Supporting people a part of the University of Manitoba’s culture
Mark O’Riley, Director of Learning and Organizational Development at the University of Manitoba, says that while he is very happy that the U of M is being recognized as a top employer, he is not surprised. Supporting its people is part of the U of M culture.
“If we want to keep drawing the best people, we have to be on our game and make sure people feel they can make a difference in a real and substantive way.”
The province’s largest post-secondary institution has been selected as one of Manitoba’s Top Employers for the sixth consecutive time in the annual national survey. The focus that the university places on the quality of its work environment is integrated throughout the strategic plan. It’s clear that employee development and overall health and wellness is integral to its operations — from “Success Through Wellness”, a mental health strategy aimed to reduce the stigma of mental illness, to initiatives like “Live Well @Work Week,” an event with sessions on diverse topics like stress reduction, yoga and mindfulness. In addition, there are 145 development sessions offered to staff annually, as well as employee recognition programs through the annual Awards of Excellence, in order to nurture a high-calibre work environment that is both supportive and inclusive.
“We also have many members of our community working on inclusion and diversity. Our university is committed to advancing Indigenous achievement and to creating an accessible community.
“We’re making sure we do all we can to build on a welcoming environment in order to recruit more great people to work at the U of M,” says O’Riley.
Roxanne Tackie, an Awards Officer in the U of M’s Faculty of Grad Studies, knows about the accolades first-hand. She received an award of excellence for inclusion relating to her work on an event to celebrate Black History Month earlier this year.
“That meant a lot to me personally, for the university to recognize me, the event and the amount of work that was put into it. It makes me want to work on big events like that again. It motivates you to go above and beyond in the future because people appreciate what you’re doing,” she says.
By recognizing the work of its people, Tackie says the U of M is setting itself apart from other employers in Winnipeg and universities across the country.
“I’ve worked elsewhere where people have been recognized for years of service, but I’ve never seen an award for something specific,” she says.
Unionized employees and administration workers initiated the Awards of Excellence program to ensure that support staff were consistently being recognized. The awards celebrate a number of areas — leadership, service, teamwork, diversity and inclusion and a president’s award honouring careers of commitment.
What Mark O’Riley loves is how the awards let people know that what they do matters.
“They increase loyalty and performance and really engage people when they know that what they do is appreciated. The nominators talk about the people they’re nominating and the difference they have made for them,” he says.
Professional development is another high priority at the U of M. Programs like Management Fundamentals and the Leaders Learning Program offer sessions designed to support leaders at various levels throughout the organization.
When Tackie completed a certificate in supervisory training in 2016, she was appreciative of the encouragement and back-up she received from her department.
“They were very supportive of me missing days at my desk to go for professional development, even when some of it didn’t relate to my current job. You’re learning more about the processes you don’t normally do so that you feel confident to apply for a position that comes with more responsibility,” she says.
Supporting the growth and development of staff is key, adds O’Riley.
“We try to make our programs as interactive and practical as possible. We want to give members of our staff the opportunity to tap into their true potential.”