Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 6, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why University of Waterloo was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2018) and Waterloo Area's Top Employers (2018) :
- In keeping with its raison d'être, the University of Waterloo encourages ongoing employee development through its Organizational and Human Development Office, which offers a wide range of training programs on topics including business communications, leadership development, information systems and technology, and a unique 7-part inclusivity program
- University of Waterloo encourages employees to prepare for the future with contributions to a defined benefit pension plan, retirement planning assistance and health benefits that extend to retirees (with no age limit) -- additionally, the University maintains a retiree association to help retirees stay connected and represent retiree concerns related to pension and benefit matters, HR issues and university policy changes
- Employees who are new to University of Waterloo receive 3 weeks of starting vacation allowance, moving to 4 weeks after only 4 years of employment
At University of Waterloo, everybody has a voice
When it comes to organizational transformation at the University of Waterloo, Kathryn MacDonald is on the front lines. As Executive Officer of the Faculty of Arts, home to the university's most diverse range of programs in the humanities and social sciences, MacDonald's responsibilities are wide-ranging, from strategic planning to organizing campus tours to overseeing the 150 staff working in the faculty's departments.
So when new academic or administrative initiatives are presented at Waterloo, it's likely MacDonald will be involved in some capacity. At committee meetings, however, she finds herself taking an unusual role.
"I'm often the one who questions 'Why are we doing this?'" she says. It's not that MacDonald is against change -- in 2015 she left a senior management position in healthcare to work at the university because she sensed there would be opportunities to make a difference. But she wants to make sure that any new policies and procedures under consideration will, in fact, have a positive impact.
"This is a democratic institution and everybody has a voice," says MacDonald. "Because it's an academic environment where people routinely offer critiques, they're also expected to offer suggestions on how to make things better. In this context, change can't just come from the top down; everybody has to buy in."
Founded in 1957 with 74 students and a goal of better preparing graduates to build Canada's economy, Waterloo celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2017 with six faculties, 36,000 students and more than 195,000 alumni. It administers the world's leading post-secondary cooperative education program and is consistently ranked as Canada's most innovative university.
Waterloo is working on many fronts to be more effective and responsive. This includes implementing guidelines from Excellence Canada, an independent third party that offers measurable standards and objective validation. Excellence Canada's benchmarks are based on best practices and proven management strategies for advancing organizational performance from around the world.
Associate Provost, Human Resources Marilyn Thompson says the university is committed to achieving Excellence Canada's Gold certification by the end of 2019. The goal, Thompson says, is to be -- and be recognized as -- an employer of choice for the kind of top talent Waterloo wants to attract and retain. It's not only other universities competing to hire these people, she notes, but organizations throughout the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.
"It's also important to know what your employees think of you," says Thompson. So the university recently sent a survey to its faculty and staff asking them to rank Waterloo in five key areas: leadership, planning, service to students, people engagement and process improvement.
The university followed up with multiple focus groups. "We knew we couldn't be effective and innovative by communicating from the top down, so we asked our employees to tell us what matters to them," says Thompson. "The only way people will trust you're listening to their concerns is to demonstrate you're willing to make changes."
It's all part of an ongoing process to continually improve the working environment. This includes everything from encouraging employees to develop their own wellness programs to overhauling the recruitment and appointment processes, reducing red tape wherever possible.
"We're looking at everything," says Thompson, warning that outdated or ineffective practices could be jettisoned. "We're not going to make a process faster if we shouldn't be doing it at all."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why University of Waterloo was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
- University of Waterloo participated in the HeForShe campaign and committed to boosting participation in STEM experiences for girls, enhancing female faculty representation to 30% by 2020 (currently at 29.6%), and supporting the advancement of women to leadership roles
- The organization hosts W3s (Waterloo Women's Wednesdays), monthly gatherings of woman-identified grad students, post-docs, staff and faculty -- past talks have included topics such as "invisible labour in the game industry" and "Women Under Pressure"
- University of Waterloo's Status of Women and Equity Committee created the Equity and Inclusivity Award to recognize a member or affiliate of the university community whose actions have demonstrated exemplary commitment to improving equity, inclusivity and diversity on campus
"As a new staff member at Waterloo, the Inclusivity Series helped me to understand the extent to which the University is making an effort to build inclusivity into a wide range of programs. While the process is not yet complete, it is useful to understand where significant progress had been made and where staff are still working to make changes." University of Waterloo employee
Schooled in diversity at the University of Waterloo
When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusivity, everybody at the University of Waterloo is a stakeholder. As a concept, that's straightforward. In practice, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and empowered to achieve their goals on a campus as sizable and complex as Waterloo's requires substantial, sustained effort.
The university, for starters, believes its faculty and staff should reflect its diverse student body -- and society as a whole. That's why Waterloo reviewed its recruitment policies and practices because who doesn't get hired can be as significant as who does. Associate Provost, Human Resources Marilyn Thompson says Waterloo now also looks upstream to ensure it recruits from as wide a pool of candidates as possible, including historically disadvantaged and under-represented groups.
Waterloo also works to level the hiring playing field by addressing another key issue. Before many selection committee meetings, its members are prompted to think about how unconscious beliefs and opinions can skew one's judgment.
"We all come with different experiences and have inherent biases, even the most well-intentioned among us," says Thompson. "But we know from the research that being reminded of them can mitigate their impact."
One area where Waterloo has made great strides is in its commitment to gender equity. With input from various advisory councils and change champions, the university proactively promotes the advancement of those who self-identify as women. It also has processes in place to identify and remove systemic barriers to inclusion and equity.
As a leading STEM-focused university, Waterloo is well aware that women are significantly under-represented in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Not only that, women are outnumbered at the senior levels of all six of the university's faculties, though well represented within the administration.
Among an array of initiatives to redress the situation, Waterloo conducted a gender pay equity review of all faculty. This resulted in an across-the-board salary adjustment. The university is currently conducting a compensation review of non-academic staff.
As a Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies, Diana Parry is well versed in women's and gender issues. Parry, recently named Associate Vice-President Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion, commends Waterloo for its approach to gender pay equity.
"While others may be loath to admit their failings, the university recognized that it has problems and took a very broad, transparent approach to addressing them," she says.
The United Nations recognized those efforts in 2015 when it invited Waterloo to help lead its HeForShe global effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential.
The UN initiative includes the IMPACT 10X10X10, a framework involving 10 heads of state, 10 CEOs and 10 university presidents to advance gender equity. The only Canadian organization participating, Waterloo set itself three targets for 2020 that address gender equity across the entire campus.
The university has already surpassed the first target: attracting more girls and young women into STEM outreach experiences and initiatives. In 2017, 35 per cent of participants in its outreach programs, including summer camps and school clubs, were female (the goal was 33 per cent). It's also close to the other two goals: a faculty composition of 30 per cent women; and women holding 29 per cent of academic and executive positions.
"The university is taking a long-term, comprehensive, sustainable approach to gender equity," says Parry. "We can be a galvanizing force for social change across Canada." Even so, she quickly adds there is still much work to be done on a number of fronts.
Given its groundbreaking track record, Waterloo won't shy away from the challenges ahead en route to creating a safe, equitable and inclusive environment for the entire campus community. After all, as Thompson puts it, "We have every reason to want our people to be successful."