In the spring of 2006 President Wright established two working groups to address
recommendations made by McKinsey & Co. One of the committees reviewed
administrative communication and culture and the other examined hiring and retention
issues. Although they worked separately, both committees received significant feedback
regarding orientation, training, professional development and advancement
opportunities at the College. The following report combines the observations and
recommendations made by the two committees.
During open meetings hosted by both committees many employees raised concerns
about the lack of sufficient orientation and training for new staff. Employees talked
about how long it took in some cases to get to know the campus and the general
confusion about where to turn for services and support; they noted the challenges of
being new to the community and how long it can take to feel welcome and find
individuals with similar interests, backgrounds, or roles.
Employees also raised concerns around the lack of support for ongoing professional
development and opportunities for growth and advancement. Although internal
candidates fill many positions at the College, a large number of employees mentioned
what is perceived to be a glass ceiling in the College, due to a dearth of both professional
development opportunities and possibilities for promotion and career advancement.
Many felt that internal candidates are disadvantaged in the hiring process and that
coming up through the system can work against one’s chances for advancement, i.e., that
new hires/externals are advantaged in terms of promotion and in terms of salary.
Employees mentioned that there is not always support from managers for training and
professional development and that managers are not always equipped to provide advice
or guidance regarding career advancement.
In contrast to the results of the recent college-wide employee survey, many staff provided
anecdotes suggesting a low level of morale among those who have limited opportunities
for growth within Dartmouth, stemming from a number of considerations, including a
sense of being undervalued (because of low raises, lack of promotion possibilities)
combined with a heavy workload. The long time that it takes to fill vacancies contributes
to the morale problem: current staff need to pick up the extra burden and are
increasingly overworked. These and other issues related to investing in our employees
have led to frustration, feelings of inertia, and of being “stuck” in a job. Sometimes, they
have led to the departure of valuable and talented staff.
We need to create a culture in which we communicate with one another with respect and
civility; where professional development is valued and encouraged, and available to staff
at all levels; and where employees are recognized and rewarded for innovative and
creative ideas. We also need to have managers with strong supervisory skills, who are
motivators and listeners, and who can guide employees to resources that can help them
with skills development and their own professional growth.
Top performing employees need opportunities to renew their skills, learn new ones, and
to grow. As an institution we need to invest in our employees by providing opportunities
that help staff reach their full potential. Dartmouth should strive for an administrative organization that is energetic, responsive, and creative; that encourages risk-taking and
rewards superb performance; and that embraces ongoing development as essential to
maintaining a top-performing institution. Finally, we need to consider the development
of a range of growth and learning opportunities if we want to encourage and inspire
talented and motivated employees to stay.
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