areas of possible action include computers at the desks of residence halls for use by the dorm director and custodian, cell phones or pagers for custodians, using the campus TV channel more effectively, and training supervisors in the evaluation process.

 

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 7th, from 8:15 to 10:00 in Curt Frye's Conference Room. Each member should bring to that meeting a list of possible actions the committee could take. At the meeting, we will discuss these actions and decide on the ones we would like to pursue.

 

January 18, 2002 - Quality Team distributes survey to all Wayne State Faculty and Staff.

 

February 7, 2002 - Quality Team Meeting, 8:15 a.m., Room 201D, Student Center (Curt Frye's conference room)

 

February 14, 2002 - Quality Team Meeting, 8:15 a.m., Room 201D, Student Center (Curt
Frye's conference room)

 

February 21, 2002 - Quality Team to meet with Cabinet at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the Communications Survey results.

 

March 21, 2002 - Quality Team Meeting, 8:15 a.m., Room 201D, Student Center (Curt Frye's conference room)

 

July 16, 2002 - Microsoft Excel Discussion Series - 1st meeting, 8 a.m., CH 129

 

July 25, 2002 - Microsoft Excel Discussion Series - 2nd meeting, 8 a.m., CH 129

 

Links

Contact Info

Michael Anderson
Vice President for Academic Affairs
402-375-7208
miander1@wsc.edu

Sue Sydow
Director of Assessment/
Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO) AQIP
402-375-7197
susydow1@wsc.edu


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