Developing Organizational Culture

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

Since my last blog posting, I have had the pleasure of meeting with colleagues and students from the French program of Theatre, the Department of Forensic Science, the Department of Biology and the School of Northern Development.

When the Board of Governors and Senate approved the University’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, they endorsed “Organizational Excellence” as one of the University’s five key goals. In doing so, they also endorsed the associated aspiration – “To be known for our positive organizational culture” as well as seven strategic outcomes to help fulfill this aspiration.

Developing organizational culture is a journey to a destination rather than a race to the finish line and it requires commitment and relentless attention. In 2011, the University sought feedback from faculty and staff through its first “Have Your Say” survey to gauge where we were as an organization, compared to where we wanted to be.  Several input sessions were held afterwards with faculty and staff in order to identify priority outcomes.

Since this time, much progress has been made as it relates to these specific strategic outcomes:

1. Increased engagement of faculty and staff, as measured in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

A second Have Your Say survey was issued in 2013 and results showed that faculty and staff engagement had improved on each of the 20 indicators compared to the previous survey administered in 2011. The 2013 survey revealed that Performance Feedback, Continuous Improvement, Organizational Communication, Team Recognition, and Satisfaction with Senior Leadership/Senior Administration were the five areas out of 20 with the biggest improvement since 2011.  The next employee engagement survey will be issued in spring 2015.

2. Shared ideas about best practices for working together and annual events that bring employees together to celebrate successes.

We have received a lot of positive feedback about the new format adopted the past two years for the annual celebration of retirees and of long service colleagues. The Next “LU Rendez-Vous” will be held on January 22, 2015, and I encourage you to attend to support your colleagues and express gratitude for their dedicated service at Laurentian University. If you would like to see a glimpse of the 2012 LU Rendez-Vous, pictures and a video tribute are located on LUnet.

3. Fully integrated all operational functions into one data warehouse by completing the Laurentian Electronic Age Project (LEAP).

The Laurentian Electronic Age Project (LEAP) is starting to have a positive impact in our registrar and human resources functions.  HR data is now automatically synchronized daily on LUNET, instead of manual intervention.  New HR workflows will now assist faculty and staff with timely notification of any changes.  After a year of planning and development, we are now in the final verification phase of Assignment Contract which will result in electronic workflows and compensation automation ensuring consistent data for faculty reporting.  These automations also benefit students with timely and more accurate information during registration.  Business Object (Colleague’s official reporting and analytical tool), is in the implementation phase and will offload tons of data, facilitating data-driven decisions.  LEAP gives the University the agility to implement changes faster, such as the Senate-approved new grading scheme and a new academic structure that was completed in record time.

4. Ensured ongoing staff development, second language training, leadership mentoring, and succession planning.

Budgets for staff development have been increased to the equivalent of 1% of payroll. Human Resources and Organizational Development recently added a page on LUNET where professional development and training opportunities will be posted.

Over the next two months, there will be more than a dozen specific sessions on a range of themes: how to hold effective meetings; understanding the aboriginal student; project management; straight talk; social media; policy on bilingualism; how to correct performance problems; mental health; suicide prevention; effective decision-making; financial reports; travel reimbursements, etc.

Four academic colleagues and six non-academic colleagues were chosen as participants in the first two cohorts of the Northern Leadership Project. The NLP is a joint initiative of Laurentian, Science North, the City of Greater Sudbury which also involved Health Sciences North, Collège Boréal and the Child & Community Resources.

Research shows that effective professional development and training need to be aligned with a common purpose, foster a common vocabulary and include learning “in context” (i.e. within the work environment as opposed to off-site conferences). As we continue to expand our internal offerings for professional development and training, you can expect to see explicit linkages to the above-mentioned six basic principles to foster a culture of respect and trust, within a set of expectations and competencies.

5. Fostered an animated intellectual milieu through enhanced gathering spaces for faculty, staff, graduate students and alumni.

Thanks to the work of Dr. David Lesbarrères and a team of key participants including: Dr. Anthony Church, Benjamin Demianiuk, Thomas Fenske, Dr. Charles Ramcharan, Dr. Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde, Daniel Scott and Dr. Markus Timusk, the University Club will be a reality as part of Campus Modernization in Sudbury. This Club, to be constructed next to Alumni Hall, will help foster an animated intellectual milieu for faculty, staff, graduate students and alumni. The Laurentian University Alumni Association generously contributed $562,000 towards this exciting project.

6. Established effective communication processes informing all members of the Laurentian community about key events, institutional projects, and priorities.

Soapbox continues to be held monthly and now alternates between Tuesday and Thursday the third week of every month to better accommodate faculty and staff schedules.  It is now available by live webcast and stored on LUNET.  You can view the April, September and October editions online. The last Soapbox featured presentations on the “Spirit of Participation” allowing several of our colleagues to provide updates on initiatives that contribute to the greater good of our community.

Eight LCD screens have been installed on the Sudbury campus to communicate key events and announcements with all members of the university community.  Locations include: Fraser, Great Hall lobby, Residence main area, Art Building, Ben Avery (main reception), Parker Building 1st floor, JND Desmarais, Education building.

In addition, an events calendar has been added to LUNET as well as Laurentian’s website to keep the Laurentian community informed about upcoming events and activities.

7. Aligned administrative processes involving staff and managers in decisions affecting their work and ensuring employees are heard, respected and recognized.

The Centre for Academic Excellence is spearheading the creation of the integrated learning resource centre, intended for faculty as a support for their classes.  In addition, the Student Choice Teaching Award was developed and is awarded to one Anglophone and one Francophone faculty member. New faculty orientation was held this past summer for 12 new faculty members.  I personally had the opportunity to meet with them and answer questions before the academic year began. This initiative will continue every summer and will be offered by Human Resources moving forward.

In addition to the faculty orientation, CAE also ran a successful academic orientation and has been busy continuing to expand academic supports for Laurentian students. Dr. Christine Blais and her team are to be commended for accomplishing so much in so little time.

We have once again expanded the size of the University’s Leadership Group to 125 people, including academic department chairs and school directors. It held a retreat on November 13th and pictures taken during the day can be found on my Facebook page. The Academic Leadership Group and Administrative Leadership Group also meet frequently to discuss topics of mutual relevance.

Finally, my recent tour of over 30 meetings with academic departments and schools was one of many ways by which we can ensure that processes are aligned and that employees are heard.

In closing, I know that each of you wants the university community to succeed in being known for its positive organizational culture. With the launch of the biennial faculty and staff survey, we have a mechanism to hold ourselves accountable for our collective progress. We have made great measurable progress since 2011, and have given ourselves the task of focussing more on recognition, a respectful workplace and professional development and training. New initiatives have been introduced or are underway, based on suggestions received from faculty and staff.

Each of us can make Laurentian an even more outstanding university by keeping in mind basic principles to foster a culture of respect and trust, supporting one another in meeting expectations, enhancing our own competencies (and supporting others in developing theirs) and availing ourselves of professional development, training and “360” leadership assessment opportunities. I am very excited by the journey ahead.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at, or you can join the 8,400 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.


Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.