Among the best: Dal still one of Canada's Top 100 Employers
Third year in a row
Ryan McNutt - October 21, 2013
It’s a three-peat.
For the third consecutive year, Dalhousie has made the list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. The feature profiling all 100 companies and organizations was published in today’s Globe and Mail.
“Dalhousie is one of only five universities to make this prestigious list, a sign that even compared to our peers in higher education, there’s truly something special here at Dal,” said President Richard Florizone in a memo to faculty and staff. “Your work deserves high praise — and you deserve an employer dedicated to providing a supportive, inclusive and encouraging work environment. That’s our commitment to you.”
Given that upwards of a fifth to a quarter of the Top 100 can change year over year, the university’s continued presence on the list speaks volumes about Dal’s faculty and staff, says Katherine Frank, assistant vice-president, Human Resources.
“From my perspective, it’s less about the award itself and more about what it represents: a dedicated community of faculty and staff devoted to their work, our students and to making Dal a better place,” she says.
“An award like this is a lot to live up to, and we’re always working hard to support our employees. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve continued to make the Top 100 list: that we have people across the university who work hard to attract and retain the best faculty and staff, offering them benefits, services and opportunities that value their contributions to the university.”
She points to some initiatives within the past year that speak to those efforts: the expansion of health spending accounts to all employee groups; the launch of Today@Dal as a more robust daily newsletter for faculty/staff news; and this fall’s rollout of Skillsoft, which provides Dal employees with more than 3,000 free, online skills development courses they can work on anytime, anywhere.
Supporting professional development
In this year’s Top 100 citation, Dal earned an A+ rating in “Training and Skills Development,” with Dal’s tuition assistance program earning specific praise. It allows faculty and staff to take courses at Dal or get reimbursed for job-related courses taken outside of the university. (Read the full details and requirements for the program here.) Because Dal has such a wide variety of academic programs, most employees take classes offered by the university: close to 200 employees take more than 350 Dal courses each year, on average.
Margaret Garnier and Allister Barton are an exception, because their programs — an MEd and MAEd, respectively, in Studies in Lifelong Learning — are job-related but not offered at Dalhousie. The two colleagues started taking courses together at Mount Saint Vincent University while working in the Department of Family Medicine. (Garnier now works in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology.) For Barton, a medical education coordinator, and Garnier, an education leader, being able to enhance their careers and develop new skills while working at Dal is incredibly important.
“It’s huge in terms of career development, and it’s huge in terms of what I’m able to contribute,” says Barton.
“Allister and I were both really happy to be employees of Dalhousie before we started the program, but now it really opens a lot of opportunities within the university,” says Garnier. “By the time you get to the level we’re at [in our careers], to go beyond you really need a master's education. So for us it’s great, because we already like working here, and now we can stay with Dalhousie and move around here when the time comes.”
“The tuition assistance really helps us to take courses that will sharpen our skills,” adds Barton. “We can really have an impact on our career. Without it, I’m not sure I’d be in a position to pursue this sort of education, this kind of four-year commitment.”
While many employees who benefit from tuition assistance are working on master's or professional degrees, some are in bachelor’s programs — typically a much longer commitment. But for Carrie Hunter, manager of the Commerce Co-op program, it was an important opportunity.
“I realized in order to advance any further than where I’d already gotten, that I needed to make sure I’m becoming an expert in the education world,” says Hunter, who has been completing her degree since 2007. She says her colleagues have been incredibly supportive, allowing her to organize her work hours to accommodate daytime classes and even giving a helpful second pair of eyes sometimes to an assignment or two.
The biggest challenge, of course, is making time. “It’s not just a work/life balance for me; it’s a work/life/school balance,” says Hunter. “All three have to be properly placed in that scale, because I’m a mom and a volunteer, as well as an employee and a student. It’s making sure that I manage my time well.”
Dal’s educational opportunities don’t begin and end in the traditional classroom, of course. Last year, Employee and Organizational Development offered over 150 different learning opportunities with more than 3,000 employee registrations, ranging from one-hour seminars to multi-day workshops and programs. Nearly all of these are offered by EOD at no direct cost to employees or departments.
Working hard to make improvements
Katherine Frank says being named a Top 100 Employer only reinforces how important it is for the university to listen to faculty and staff and to continue to improve its services and supports.
This spring, the university conducted its third Workplace Survey, asking all faculty and staff to share their impressions of Dal as an employer. (Notably, it’s the first Workplace Survey to include faculty and staff from the Agricultural Campus.) Human Resources will be sharing those results in the very near future and starting the conversation with leaders across the university as to how the university community can work together to address the issues raised.
“Between the Workplace Survey and the 100 Days of Listening process currently underway, we’re receiving lots of feedback and ideas from faculty and staff,” says Frank. “It’s exactly the sort of input we need to identify priority areas where we can better support our community.
“An award like this is really a challenge for all of us to continue to make Dal an even better place to work.”
See the full list of employers and read Dal’s citation at the Canada’s Top 100 Employers website.
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