Future of Work moves to next phase of staff experience improvements

The Future of Work initiative is moving full speed ahead to elevate the Vanderbilt staff experience with a new committee focused on three key areas: employee recognition, orientation and onboarding, and performance management. Members of the Future of Work Implementation Committee will tackle specific recommendations developed by the initiative’s working groups and offer additional ideas.

“Vanderbilt is on a promising path to helping staff reach their full potential with new programs and policies that include expanded paid parental leave, wellness and mental health resources, and a university-wide staff census that brings greater understanding to our range of diversity,” said Eric Kopstain, vice chancellor for administration. “I look forward to our next phase of Future of Work as university leaders partner with the Implementation Committee to accomplish even more for our staff.”

The Future of Work initiative was launched in April 2022, with participating staff taking on five long-term projects and 10 shorter, targeted efforts. Major updates that have been implemented include:

Patrick Retton, associate vice chancellor and chief of operations for the Division of Administration, announced the creation of the Future of Work Implementation Committee and presented findings from several of the working groups during a recent reception.

Examples include the Experience Survey working group, which is charged with determining best practices on surveys to improve engagement and retention at Vanderbilt. They recommended that surveys should be short, measure engagement and connection to the organization, and be conducted frequently—so leaders can respond. Significant progress has been made in this area with recent surveys, such as the university staff census, helping staff provide input and build engagement.

The Staff Hardship working group found that the application process for hardship funds was cumbersome and the review process an administrative burden. Also, the university was significantly behind some of its peer institutions on amounts provided to employees in need of assistance. A new fund, the Employee Critical Support Fund, is separate from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and has a streamlined application process. In addition, maximum support for employees in need has been raised from $650 to $2,000.

The Onboarding and Orientation working group determined that the onboarding process lacks opportunities for staff engagement and does not meet needs for several staff employee models. Recommendations include introducing a monthly in-person orientation breakfast and building a role-based employee experience.

The Employee Recognition working group found that providing pathways for peers to recognize each other and for leaders to issue expressions of appreciation increases employee retention by 63 percent. The practice also boosts employee performance and productivity. Recommendations include tickets to sporting events and concerts, “welcome to Vandy” swag and more.

Guiding principles from the Performance Management working group report include the need for Vanderbilt to commit to a universal performance management philosophy. The system must be flexible, simple to understand, and use and increase transparency.

Lindsey Bunt, assistant director of administrative operations for the Division of Administration, is leading the Implementation Committee. “I am excited for our team’s challenge of putting these recommendations into action,” Bunt said. “This is a deeply rewarding assignment as we work together to make an excellent workplace even better.”

Joining Bunt on the Implementation Committee are:

  • Adam Anthony, executive assistant, Communications and Marketing
  • Claudia Bergheger, project manager, executive projects, Office of the Chancellor
  • Lindsay Donald, chief of staff, Owen Graduate School of Management
  • Doug Hunter, director of talent management, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Katherine Keith, director of campus communications, Communications and Marketing
  • Ashley Majewski, senior administrative coordinator, Division of Administration
  • Brittani Muller, executive assistant, Executive Communications and Institutional Projects and Marketing
  • Xavier Purdy, deputy chief of staff, director of projects, Academic Affairs/Office of the Provost
  • Jonathan Tyson, assistant director, Auxiliary Services
  • Catherine Wood, executive director of Total Rewards, Human Resources
  • Jane Zubulake, chief business officer, School of Medicine–Health Sciences Education, School of Nursing