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Administrative Communications and Culture Working Group

Communications

The importance of communication pervades all aspects of this report and is a key part of the foundation on which most of its recommendations rest. From the College’s mission statement, to new standards of accountability, to professional development, and to the principles of decision-making, effective communication is a central element in the College’s effort to “better support faculty and students.”

In his book, The Power of Corporate Communication, Tuck School of Business Professor Paul Argenti notes that, “Enlightened managers know that the more relevant and timely the information they provide to employees, the more likely the employees are to be highly motivated to do a better job, to advance in their positions, and to further the goals of the organization itself.”

Internal communication to staff and administrators needs to be a higher priority for the College. Two-way communication between the leadership of the institution and employees will be central to improving administrative communications and breaking down administrative silos. Staff want and need easily accessible and more information as they seek to understand and implement priorities, decisions, and policies. We need to encourage a culture where information is shared appropriately.

Recommendations:

  • Create Overt Acts of Communication:
    • Establish more frequent means for personal, “high touch” interaction with the President and senior officers as well as with colleagues across divisions and departments.
    • Use a “communications tree” starting with the President and moving through the senior officers, to divisional and departmental managers, and to staff through which communications can be relayed in person through the entire organization, and back up to leadership, with management accountable for the flow of communication.
    • Establish an annual "State of the College" address by the President, targeted to administrators and staff.
    • Schedule regular open meetings with the President or other senior officers, where employees can hear directly from the President and have an opportunity to ask questions. Begin casual drop-ins by senior officers to offices and departments and other informal meetings with senior managers.
    • Establish informal discussion groups or lunch opportunities where colleagues can meet and discuss issues of common interest.
    • Create opportunities for leadership to listen.
  • Adopt better, more frequent communication of institutional goals, priorities, and decisions:
    • Describe the mission and core values of the College in Presidential speeches, letters, and other communications.
    • Find opportunities to explain how decisions and the decision- making process relate to institutional goals and priorities.
    • Encourage time to discuss and reinforce how the College’s mission relates to the work we do.
  • Create new or enhance existing technological mechanisms for frequent, employee-based communications:
    • Distribute the new employee handbook and a policy manual as soon as possible and create an electronic database of all College administrative policies.
    • Create a Web-based archive of President’s Administrative Forum (PAF) announcements.
    • Reorganize the PAF to work as both a feedback mechanism and as a more effective communications vehicle for managers.
    • Establish “daily briefing” section of the Dartmouth home page devoted to employees only (in the “Resources for Faculty and Staff” section) that features administrative information, announcements, and news – internal and external – of interest or import to employees.
    • Post brief monthly updates from divisions or departments, in the daily briefing section, outlining current issues and projects in those divisions or departments.
    • Develop an “ask any question” information site, similar to the University of Cincinnati’s tool at http://www.feedback.uc.edu/ for soliciting employee feedback and for trafficking, analyzing and responding to that feedback.
    • Analyze, on an ongoing basis, the effectiveness of all internal communications vehicles like Vox, as well as some of our external vehicles that are also read internally (Dartmouth Life, “Speaking of Dartmouth,” Web sites, community letters, email), making adjustments as necessary.
  • Require communications planning as a part of annual divisional and departmental strategic planning:
    • Provide basic principles of communications planning.
    • Incorporate the development of communications skills into mandatory management training.
    • Develop templates for creating the communications plan: who is involved, who is impacted, and how to communicate decisions having an impact on other departments.
    • Make communication through divisions and departments a key accountability of management positions.
    • Establish mentoring relationships for new managers.

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Last updated: 01/31/07