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Updated 3:30 PM January 3, 2006




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Staff members raise VOICES in campus update of activities

President Mary Sue Coleman let the core members of the Voices of the Staff program know she supports their efforts, not only in words but actions, as well.
Voices of the Staff members Pat Hodges, executive assistant to the dean of Art & Design, and Bill Canning, recreational sports director, listen to President Mary Sue Coleman discuss the importance of employee feedback. (Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

Coleman, who met with VOICES members Dec. 9, showed off the pedometer she was wearing, while Recreational Sports Director Bill Canning gave an update on the health and wellness team that has served as a sounding board for the Michigan Healthy Community Initiative and upcoming Active U! program.

"I want to let you know I am wearing my pedometer," Coleman said with a smile. "But it is hard to get 10,000 steps; it does remind you that you haven't done enough."

Canning said his group is looking at the work/life balance and how that fits into the fitness level of staff members. He said to keep staff members motivated to exercise, the University will need to provide different resources and access to facilities.

Coleman agreed, saying, "Keeping people active is the tough part."

Twelve VOICES core team members updated Coleman on health and wellness and five other areas being addressed by the program—career development, faculty/staff communication, parking and transportation, employee recognition and performance, and rewards and benefits.

Associate Vice President for Human Resources Laurita Thomas said VOICES teams have excelled during the first year in giving staff members a formal mechanism to help define the most widely shared concerns and put them on the agendas of top University leadership.

"I feel so excited about this," Thomas said. "We want to share with campus what each group is doing, and also try to figure out what year two is going to look like. We want to make sure we do the right thing for the University."

Pat Hodges, executive assistant to the dean in the School of Art & Design, said many staff members feel there is insufficient information on career development.

"Employees must own their future," she said. "We hope that we can go out and create a buzz on campus about what is available to staff." Defining who faculty are and what they do has been a goal of the faculty/staff communication group. Latreece Taylor, a security investigator for Security and Entrance Services, said the group realized how different the roles of the faculty and staff are and that both groups need to understand what the other does.

"It has helped us come up with ways faculty and staff can work together more efficiently," she said. "We think it will be so much better when we understand each other's roles."

Members of the parking and transportation group said a transit center is needed near C.S. Mott Hospital so faculty, staff and students waiting for buses and shuttles there can do so comfortably. They also want to see if there is a correlation between employee retention and parking at the University.

"We have to change the focus of parking and riding on campus," said Kevin Reynard, a transit coach operator in Plant Operations. "People don't understand it."

Coleman said parking problems are difficult because employees want to drive. "We are slowly shifting people's expectations of what they are willing to try," she said. "How do we reduce barriers to people parking in remote locations?"

Employee recognition and performance team member Gary Vandermade's group researched the best practices of other universities to encourage staff recognition and performance. "Hopefully we can create a few more options for staff," said Vandermade, a senior accountant in Financial Operations. He said the group is creating a matrix to tie together job description, expectations, and coaching and performance reviews, among other aspects of working at U-M.

The final group, studying rewards and benefits, said many staff members do not understand benefits. "The benefits package is very valuable; how do we communicate that properly?" asked Beverly Wolfe, an allied health supervisor in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Coleman told the group, "I know this has been very hard work and it has taken extra time, but you are making progress."

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