Conversing with College of Health Sciences Head Through Open Dialogue
An open discussion session with Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) and Head of the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Professor Rob Slotow, was held at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine and video conferenced to staff based on the Howard and Westville campuses.
The event provided an opportunity for staff and students to discuss and share issues of concern with Professor Slotow, who raised issues about communication and delivered informative feedback in terms of developments within the CHS. Slotow also took live questions from the staff across all three campuses.
‘Communication in a large complex organisation is difficult but necessary in order to ensure a shared understanding. Due to the challenge of ensuring effective communication, management has prioritised a Multifaceted Communications Strategy for the year which will enable enhanced communication and engagement thereby ensuring social cohesion and the sustainable inclusion of all in the College,’ said Slotow.
Slotow encouraged the sharing of a multitude of ideas thereby promoting engagement. ‘Our behaviour and actions relate to the environment in which we are working and Respect, Excellence, Accountability, Client Orientation and Honesty (REACH) are the values of the University and qualities we should embrace in all spheres of our interactions.’
‘We work in a very dynamic and challenging environment and enabling support and understanding people will help us to do things better, so we can have the courage and commitment to work and achieve a shared vision.’
Slotow also revealed results from the UKZN Employee Wellness Survey, a survey conducted in 2013 with staff members from CHS. Elementary scores for the College of Health Sciences was seen to be higher than the University average, with scores were categorised under various themes like General engagement and motivation in the work environment, Satisfaction, Efficiency, Participation, Influence and Openness, Diversity Management and Rewards and Recognition.
The College scored a 75% overall score for engagement. ‘While this result is good, 1 in every 4 people is dissatisfied, which means that there is a lot of work to be done to improve this score.’
Issues of concern that were shown in the results of the survey shall form part of the Communication Strategy that is currently being formulated. ‘We can use this information to guide the way our environment addresses many negative issues.
Our values system needs to be facilitating communication. The surveys give insight to the employees as the responses help us to pinpoint what needs to be improved. People in an environment need to see themselves as a team and not little isolated groups. We have a challenge, particularly how we work together as a team.’
Slotow also discussed Sustainable inclusion at the University, which is about an individual being a part of something and being given the opportunity to influence the system around them. ‘Part of making the strategy more inclusive is that we need to look at specific examples that need to be addressed. We have a plan demonstrating a commitment to improving communication and by maintaining an open, supportive, responsive environment which works towards the elements of REACH.’
During the session, staff mentioned that they often felt their own aspirations and passions clashed with that of the University. Slotow emphasised that the system cannot change too often to accommodate each individual’s aspirations but some stability is required to ensure success.
Public Relations Manager for the College of Health Sciences, Ms MaryAnn Francis, explained that the College of Health Sciences is a large and complex college with over 1 000 staff members; based on various UKZN campuses and hospitals across KZN.
‘We will be having an exciting and interactive Communications Workshop in August which will give everybody the opportunity to participate and engage with one other. This team building exercise will be an opportunity to provide feedback that will ultimately make up an effective communication strategy with input from all staff.’
One can access the presentation about the transformation at the College of Health Sciences here.
The College of Health Sciences Communications Workshop will be held on 8 August 2014.
Photograph: Zakia Jeewa