By Tiffany M. Grant
The human resources staff of Facilities Services (FS) held its inaugural employee development fair in December. The fair was designed with every FS employee – a department of close to 300 people, across four units (Campus Planning and Sustainability, Capital Project Delivery, Finance and Business Services and Operations) in mind. The event took place in the FS building located off campus, on Cottage Grove, where some of the trade shops are housed. The fair, sphere headed by Executive Director, Finance and Business Services, Arleta Porter, brought together various resources, opportunities, and information related to skill building, career advancement and professional and personal growth. When asked what she hoped to achieve, she stated, “The fair is meant to provide more than information, it is also designed to promote a sense of belonging for everyone, meaning you too.”
To have a diverse representation at the fair, ambassadors from each unit were invited to share their professional and personal experiences to help engage and educate their peers about the many professional development opportunities available to all within the organization. 26 ambassadors were on site promoting the programs and inspiring peers to participate. There are several benefits associated with receiving information from peers that include increased teamwork and collaboration and fostering an environment of inclusion. Corey Tyson, a fixture cleaner electrician in the electric shop, served as an ambassador at the fair and felt a renewed sense of respect from his peers who got to see him in a different role outside of his day-to-day duties. Tyson felt he was able to reach his peers more effectively based on working relationships.
Despite frequent email blasts, digital signage and other communication efforts, some employees still were not fully aware of all the programs or did not realize they could participate in them all, even in the nomination of awards including the Spot Award. The Spot Award was incorporated in 2011 and is designed to recognize FS employees who engage in productive cross-unit collaboration, or outstanding work within their unit. In an “on-the-spot” fashion, recipients are presented with their award soon after their exceptional achievement occurs.
In addition to internal ambassadors who represented FS programs like the mentoring program, a year-long program where both mentors and mentees benefit from shared experiences, external partners were also at the fair.
Representatives from City Colleges of Chicago participated in the fair and have been very instrumental in a recent partnership that allows FS employees to earn an associate degree with 75% of the cost of tuition reimbursed by the University of Chicago. The University’s staff and faculty assistance program is provided by Perspectives Ltd., who also had representation at the fair. Employees were encouraged to download the Perspectives Ltd. App where access to care and resources is available. Employees learned about various free sessions that are not only available to employees but that are also available to their families through the program including wellness coaching. Bank lenders who work with the University’s Employer-Assisted Housing Program attended the fair and provided information on how to achieve the dream of becoming a homeowner. This program is especially effective and has helped FS employees find and purchase homes in the University’s neighboring communities.
This event was supported by the University’s Leadership Development and Strategy team led by Susan Popa, assistant vice president. The team aims to support administrative leaders through professional development programs, specialized leadership training, and cross-University community-building. Cicely Anderson, employee engagement program manager’s support extended beyond her presence at the fair. She was very instrumental in connecting FS with campus wide resource groups and external partners. This collaboration was one of many that ensured the success of the event.
Associate Vice President for Facilities Services, Machelle Vieux sums it up this way, “There was a tremendous amount of engagement and collaboration, and the energy in the room was incredible. A key to success was leveraging a diverse, cross-functional group of Ambassadors to plan, coordinate, organize, and promote the Employee Development Fair that benefitted our employees. For the inaugural event, it couldn’t have been implemented any better!”