Learning opportunities support staff in performing at their highest level of excellence

Human Resources provides innovative leadership and professional development opportunities to support faculty, staff, leaders and teams in developing the core competencies necessary to thrive in their current roles, build capacity for future growth, and contribute to the success of the university.

Personal and professional development is important as it helps staff to:

  • Build skills and competencies for success in the workplace
  • Improve self-awareness and awareness of others
  • Connect with other members of the organization and gain insight about the organization
  • Increase engagement and reduce turnover
  • Enhance individual and team/unit effectiveness
  • Renew personal and professional identity
  • Prepare individuals for career growth and mobility
  • Adapt to changing contexts, innovate, and solve problems

“There is immense value in PD programming for staff and faculty at the U of A,” says Kim Bates. Kim is a Learning Manager with Library and Museums and a participant in several of our programs.

 A common learning experience among staff across campus increases connections across units and departments that can help us get our work done more efficiently but also creates a stronger social network that brings people together in positive ways.  

Kim Bates, Learning Manager with Library and Museums

"Additionally, it helps us all speak the same language, and allows us to understand each other better and work together more productively,” says Kim.

Our Leadership and Professional Development team offers programs that are primarily structured around core-competency development in areas such as:

  • Organizational mindset
  • Personal mindset
  • Communication
  • Team enhancement
  • Service excellence
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Professionalism
  • Leadership and supervision
  • Conflict management
  • Respect in the workplace

"I've taken Business Process Mapping, Facilitative Leadership, The Working Mind, and am currently taking Dare to Lead," says Kim. "As the Learning Manager for the U of A Libraries, I have relied on a number of the resources [provided by HR] to respond to requests for learning in a variety of topics including access to Homewood Health online content, the Pathways series, Academic Impressions and Mental Health First Aid to name just a few."

Offerings and learning opportunities included:

  • an online learning video on Learning Edge to help employees learn about professional development at the U of A
  • on-demand core competency development on adapting to change, service excellence, leadership, and process improvement
  • sexual violence education workshops
  • retirement workshops to prepare faculty and staff for a new stage in their lives
  • online learning videos on service philosophy and service culture to support service excellence and service standards

This year, we also collaborated with PLLC, Advancement and RO to provide Academic Impressions, an online learning provider for post-secondary institutions, at no cost to employees.

"Academic Impressions has been a great source of professional self-care for me during the pandemic, says Salena Kitteringham, Communications and Marketing Director with the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. It has provided me with a vibrant connection to a community of post-secondary education professionals from all across North America. It is energizing and inspiring to hear from outstanding speakers on topics that I am passionate and curious about. Leadership can be lonely, but you will find yourself in great company in the breakout sessions on these webinars. This is campus community care writ large."

You will never regret carving out a few hours per month for professional development!  

Salena Kitteringham, Communications and Marketing Director with the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Dare to Lead
is a program that helps leaders reflect on their approach and learn practical tools to support a healthy workplace culture.

“I completed the Dare to Lead Program in spring 2020 at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic,” says Tanya Park, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Nursing. “The value to the university is immeasurable, particularly during this time of immense change. The opportunity to form connections, develop community and hopefully create people who think deeply and have the courage to be vulnerable with each other will be seen as a strength for the university community. I think everyone at the university would benefit from coming to understand the link between courage, vulnerability and trust.”

The Supervisory Leadership Program (SLP) is a unique opportunity for supervisors and managers to examine best practices in leading people, and to hone their leadership skills.

"SLP is unique in that it is tailored for the University of Alberta, providing much-needed context to this training,” says Katie Willis, Acting Communications and Engagement Director in the Faculty of Science. “Shortly after completing this program, I moved into a new role managing a larger team. Participating in SLP gave me the necessary skills to move (relatively seamlessly) into this position, as well as the awareness of how change can affect an entire team, and how best to manage the transition. I would recommend SLP to anyone who is interested in developing their own personal style of leadership that has its foundation in best practices and strength-focused coaching.”

 In a changing environment, it is more important than ever to train leaders at all levels on campus. 

Katie Willis, Acting Communications and Engagement Director in the Faculty of Science

Putting learning into practice is what makes these learning opportunities so valuable.

“I've been able to share what I've learned with my colleagues, and improve my ability to do my job. I've used specific tools from courses I've taken, applied them to my projects, and seen them work in real-life situations. I appreciate having such ready access to programming and look forward to being able to do more,” says Kim. “The staff in organizational development, engagement and health play a valuable role making the U of A a great place to work.”

HR prioritizes learning and development opportunities as part of five-year department strategic plan

An agreement coming out of NASA bargaining led to a Letter of Understanding to build a case for professional development (PD) and career progression for support staff. Around the same time, the For the Public Good Strategy created an opportunity for HR to assess the barriers faculty and staff have to accessing professional development and leadership development opportunities.

As a result, HR launched an ambitious project to identify how well our institution supports professional development. The final report identifies barriers to accessing PD; strengths, and gaps in systems and services; and recommendations for improvement.

“The university and HR have identified this project as a priority to meet the needs of our faculty and staff,” says Cynthia Munro, Manager, Leadership and Professional Development. “We’ve been able to get started on a few of the recommendations, such as pulling together a community of learning providers, and enhancing communications on professional development opportunities."

The recommendations identified are being considered, and many will be incorporated into the Service Excellence Transformation initiative.

Online learning portal improves access to professional development opportunities

Human Resource Services is dedicated to developing and curating exceptional opportunities to ensure that faculty and staff have access to a broad suite of learning opportunities. A 2019 survey of our employees highlighted that one significant barrier to professional development was not being aware of what opportunities existed on our campuses.

In 2019, Human Resource Services launched the LearnCentre, a robust learning management system, as a comprehensive inventory of University provided learning opportunities open to faculty and staff. The online platform allows employees to quickly research and locate learning opportunities, register for courses and events, and view a recorded history of the opportunities they have taken.

When the system launched, it primarily contained learning opportunities provided by Human Resource Services. Since then, other university learning providers have added their faculty and staff offerings within the LearnCentre calendar, making it an easy one-stop shop for employees. Additional offerings are continually added to enhance employees’ professional development experience.

423 faculty and staff participated in 74 programs and workshops reporting an overall satisfaction rating of 94.5%

In addition to the LearnCentre, improving access to professional development required better communication to our faculty and staff about the opportunities available. Earlier this year, we updated our professional development website to take a more employee-centred approach and make it easier for people to find information about PD offered across the institution.

In September 2020, we launched the Professional Development newsletter, a bi-weekly online communication sent out to faculty and staff highlighting important and upcoming workshops, seminars, events, and resources. The new newsletter quickly grew to over 3,950 subscribers and climbing.

3950 subscribers

Professional development is now offered remotely

Like so many other services on campus, when the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, Human Resources had to quickly pivot our traditional classroom-based learning activities to an online format.

While online learning is commonplace in other organizations, our sessions normally brought employees together to share in a personal and engaging cohort learning experience. Since March, we have focused on redesigning most of our programs to a collaborative, online learning format using virtual meeting platforms supplemented with self-paced learning activities.

“Online sessions are effective, and a greater number of staff members can benefit, as the number of spaces available are higher with the online sessions compared to the in-class sessions,” says Chandra Wanigaratne, the Information Management Manager in the Research Services Office.

The introduction of more virtual offerings has provided a number of advantages, including an increase in session participation and the ability to utilize more diverse providers at a lower delivery cost. Participants have been able to access offerings at a more convenient time and save time normally spent travelling across campus or between campuses to attend in-personal professional development activities.