Striving for excellence and responding to change

The daily commute to our beautiful campuses has shaped my everyday life for over 24 years—first as an undergraduate student, then as a graduate student, and later as an employee in both on-duty and academic roles. Wearing these many hats has provided countless opportunities to collaborate, engage, and collaborate with undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty from every corner of campus.

I chose to build my career at U of A because I am driven by students and colleagues who are committed to leading and supporting excellence in teaching and learning, discovery and citizenship. It is a collaborative and shared engagement. Our graduate students not only serve as the primary teaching contact for approximately 40,000 undergraduate students, but also drive the research enterprise at U of A and are dedicated to their own development as researchers and scholars. Our faculty supports this work and recognizes the U of A as one of the top research and teaching institutions in Canada and worldwide. This is ensured by committed employees, without whom we would not be able to fulfill our teaching and research mandate.

Our community has changed a lot in recent years. A global pandemic alongside new leadership, budget cuts and the subsequent organizational restructuring pushed us into ways of working that were unfamiliar, confusing and at times frustrating. We have all experienced new challenges in different ways – how to approach our day-to-day work, how best to work together and nurture human connections, how to conduct our research, and how to live up to our shared commitment to providing students with an excellent education.

But we also learned a lot from these many challenges. Some of what we have learned has and will have a lasting impact on the way we work. It’s true that much of what we’ve learned came out of a need to adapt, but amidst all of this, I continue to testify to a genuine desire and commitment to advance our mission, vision, and values, and to envision what this means everyone person on this campus to lead purposefully.

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In March 2022, I was asked to conduct a campus-wide needs assessment to examine the education of our campus community, considered to be the most critical in our current context. As Senior Consultant at organizational development, Human Resources, Health, Safety and EnvironmentWorking directly with employees and learning from them not only drives my work, but also inspires me. It fuels my energy, motivation and enthusiasm to continue what I do and it reminds me of why I chose to work at U of A.

Imagining what a workplace skills training program might look like and mean for our campus was no easy task. Supported by my colleagues from organizational development and the HR service partners and committed to the service excellence principle – “build with, not for” – The engagement process was extensive and included surveys, interviews, focus groups and feedback sessions. For me, this process reaffirmed what I had already learned from my time on this campus: our staff and faculty are generous, thoughtful people who care about their work and this organization. Our community came together to help explore the skills we need most. Staff and faculty were co-creators of the curriculum creation process, which gives me confidence that the Workplace Skills Training implemented by HRHSE will be effective, practical and support staff and faculty in their daily workplace realities.

As a result of this analysis, I am pleased to present to you the skills in the workplace Initiative. Six new sessions address the most immediate needs our campus members have identified. The workplace skills curriculum is based on current research, areas of focus and delivered by subject matter experts. It helps participants to communicate more effectively. demonstrate personal effectiveness; generate collaborations that highlight the diversity of our campus members; Approaching questions and solutions innovatively; and translate their work into a hybrid context. I believe that building and refining these skills will help address our current challenges, solve future questions, achieve our goals and drive our vision in pursuit of excellence. I am immensely grateful to the many members of the campus community who supported our big thinking and who held us accountable to create a training curriculum that was staff designed and heavily influenced.

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The first workshop effective communication – will take place on October 27th and the workshops will run until March 2nd. These workshops are supplemented by management intensivea new program (emerging from further discussions as part of the initial analysis) that will be available in Winter 2023 to address the needs of leaders as they manage day-to-day operations, drive operational goals and build high-performing, unstoppable organizations teams.

A university is an ambitious direction. It will require us to work together in a respectful and collaborative way, sharing our strengths and building new skills and behaviors that push us forward. It’s time to be forward-thinking to ensure we can achieve our goals. Whether you are an academic administrator, a groundskeeper, a frontline worker, a researcher, an educator, or anything in between, our current context requires now more than ever that we deepen and build transferable skills in the workplace.

I invite you to take this opportunity to engage, learn and apply critical reflection to your work and to encourage your participation in workplace skills training.

Learn about the Workplace Skills curriculum, sessions, and presentersand Register for upcoming workshops.

Deanna Davis, Senior Consultant in Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment at the University of Alberta

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About Deanna

Deanna is a senior organizational development consultant in the areas of Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment (HRHSE). She is a graduate of the U of A and holds a Bachelor of Arts – Honours, Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the Faculty of Music. In her role as Senior Consultant, she oversees the Learning Pillar where she leads the pilot for the new U of A onboarding program alongside the workplace skills initiative. Prior to HRHSE, Deanna was a Senior Educational Curriculum Developer for the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. In this role, she led and collaborated on educational initiatives that have distinguished the U of A in graduate education, including the ethics and academic citizenship requirements – Canada’s first graduate Indigenous content requirement. Throughout her work, Deanna has led with purpose, helping drive positive change through collaborative educational initiatives grounded in the principles of citizenship, excellence and innovation. When Deanna is not busy with this work, she is busy being the proud mother of her two teenage children and singing in the award-winning Chronos Chamber Choir Vocal Ensemble.

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