Town Hall meetings provide updates on ND Voice and University initiatives

March 03, 2013Susan Lister

John Affleck-Graves speaks at the Spring 2013 Town Hall Meeting

At the spring Town Hall meetings held earlier this month, employees received updates on several University initiatives, including the results of the 2012 ND Voice employee engagement survey and an update on the University’s Organizational Analysis & Design work and Administrative Unit Reviews.

Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., opened the town hall meetings by welcoming employees with words of gratitude and inspiration. Father Jenkins thanked staff for their continued commitment to the high standards that each is held to as an employee, including the University’s core values of integrity, accountability, teamwork, leadership in mission and leadership in excellence.

“How we do our work is so important,” Father Jenkins said. “We are each an important part of the University’s sacred mission.” Father Jenkins also spoke to the importance of communication. “Communication is essential,” he said. “Not only speaking to one another, but listening to one another. We must give time to communication, and that’s one of the reasons why the ND Voice survey is so valuable to us. ND Voice is our effort to listen to what you have to say.”

In his update on the ND Voice results, Bob McQuade, vice president for human resources, indicated that the overall survey participation rate increased to 78 percent, an improvement over the 70 percent completion rate in 2010, and that scores improved in every major category since the first survey was taken in 2006. Survey results compared favorable, neutral and unfavorable ratings on a variety of questions.

“Overall, we are pleased with the survey results,” McQuade said. “It’s important to note that unfavorable scores decreased in 77 of 79 questions from 2010, which indicates that focused efforts for improvement can bring about change.”

University scores have improved steadily in several categories, including Accountability, Respect and Fairness and Immediate Manager—and the University seeks further improvement. In the area of Accountability, McQuade noted that annual performance reviews reached a 91 percent completion rate, an all-time high. “However, our goal is 100 percent completion. Every employee deserves to have a candid conversation each year with his or her manager about their performance,” he said. McQuade added that improving the quality of the reviews is necessary as well.

To foster Respect and Fairness and create an environment where employees are encouraged to speak up, Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves has started open one-on-one sessions where employees are given the opportunity to speak personally with him and share their thoughts on current issues. To improve scores in the Immediate Manager category, more than 500 managers have taken part in the University’s Leading with Impact program or Front Line Supervision training programs. HR has committed to ensuring that any individual who manages employees at the University receives appropriate manager training.

In addition, Upward Feedback, a pilot program allowing employees to rate their immediate supervisor, was launched with 263 staff invited to provide input on 50 managers to date. McQuade indicated that the Upward Feedback program has been successful in helping to identify areas of opportunity with managers and supervisors. The program will be launched this year in the executive vice president areas, and McQuade expects the program to be distributed more broadly throughout the University next year.

McQuade also noted that this year’s survey results indicated a need for enhanced communication. “Improving communication throughout all levels of the University will be our primary area of focus for 2013-2014,” he said. “We believe that with improved communication, we will gain dividends across a variety of engagement categories in the future.”

Affleck-Graves provided an update on the University’s Organizational Analysis & Design (OAD) work and Administrative Unit Reviews (AUR).

The objective of OAD reviews is to create an effective and efficient organization in which it is easy for employees to be successful in support of University goals. The teams involved in these reviews include the unit leader, a governance team of key campus stakeholders who advise the leader and a change team from within the division that gathers the data and makes design recommendations.

Ten departments have undergone OAD reviews, which include data gathering, followed by a high-level design plan and finally a detailed design that establishes the most effective structure for a high-performing team.

Seven additional departments are currently involved in OAD reviews: Athletics, the College of Engineering (support staff), Facilities Design & Operations (Maintenance), Internationalization, Kellogg Institute, OIT and the School of Architecture.

Affleck-Graves described AUR work as a process to “inventory the work we do as a division, and understand what we do well and where the areas of opportunity are. This is not a strategic plan,” he explained. “Our goal is that every unit on campus will undergo an Administrative Unit Review over the course of a seven-year period.”

AURs have been completed for five areas of the University, and four additional areas (Housing, Budget & Planning, HR Shared Services and Space Management) will undergo reviews during spring/summer 2013.

Affleck-Graves also encouraged employees to continue to take advantage of initiatives to bring about change, such as Bright Ideas ( More than 225 ideas have been submitted since Bright Ideas launched in September 2010, and several submissions have been implemented, including a new sidewalk along Holy Cross Drive behind Lewis Hall and drop boxes on campus for St. Michael’s Laundry.

Affleck-Graves finished the town hall meeting by introducing a new customer service training program launched for the University, Creating Amazing Moments the Notre Dame Way. This new program illustrates many ways our employees make Notre Dame the special place that it is, and offers ideas for ways these concepts can be applied in each department across campus. This was illustrated with a brief video from President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

To watch a video of the town hall meeting or to read a list of questions asked by employees and the answers that were provided at the meetings, visit The complete list of questions and answers will also appear in the March issue of NDWorks, which will be available March 21.

Originally published by Susan Lister at on March 01, 2013.