Sept. 22, 2021 The Division of Human Resources & Equity is now called the Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture.

‘Speaking Up’ about Professional Development at U of T

October 28, 2015

Areas of Focus and Speaking Up - Faculty and Staff Development

In our first feature on Recognition, we talked about how the ‘Speaking Up’ survey results showed us that employees of U of T feel a sense of pride and deep-rooted value in the work that they do. This sense of pride is reflected in our second ‘focus area’: Faculty & Staff Development. U of T faculty, librarians, and staff regularly seek out supports and resources to be effective in their work, and to gain the skills and knowledge to be successful in current and future roles.

“In our environment, we always hope that our faculty and staff are committed to their professional development and so we were very pleased that the results validate this,” says Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity. “The next step is to go beyond the survey results and learn from divisions and employee groups about the specific areas in which they are interested in gaining knowledge and skills.”

U of T is proud to offer its employees many opportunities to engage in learning and career development, keep up-to-date with current issues and new technologies, and be well informed of new modes of thinking and trends in higher education teaching, administration, and research.

The ‘Speaking Up’ Faculty & Staff Experience Survey shows us that 84% of faculty, staff and librarians report feeling either very motivated or fairly motivated in their jobs and 62% are satisfied with the training provided to do their current jobs. Additionally, the results show that 67% of staff members (staff-only question) are satisfied with the opportunities for professional development opportunities available as employees at U of T.

We asked staff respondents to indicate what factors would encourage further professional development; here are the top three factors that you told us matter to staff at U of T:

  • More time to engage in these activities: 59.3%
  • Clear link to career progression / advancement: 44.0%
  • More access to external courses / conferences: 43.4%

So what does this tell us?

The results from the three iterations of the ‘Speaking Up’ survey confirm that our faculty, librarians, and staff are engaged, motivated, and seeking professional development opportunities. This motivation needs to be better linked to customized professional development opportunities supporting career advancement.

U of T employees wish to acquire skills that specifically help with career advancement. Our goal is to design and deliver more customized programming that will enhance faculty and staff experience in their current roles and prepare them for the future.

Professional development opportunities for staff

Staff members at the University of Toronto are encouraged to peruse the skill-development and career-related resources offered by the Organizational Development & Learning Centre (ODLC) at U of T.

“We are pleased to see the results from the survey and are proud that we are able to offer courses/programs that contribute to an individual staff member’s professional and career development,” says Rosie Parnass, Executive Director, Organizational and Leadership Development and Work Life Support.

“We know how important these internal programs are in enabling our staff to have satisfying and engaging careers here at the University. However, we also realize that in this changing world of work, we need to continually expand and revise our offerings and look forward to creating new opportunities and initiatives that further these goals.”

Here is a snapshot of some of the new staff training initiatives offered through ODLC:

  • The Career Community is designed to support professional growth of staff at all career levels and stages. The program offers customized career resources in an interactive online environment. Features of Career Community include access to a network of U of T staff available to talk about their roles and careers, podcasts and webinars focusing on the job application process, a discussion forum to share stories and ask questions. To learn more and get involved, please visit:
  • The Business Manager Leadership Program (BMLP) is a 16-month leadership program targeted at individuals currently in PM 3-5 Business Administration roles who want to broaden their business administration competencies and strengthen leadership skills.
  • The New Managers Academy provides training and support for new managers during their first two years in leadership roles. The program includes sessions on managerial influence and style, conflict management, career advancement, and university culture.

Professional development opportunities for Faculty

The Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life (VPFAL) is the hub for professional development opportunities for faculty members – new, mid-career, and retired. Collaborating with associated offices and centres across the University, the VPFAL office offers a range of workshops for faculty members and academic administrators.

In response to feedback from the 2012 COACHE survey and the three iterations of the ‘Speaking Up’ survey, new and revised programming is offered throughout the year to provide support faculty members at all stages of their careers.

  • The Orientation & Leadership Retreat is a 4-day event held each June to provide training for new academic administrators (Deans, Principals, Vice-Principals, Chairs, Vice-Deans, Associate-Deans, etc.) to help them transition to, and be successful in, their new leadership roles. The VPFAL team also offers Just-in-Time sessions for this group throughout the year.
  • The Next for U series of workshops is designed to provide mid-career faculty an opportunity to meet with senior administrators and academic leaders of the University to learn about and discuss career development and paths.
  • In partnership with the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (CTSI), the VPFAL hosts an annual New Faculty Orientation to share a brief overview of the history and culture of U of T, create networks, provide an overview of resources, and to discuss teaching pedagogies and strategies. The VPFAL team also offers New To U lunch and learns for new faculty members throughout the year.

Find the full listing of professional development sessions and workshops and upcoming events on the VPFAL website.

Professional development opportunities for Librarians

Many of the courses and workshops offered through the Organizational Development & Learning Centre (ODLC) and the School of Continuing Studies are available to Librarians. In addition, to serve this specialized group, the University of Toronto Libraries organizes targeted training and learning opportunities for librarians at U of T to further develop leadership, communication and innovation in library practices.

The Pre-Permanent Status Librarian Cohort was launched in February 2015. It regularly brings librarians who are pre-permanent status together as a cohort for mentorship activities. To date, meetings have included an introductory meet and greet, a session on relevant policies, a panel discussion/Q & A with librarians recently awarded permanent status and a get-together for an informal networking/mentoring exchange with more senior librarians. More sessions will be planned in the coming year.

Highlighting the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

The School of Continuing Studies offers innovative, adaptable, and relevant professional development programs on all three U of T campuses. The 80 specialized certificate programs and 600+ non-degree courses in business and professional studies, arts & science, languages and more are available to faculty, staff and librarians of U of T. Speak with your supervisor about what options are best for you and contact your local benefits administrator to learn more about your employee group’s specific coverage entitlement for the School’s programs.

Faculty & Staff Development Resource Repository – ‘Call out’ for initiatives & ideas!

A list of faculty, librarian and staff professional development and training initiatives will live on the ‘Speaking Up’ website. The website serves as a repository of initiatives stemming from the results and divisional consultations. We look forward to hearing more about initiatives happening across the University to promote leadership and training opportunities for faculty and staff. Contact us at if you want your division’s initiatives highlighted on our ‘Speaking Up’ webpage.

Final thoughts… for now

Professional development is an essential element to our success. U of T is a place for individuals to feel satisfied and fulfilled in their careers. We know that our community of faculty, staff, and librarians is our greatest strength and, in order to sustain that strength, we need to focus on professional development and leadership planning across all levels of the University.

We are committed to improving in this area and we undertake to do so by designing and delivering more resources and training to support you in your current and future positions. Your input is essential to help improve Professional Development resources for faculty, staff and librarians. We need specific feedback from all employee groups and divisions about existing offerings and potential new offerings to meet your needs.

In the next article, we will look at our results as they relate to the focus area of Work-Life Integration.

For more information and to share your comments and questions

Visit to learn more and access tools about the survey. Share your thoughts and comments with us at