An Inclusive Invitation
Universities can be complex places for new staff and faculty; different cultures, new geography, conflicting schedules and a vast array of names in a seemingly endless directory can feel daunting. Equally true for seasoned faculty and staff is the challenge found in the sheer size of the organization; however, navigating between units, departments and faculties is part of the reality of working in a large and complex institution such as UBC.
With two campuses, various ancillary centres and facilities with a combined student population of 59,659 (2015) served by 14,173 faculty and staff, UBC is one of BC’s largest workforces.
It’s also hugely progressive and determined to become even more inclusive and do what’s needed to make a large and complex workplace more inviting.
In 2014 UBC was recognized as one of BC’s Top Employers, Canada’s Greenest Employers and Canada’s Best Employers for Young People. This year, UBC was again named in those categories, plus Canada’s Best Diversity Employer.
Human Resources Director at the Okanagan campus, Pauline Brandes believes “outstanding workplaces are those where individuals feel a connection and inclusion, where they have meaningful work for which they are recognized, where they have opportunities for growth and learning and where they feel safe, comfortable and respected.”
Along with comprehensive benefits programs such as the Employee and Family Assistance Program, Brandes notes UBC’s health and wellbeing initiatives, faculty and staff awards, leadership development, tuition waivers, personal-development opportunities, the Equity and Inclusion office, the sheer natural beauty of the two campuses and other factors “reflect UBC conscious attentions to the conditions that underpin an outstanding work environment.”
UBC also knows that one proven way to engage and strengthen the social connections is through hearts, minds, and stomachs — well fed mentally and literally.
At a modest $10 per ticket, the monthly Hot Lunch at the Vancouver campus features varying global cuisines and where UBC senior leaders share ideas, plates and personal insights with staff. On the Okanagan campus, the hosted Pit Stop nosh and natters are by donation (proceeds to charitable organizations) and has been met with equal success.
As part of the week-long 2014 Ripple Effect sustainability campaign on the Vancouver campus, the Harvest Feast saw 750 students, faculty, staff and community neighbours gathered at long tables under white awnings, gladdened with locally sourced food from the UBC Farm, wine, music, fine tableware, and a cornucopia of conversations and new cross-university connections.
In 2014 the more intimate Breakfast with the President series was revamped to invite and bring UBC faculty, staff and students together at President Gupta’s home in themed yet free wheeling, informal, wide-ranging discussions meant to provoke thought, exploration and debate.
To engage the community in conversations about possible new ways of working, faculty and staff on both campuses were invited — and will continue to be invited every spring — to submit their ideas on how to create cost savings or generate new revenue for the university. Faculty and staff whose ideas are selected for implementation will be awarded up to $1,000 towards their professional development.
The invite to conversation increased with the introduction of the UBC Open Minds Forum, an online community that includes faculty and staff who have opted-in to participating in regular consultation surveys. Since launching in September 2014, the faculty and staff panel has grown to 1,200 members from both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. Members have been engaged to provide their perceptions of internal communications across the institution, engagement with varsity and athletics, feedback on initiatives related to our Centennial celebrations, and input into transit issues facing the university.
Also using the digital space to engage the UBC community is the ubc.ca website which has a new Faculty and Staff page that features relevant and timely updates, events, resources and stories specifically targeted to UBC’s working community in Vancouver and the Okanagan, in an effort to keep them informed and feel connected to each other and the campus at large.
An outstanding work environment is where you feel welcome, where you wish to be, rather than have to be, where conversation and inclusion is woven into its fabric and ethos. No place is perfect but sometimes, big can truly mean better.