Focus on People Updates

Commitment to Continuous Learning at Development and Alumni Engagement

Submitted by Jacqui Noftall, Director, Human Resources at Development & Alumni Engagement

Development and Alumni Engagement (DAE) is widely recognized as one of Canada’s leading development and alumni programs. Our amazing DAE employees work on UBC’s Vancouver and Kelowna campuses, as well as in the Asia Pacific Regional Office in Hong Kong. They actively engage alumni, donors, corporations and foundations to support student programs, research, and a variety of University priorities.

To deliver on our portfolio goals, we are committed to continuous learning that builds on our competencies (known as our DAE Core ABS – abilities, behaviours, strengths) that include: University Agility; Professionalism; Collaboration; Communication; Innovation; Accountability; and Leadership. The various types of learning we do as a portfolio include:

  • All Portfolio Meetings (APM) where we connect on initiatives tied to DAE’s strategic goals and objectives and UBC’s Place & Promise, while celebrating our employees. At each of our three APMs per year, we acknowledge the service of our employees and recognize those who have gone above and beyond in demonstrating our portfolio values.
  • Skills & Information sessions held on Monday mornings which feature guest speakers from UBC faculties, schools, and units, as well as our own DAE employees who are willing to share their knowledge with fellow colleagues. It’s also an opportunity for employees to share updates and successes with their peers.
  • DAE Day, one of our three annual APMs, is an in-house one day learning conference born from employee feedback in the UBC Workplace Experience Survey (WES). The conference is coordinated and hosted by DAE employees!
  • For new employees, we ensure they feel supported, informed, and connected to the portfolio through our orientation and onboarding programs. We also utilize our DAE Mentorship Program and buddy programs to connect new employees with seasoned employees to gain insight, knowledge and an understanding of the University.
  • Employees are welcome to join the employee-led DAE Toastmasters group which helps build self-confidence and enhances public speaking and leadership skills in a supportive atmosphere.
  • Our weekly employee newsletter – the Portfolio – helps employees stay informed and connected. Networking and learning opportunities are also available to employees through alumni events!
  • Lastly, we are a team that likes to have fun and take advantage of all the great employee initiative on campus!
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DAE team welcomes Professor Santa Ono to our September 14th APM!

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Marguerite Collins Olding accepting a DAE award acknowledging her exceptional leadership

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A morning panel discussion that included UBC researchers and communicators

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Submitted by the DAE HR Team – recipients of the Team Spirit award at UBC’s 2015 Sports Day!

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DAE taking part in UBC activities on campus – Joy of Feeding in 2016 through Land & Food Systems


Have a story to share about what you’re doing to create an engaging workplace in your department and the impact for staff and faculty? Please send your submissions to communications@hr.ubc.ca

Staff Engagement in MedIT

Submitted by Adrienne Hammond, Office Manager at MedIT

MedIT is a somewhat unique department in that we have approximately 100 staff on seven different teams, and we are distributed throughout the province, with staff in multiple Vancouver locations as well Prince George, Victoria, and Kelowna. The size and distribution of our team requires some creativity in terms of engagement and making everyone feel connected to the team.

For many years we have done team building events involving one or more of our teams. For example, during the annual Collaboration Technologies Retreat, all of MedIT is invited to join for a pizza lunch, and last year they invited two other teams to join in the entire retreat as well.

MedIT Collaboration Technologies retreat

The 2015 MedIT Collaboration Technologies retreat

My primary role in MedIT is Office Management and Human Resources, and as part of that I have recently started leading a Staff Engagement Working Group made up of both managers and staff. We look at our engagement survey results, discuss them with the teams, discuss feedback, decide on action items and then implement those actions. We are mid-way through this process at this time, and I’m excited to see some new initiatives implemented over the next few months.

There are several other things we do to engage our staff. We have a group training for the Gran Fondo cycling event. We also have a group that is similar to Toastmasters, and we have other small events organized by staff such as soccer games, ping pong tournaments, and more. Additionally we have an internal blog where teams can share information and highlights. I have also recently incorporated a “Getting to Know You” series into the blog where we profile a staff member and ask them fun questions so we can all get to know each other a little better. We have also started sharing photography on the blog as many of our staff enjoy that as a hobby and it gives us a visual peek into each other’s lives outside of work.

MedIT Gran Fondo training ride

MedIT Gran Fondo training ride

I feel that staff engagement is a high priority in MedIT and I look forward to continuing to increase our efforts in this area with the creation of the Working Group.


Have a story to share about what you’re doing to create an engaging workplace in your department and the impact for staff and faculty? Please send your submissions to communications@hr.ubc.ca

Business Career Centre’s Focus on Bringing People Together

Submitted by Nicole Yeasting, Co-op Coordinator at the Business Career Centre in UBC’s Sauder School of Business

How do you engage your unit and team?

There are two main channels used to engage colleagues at the Business Career Centre – the Healthy Workplace Initiative and the Social Committee. Both complement one another nicely and share the overall objective of bringing people together.

The Healthy Workplace Initiative has had the most impact. Two years ago, we received funding from the Human Resources Healthy Workplace Initiatives Program Fund. Our objective was to demonstrate the importance of stress management within the workplace, not only as individuals at work, but also as examples for their families at home. Our team consists of 32 people including two full-time co-op students. The funding also allowed us to build deeper relationships with staff and departments across the school. Our total reach for the initiative was 72 people.

How do you bring your unit/team together?

Our initiative kicked-off in May 2014. The following plan was rolled-out and many of the activities continue today.

  • Activity Tracker: Each team member was placed on an activity tracker and we earned points for various activities throughout the week. We soon realized that that unit was very competitive and putting up tallies and stickers really motivated people to be active.
  • Lunch n’ learns: An upper-year nutritionist student from the Faculty of Food, Nutrition and Health led an hour long lunch n’ learn session about maximizing nutritional intake, understanding ingredients, and recognizing cravings and dependencies;
  • SPUD Office Boxes: We receive weekly office delivery of fresh produce and healthy snacks to generate fuel for the staff. The idea is to have healthy snacks on-hand and use the produce for smoothies or grab-and-go snacks;
  • A wellness library: We created a health and wellness library to generate conversation amongst colleagues and to encourage people to take breaks. Staff have the opportunity to donate books, establish a book-trade, and even borrow specific books from the library;
  • Magazine subscriptions: We subscribe to various magazines to enhance our Wellness Library and encourage conversation during breaks or lunches. Magazines include: Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Bon Appetit and Men’s Health;
  • Blender: We purchased a blender to encourage the use of SPUD produce to create smoothies. We also share and/or have samples of smoothies at coffee chats as a way to promote various recipes and healthy eating;
  • Potluck: Our team has a monthly salad potluck to encourage staff to take lunch breaks. It’s deemed as the easiest potluck as individuals can pull anything out of their fridge or cupboard to contribute. This has recently expanded into ‘Wrap Wednesday’ where we have burritos instead of salads.
  • “My One Thing”: On pieces of paper titled “My One Thing,” each staff member writes down their “One Thing:” a SMART goal they aim to achieve. An example would be: “I will drink five glasses of water a day for six days of the week.” We post our “My One Thing” goals around our office to encourage and motivate ourselves and each other to achieve our goals. In the end, almost everyone completes their goals and some people have even changed their habits altogether to reflect their new, healthy lifestyle.
  • “My One Thing” Wrap-up Party: Once a year we order lunch to celebrate all our hard work over the year and acknowledge those who achieve their “My One Thing”;
  • Yoga: We introduced various styles of office friendly yoga, such as: Laughter Yoga, Boardroom Yoga and Yoga at Your Desk. Yoga is an effective stress relief, and the introduction to different exercises can be incorporated both at work and at home; and
  • Onsite Chair Massages: This was a fan favourite. We brought in a professional chair masseuse for 20 minute massages.
  • Fitness Breaks: We hold daily 10 minute fitness breaks during the summer months and twice a week during the fall and winter months. Stop by any time at 2pm to join us!








Overall Goal: For employees to have a greater understanding of recognizing stress triggers and how to effectively use the knowledge gained throughout the campaign to manage stress.

Also sitting on the Social Committee, we have added a number of different activities including:

  • Volunteering with the Daffodil Campaign to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society;
  • Adding a paper cherry blossom appreciation tree to decorate the office, but also show appreciation for staff anonymously;
  • Ice cream social;
  • Family beach BBQ;
  • Vancouver Canadian’s Baseball outing; and
  • Volunteering at the Vancouver Food Bank in December

What does this mean to your unit/team?

Our two initiatives have instilled a positive energy in our office. We have developed and strengthened relationships within the Business Career Centre as well as with colleagues in other departments at UBC Sauder.

There has been a tremendous increase in team building, working in a collaborative environment and having more overall interactions amongst one another.

We are also more mindful about managing our stress and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We’ve encouraged people to take walking meetings, incorporate fruits and vegetables into their catering for events, people are taking longer routes to walk into the office, and people’s lifestyles have changed where they are incorporating exercise and eating meals that are more balanced.

Both the healthy workplace initiative and social committee activities have had a major positive impact on the culture of the Business Career Centre whereby everyone is healthier and happier. With our strong leadership team who all have a vested interest in maintaining a healthy workplace, the Business Career Centre is now generating a reputation where others would like to work with us as well and be a part of the fun, innovative and mindful culture that we have instilled!

Focus on Vision, Values, and Culture: Creating a High Functioning Team

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Submitted by Barbara Gobis, Director, Pharmacists Clinic, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences

The UBC Pharmacists Clinic was established to achieve a triple mandate as a:

  • Model of patient care best-practices
  • Site where learners can come for skill development
  • Site for evaluation and research

As a team, we were able to clearly see what we were hired to do as described in our vision, mission, job descriptions, roles, etc. However, this is only part of the picture. We needed to be really clear on why we were doing this work and how we were going to work together. Our team has taken the time to define our “why” and our “how” and we continue to invest time and effort in these areas.

The fundamental reason why the Clinic exists is to catalyze pharmacist practice change. This is the underlying reason for our mandate (stated above).

We brought in an organizational coach to help us:

  • Understand and respect the strengths and styles of individual team members
  • Identify our values which are the basis for our team culture, and
  • Identify actions to help us continuously develop our team effectiveness.

Our team culture is how we have identified and agreed that we want to work together. Our culture is in large part determined by our values, which we have identified as: respect, trust, honesty, and fun. Our culture is also determined by the norms we have agreed to on how we want to work together.

We use several guiding principles to assist us in establishing a positive work environment:

  • We look up. Everything we do impacts other members of the team, so we get input from others.
  • We are curious. We ask questions instead of making assumptions.
  • We are problem-solvers. We identify the opportunities and learnings that sometimes are disguised as problems.
  • Our strength is in our diversity. Together we can accomplish pretty much anything.

We have established norms for how we communicate with each other via e-mail as well as in-person to ensure we respect each other’s time:

  • We use e-mail for two main types of communication that are identified in the subject line as FYI or Action Requested. If action is requested we state the action clearly along with the timeline. This way we can manage e-mail communication and prioritize what we need to read/respond to first.
  • We use in-person time in several ways:
    • Weekly team meetings (with agendas circulated beforehand and action items circulated afterward)
    • Monthly strategic discussions (where we discuss a big topic as a group to deepen our understanding on an issue)
    • Working meetings (organized as needed to move projects forward or discuss specific work)
    • Check-in meetings 1:1 with supervisors to discuss what is working well, where challenges exist, etc.
    • Corridor consultations to share news and gather opinions during the work day

Our pace of work can be intense and the nature of our work (helping people with complex drug therapy needs) can be draining, which is why we need a counterbalance of fun in the workplace. For us, fun usually involves eating and activities. In the past six months, we have had pot-luck lunches, lunch-time board games, skating at Thunderbird arena, Christmas in January (a dinner event), an open house, and a game-show competition. We are entering a team in the Faculty Sports Day (this is our third year) and we are talking about starting a team jogging club.

As the leader, my role is to ensure we are clear on the agreements we have made for ourselves as a team. I am also a custodian of these agreements as we proceed in our daily work together. In my opinion, this foundational work has enabled us to move from being a group of people who work together to being a high functioning team.


Have a story to share about what you’re doing to create an engaging workplace in your department and the impact for staff and faculty? Please send your submissions to communications@hr.ubc.ca