Improving access to Human Resources team
Concordia University employees enjoy a number of job-related perks such as access to campus recreation facilities, art galleries, concert halls and a steady stream of distinguished speakers. All of these are available in one of Canada’s most vibrant urban centres. Oh, and employees can attend classes as well.
“Those things all contribute to a wonderful place to work,” says Associate Vice-President Human Resources Carolina Willsher, who took on her duties in September 2009. “Concordia is an institution both of and in Montreal.”
She’s excited about how the department can promote the advantages of working here. “I was thrilled at the opportunity to work at Concordia,” she says. “I grew up here and always recognized Concordia as a prominent and unique institution in Montreal.”
She comes to Concordia from Carleton University in Ottawa, where she was the Director of Human Resources for five years. Prior to that, she worked in private industry and for school boards across Ontario. She has studied industrial relations and has completed various management programs in Canada and England.
Concordia has grown significantly since Willsher last lived in Montreal, some 25 years ago. And while the university’s expansion is evident in the numerous construction projects on both campuses, she is impressed by Concordia’s climbing enrolment figures. An increased student population requires more personnel and structures to serve them. “There are a lot of opportunities for developing and enhancing processes, guidelines, programs and protocols to support the growth the university has seen over the last few years. Once these structures are in place, the improvements will need to be communicated.”
She is also mindful of the importance employee relations holds in Concordia’s strategic framework. Two years ago, the university community participated in an elaborate consultation process to develop a framework to direct Concordia’s growth and priorities. Developing best practices in administration and creating a positive environment for employees were among the pillars of that strategy. Ultimately, Willsher believes employees should be aware of the resources and benefits at their disposal, and should feel properly supported in their tasks.
When she took on her new mandate, she met informally with many employees, as well as labour representatives from all sectors, listening carefully to what they had to say. A key theme that emerged was the need for improved access to the Human Resources team. The plan she is elaborating for the department is very much in response to points raised in those initial conversations.
Developing tools to improve communication between the Human Resources staff and the university’s employees is a priority for Willsher. She has been working on a new website for Human Resources, determining what information needs to reach employees and working with web developers on how best to organize that information.
Within the larger web development project, Willsher is prioritizing a collective bargaining website. While not providing specific details about ongoing negotiations, the site would demystify the language for faculty and staff, and be a source of information about the status of negotiations. “Much of the process is unknown to most folks who may not be familiar with the terms used at various stages in the collective bargaining process. We want to help with that understanding and share information about the process,” she says.
Willsher also identified a need for ongoing training and professional development from employees across all sectors. To respond to that request, she and her team are finalizing a coordinated learning and development program giving all employees access to a range of courses to enhance their skills. “It will be great to establish a centralized way to assist employees in the work they’re doing.”
The sessions would be available at no cost to employees. More specialized resources for management will also be made available through the program. As much as possible, “we would like to use internal expertise to provide the training. It would be great professional development for them and a way to showcase our own talent,” she adds. Details are still being finalized, and Willsher would like the program launched by the spring.
Willsher is thinking about the big picture, as well as the long term. “I’m not interested in change for change’s sake. Everything we do has to be sustainable.”
• Appointment announcement