Starting a new job is exciting, yes, but it can also be challenging and even scary. Linda Watt, director of learning and development and consulting services, says the University of Guelph, like other organizations, has a responsibility to help new employees through those early anxieties.
“There should be an effort to ensure people understand our culture, are introduced to other people, learn how to navigate the campus and the system, and understand how decisions are made,” she says.
If you’re “new at the U,” you may want to sign up for a recently launched program that can help you feel at home on campus.
Launched in September, NEW @ the U is an ongoing two-part program that replaces a once-a-year event that included breakfast, some speakers and information booths, and a presentation by the president. “While there were many good things that happened,” says Watt, “there were inevitably people at the event who had already been working here for nine months, 10 months, 11 months or more, so it was not much use as a way to help new employees learn what they needed to know.”
Wanting to switch up the strategy, Watt met with people from across campus to ask what they felt was needed and when and how it should be provided. “One of the things we heard frequently was that this needed to happen every month; we needed something for new hires to be involved with right away,” she says. Organizing a monthly event made sense in another way, too: “There is now a significant amount of required training for new staff, so this provides an opportunity to be sure people have that upfront.”
Watt says many campus units have their own orientation process, so the goal for NEW @ the U is not to duplicate those but to complement them.
One element of the new program is a two-day training event called NEW Days (New Employee Welcome) that will be held at the beginning of each month except June, July, August and December. It’s for all new employees and includes required training sessions as well as a presentation from campus police director Robin Begin about violence and harassment prevention, and a session on keeping data secure when online. “Respectful workplace and inclusion is another part of the day,” says Watt. “That’s a key to who we are at U of G.”
While the sessions are primarily targeted to regular full-time and part-time employees who will be here six months or longer, Watt says all are welcome if there is space. She hopes to include new employees at other U of G campuses in the future. To see all the details, go to https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/new-u/new-days.
The response has been very positive, Watt says. “Our presenters come from across campus, and they are very enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge – and that enthusiasm gets picked up by the participants. We heard a lot of ‘that was great, I didn’t know that, I learned a lot.’”
The second part of the program aims to help new employees learn more about the University through a series of events called Creating Connections. You can join other U of G staff on a campus tour while learning about the history of the buildings and the people, have lunch at some intriguing on-campus restaurants, find out how physical resources staff keep the campus running, and discover what’s available at the Health and Performance Centre.
Enrolment is limited, so people are encouraged to sign up early; details and registration are available at https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/new-u/creating-connections.
Watt says NEW @ the U will be continually assessed and revised to ensure that it meets people’s needs. “People here really care about the work they are doing and about the University,” she says. “We want those who have just arrived to know that we have an amazing community at U of G doing amazing things.”