Speaking Up about improving internal communications at U of T

The Speaking Up’ Faculty & Staff Experience Survey Focus Area #4 puts the spotlight on Communications at the University of Toronto. Similar to the other ‘focus areas,’ the results show us what we are doing well and where we need to improve. At U of T, we excel in external communications – for example, promoting news about the University’s ground-breaking research and award-winning faculty. The Survey shows that we could improve when it comes to internal communications – for example, sharing important information needed to make decisions on-the-job, the strategic priorities of the University’s leadership, and updates about various programs and policies relevant to our work.

“The University’s leadership is committed to enhancing the mechanisms we have for timely, clear, and transparent dissemination of information with faculty, staff and librarians. Our aim is to encourage openness and collaboration through vehicles like our home page, the Bulletin, and the Provost’s Weekly Digest,” says Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President & Provost.

Overall, the communication score is down slightly from 2010 survey results (by 4 points). Further breakdown of the results shows us the differences in how people prefer to receive work-related information (e.g. emails, websites, in-person, social media, the Bulletin, or other newsletters). Two particular findings were quite striking – first, the importance of Chairs, Deans, and managers as sources of information for our employees, and second that the responses in this Focus Area varied notably by age groups. These data points will help us think about improving our internal communications strategies going forward, taking into account the complex needs and preferences of our faculty, librarians and staff.

So what does this tell us?

The results from the three iterations of the ‘Speaking Up’ survey since 2006 confirm that communication at all levels (institutional, divisional, departmental, team-based, and individual) is important.

“Maintaining strong internal communication is a priority for the University’s leadership. Better communication is something that all employees can help define and operationalize at the University. Improved communication about our mission and vision enhances a sense of community, trust, and a positive work culture,” says Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity.

What are we doing?

Here is a snapshot of some of the new communication-related initiatives aimed at enhancing internal communications at U of T:

President’s Priorities

The overall score for ‘senior leaders communicating a clear vision and direction for the University’ went up 5 points in the 2014 results over the 2010 survey. We anticipate this score will continue to improve with the President’s focus on sharing his priorities with the University community. Visit the U of T News site for the most recent information about the three priorities.

Provost’s Weekly Digest

In July, the Provost’s Office launched a new communication tool, including a website and email digest, for sharing information and announcements with academic administrators and other subscribers.

Memoranda and announcements about administrative initiatives, policies, and calls for proposals are categorized, tagged and posted to the public website regularly, and a weekly digest is emailed to subscribers on Fridays. Members of PDAD&C are automatically added and staff, faculty & librarians are welcome to request subscription via the memos website.

New VP Communications & new division of University Communications

The new position of Vice-President, Communications was created to rethink communications across the University. Early this year, we welcomed award-winning communications expert David Estok to take on this important role. David and his team continue to work on the comprehensive review of institutional communications, collaborating with faculties and divisions to streamline processes and develop new strategies.

ESS updates

This fall, the Human Resources & Equity team rolled out an enhanced Employee Self-Service (ESS) online site to U of T employees. ESS is designed to streamline access to employee information, benefits and resources. The initial reaction to the new service has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of the features of the enhanced service:

  • U of T branding and expanded browser capability
  • UTORid single sign-on – no more forgetting your ESS login!
  • New menu, updated pay and benefits page, updated vacation tracker, and other user-friendly enhancements, and
  • AODA compliant.

To learn more about the enhanced Employee Self-Service, visit http://UofT.me/ESS where you can watch videos, read the new FAQ and more!

Bulletin updates

The University’s bi-weekly internal e-publication was redesigned in Spring 2015 with a fresh design and mobile-friendly compatibility to communicate with U of T’s staff and faculty. Highlights of the redesign include:

  • Mobile-optimized design that allows for easier reading on mobile and tablets
  • Revamped template design for a fresher look and more functionality, including “read more” buttons, social icons, et al
  • Template design tailored for web accessibility

Staff Advisory Groups

The formation of staff advisory groups, by function areas and employees groups, is an initiative that developed as a result of feedback and input from various channels, including the initial ‘SpeakingUp’ Survey results in 2006. The advisory groups represent their respective employee groups by bringing forward feedback and viewpoints on work-related policies and programs.

New Faculty & Staff Orientation

Working in collaboration with divisions and various office, the Human Resources and Equity team has been revamping the onboarding experience for new employees at U of T. There are a number of initiatives underway to streamline the onboarding process, but first efforts include enhancing the Orientation for New Faculty & Staff and refreshing the ‘Welcome to Work’ section of the website.

Communication Resource Repository

A list of communications-related projects will live on the ‘Areas of Focus’ website and serve as a repository of initiatives stemming from the results. We look forward to hearing more about innovative ideas across the campuses. Please share thoughts and feedback at hrandequity@utoronto.ca.

Final thoughts…for now

We are continually improving upon existing methods of communication and finding new ways to share U of T stories and information internally, but there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. We look forward to hearing about what you are doing in divisions and departments, and are looking for more solutions to enhance communication across the University.