(Photo: University of Saskatchewan)

Employees make the most of professional development opportunities during the pandemic

When the university made the decision to move to remote teaching, learning and working in March 2020, the College of Medicine ensured that learning opportunities continued for staff and faculty.

“We wanted to make sure that staff still had professional development – and other opportunities – available while working remotely,” said Clay Benaschak, senior strategic business advisor, human resources (HR). “Though the delivery method has changed from in-person to online, the content remains the same.”

One of those offerings includes the CoM Learning Excellence and Development (LEAD) professional development series, which launched in June 2019. The series began in response to feedback from the university’s employee engagement survey, which indicated that staff wanted professional development opportunities.

Topics have included communication, budgeting and building trust. Sessions have been led by college staff and leadership, and employees of ComPsych (the university’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider).

Another CoM LEAD offering is “Building an Awareness of Cultural Humility”, an online course jointly developed by Continuing Medical Education and Continuing Education in Rehabilitation Science. The course — designed for College of Medicine personnel to learn about creating culturally safe environments for Indigenous people — aligns with the university’s Indigenous Engagement priority and the college’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

“We have been thrilled to see the reaction and interest in the professional development series to date,” said Greg Power, chief operating officer for the college.

“Supporting our administrative staff members in their respective career development is an important priority of our college,” he added. “We will continue to offer opportunities across a spectrum of topics based on both the identified areas of interest of staff and emerging topics for our medical school and university.”

Feedback on all the learning opportunities has been positive, with participants from across the college and at different site locations.

“I’ve enjoyed both of the CoM LEAD sessions I have attended – one on EDI, the other on soft skills.” said Kristine Hunter, research facilitator and special projects coordinator in the School of Rehabilitation Science.

“The EDI presentation shared survey results that highlighted how people were feeling during the shutdown, which helped show that while we are all weathering the same storm, some of us are in very different boats. It was also comforting to see that there were others in similar boats to my own.

“The session on soft skills emphasized the aspects of virtual communication that can be overlooked, like writing clear emails, and the importance of non-verbal communication cues in virtual meetings,” Hunter said.

The college’s HR team has additional initiatives aimed to enhance staff engagement. They recently launched a peer mentor program for new staff, where new employees are matched with a current employee for 12 weeks. Both a mentor and mentee have the opportunity to learn from one another.  

Samantha Marcoux, human resources coordinator, offers yoga on a weekly basis to college staff, which aligns with the college’s overall commitment to health and wellness. The HR team has also created a SharePoint site, which includes a calendar of events and resources.

“We encourage staff to check this site out on a regular basis. As well, lunch and learn sessions are offered to people leaders on an occasional basis and cover a variety of leadership topics,” said Benaschak. “Anti-racism training will be a focus in 2021 and more information will be shared about this initiative in the coming months.”

If you are interested in becoming a peer mentor or presenting a topic in the CoM LEAD professional development series, please reach out to Samantha Marcoux at samantha.marcoux@usask.ca.

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