Supporting Dal's employees

Following up on the 2013 workplace survey

- March 31, 2015

Every two years since 2009, Dalhousie has surveyed its faculty and staff to gather input and feedback on a whole range of topics related to their work at Dalhousie.
"We're one of Nova Scotia's largest employers, with a large and varied team of faculty and staff who are critical to our success," says Katherine Frank, assistant vice-president, Human Resources. "The workplace survey is one of the key ways for us to listen to their concerns, hear their feedback and, from there, develop strategies to help improve Dalhousie as a workplace."

As the university prepares to launch the next workplace survey in April, now is an ideal time to check in and review what’s been happening at Dalhousie as a result of the last survey.

Read more: 2013 Dalhousie Workplace Survey (summary report) [PDF]

Responding to feedback

Employees’ feedback from the 2013 survey offered three main themes for Dalhousie to work on: more recognition for faculty and staff, a better understanding of Dal’s strategic direction and more opportunities for career growth and advancement.

During the past two years, there have been several initiatives that have been introduced campus-wide including the launch of Dalhousie's Strategic Direction, which was shaped by not only the 100 Days of Listening but by the 2013 workplace survey results. Most recently, Dalhousie's strategic initiative focused on fostering a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness was introduced this past January, completing its first action report in early March.

“We met with more than 60 different groups on our campuses, with representation from students, faculty and staff, to hear about ways that the university could develop a more diverse and inclusive culture,” says Katherine Frank, who is also member of the strategic initiative's committee. “The Belong report outlines a series of recommendations for the university, and now we are excited to be working on an implementation plan to act on these, beginning as early as this spring.”

Other strategic initiatives will be rolled out throughout 2015, including one focused on developing a human resource strategy that attracts, supports and rewards the best faculty and staff. As part of this strategy, a number of activities are already underway.

For example, Human Resources is offering more leadership development programs and online learning opportunities have increased through Dal’s renewed partnership with Skillsoft. In addition, the annual milestones tea and recognition for long-service employees was expanded to include 15-year recipients, and the university launched an annual Strawberry Social, open to all employees.

Campus leaders and action plans

“Dalhousie is committed to continuing to improve the university as a great place to work,” adds Katherine Frank. “Since the last survey, we have focused on better supporting our leaders, the people who can introduce change in their areas.”
After each survey, the deans, VPs and AVPs receive a detailed breakdown of their results. They develop action plans that best meet the needs of their own employees and teams. Here are a few examples of success from across Dalhousie.

The Faculty of Health Professions introduced a Milestone Recognition Award in 2013 following the results of the survey. This awards program honours employees in the faculty with 10- and 20-year continuous service within milestones the Faculty of Health Professions. Each recipient receives a letter of thanks and appreciation from the dean and a gift card to the university bookstore.

“The most important asset of the Faculty of Health Professions is its faculty and staff,” says William Webster, dean, Faculty of Health Professions. “The quality and integrity of everything we do in the realms of teaching, research and service reflects their commitment and dedication to what this university is all about.

“It is only fitting that we take the opportunity, on the occasion of 10 and 20 year continuous service milestones, to recognize and thank these employees,” he continues. “That is what our milestone recognition program is all about. We need to be vigilant to find other occasions for celebration of achievement by the wonderful people who comprise our faculty and staff.”

Dalhousie Libraries, similarly, launched a Milestone Recognition Program last year. All staff received a certificate acknowledging their years of service and flower seeds for planting. Each February, staff reaching five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 years of service and greater will be recognized at a milestone lunch and will receive a certificate and gift card.

“Employee recognition and engagement are two areas where we know we can be doing better, says Donna Bourne-Tyson, University Librarian. “Working with suggestions from all staff, we have devoted time and attention to the development of a creative service recognition program, which has been well received. Increasing employee engagement is an ongoing goal, and we will work together to expand opportunities for meaningful multi-directional communication.”

Facilities Management, in response to the previous survey, developed an action plan based on five themes: leadership/support, communications, recognition, employee development and compensation.

As a result, there was an increase in training for all Facilities Management employees (including speak-up sessions with HR, English as a Second Language, LEED, sustainability and technical), as well as more one-on-one sessions between managers and employees to assess employee wellness and job satisfaction. A flexible shift program was introduced for NSGEU Local 99 employees that allows them to work an extra hour per day and get one day off every two weeks.

In addition, an Employee Recognition and Reward Program, known as the Stoker Awards, and a wall of thanks were both launched last year within Facilities Management. Communications was also increased through structured toolbox meetings, a weekly newsletter and a “year in review” for employees.

New survey forthcoming in April

If you know of a department/faculty or area doing great work for its employees, let us know through or the Human Resources blog.

Stay tuned for more information in early April about the next workplace survey.


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