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Updated 10:00 AM February 9, 2009

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VOICES returns with directed staff survey

VOICES of the Staff, set to earn an Arbor Award for Excellence for innovative employee programs as it also draws interest from universities nationwide, will directly ask employees this year to contribute ideas for improvements.
MSpeaks Town Meeting participants discuss topics of interest to be included in a staff survey. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services)

This week staff are scheduled to receive an e-mail message asking for general feedback and to register five choices from 16 topics, ranging from career development to health and wellness, that were developed at the VOICES-sponsored Feb. 5 MSpeaks Town Meeting at Palmer Commons.

The results will be shared with executive leadership in March and considered as possible future themes for the VOICES of the Staff Network Teams.

Launched in 2005 under the supervision of Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, VOICES is a volunteer effort comprising employees from all campuses and the U-M Health System that offers an opportunity to share ideas and define existing campus community issues.

Before groups of volunteer participants began developing topics in group sessions, a range of VOICES members shared stories about the value of the program.

"One team member just came up to me and said, 'Laurita, the energy has grown since VOICES started. Look what's been accomplished in just three years,'" Thomas said during the meeting that drew more than 20 facilitators and 103 employees.

"I appreciated his observation that when people are involved and engaged, it increases their energy and in my view performance. They see the difference and they're willing to work to accomplish more."

Participants identified 16 areas of interest to be targeted in the survey. These include career development, communication, employee stressors (work-life balance), recruitment/retention, best practices, performance management, leadership development, managing change, benefits/health/well-being, green/environmental stewardship, ethics, technology, parking, mentoring, safety/security and diversity.

Last year, VOICES participants partnered with the MCard discounts program to promote discounts or freebies from local businesses to employees, including free checking accounts, discounts on grocery items at participating markets, reduced-cost cell phones and more. VOICES also secured funding to develop a new Career Services Web site.

Timothy Slottow, executive vice president and CFO, said he was pleasantly surprised that VOICES volunteers were able to implement several parking-related changes, among them increasing the number of less-expensive orange parking spaces.

VOICES volunteer Ingrid Williams, a patient services assistant with the U-M Health System, said she became interested in joining VOICES of the Staff last May "because it's a positive change for anybody who works for the University of Mic11higan."

To take the VOICES survey go to The deadline for participation in the survey is Feb. 18.

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