University adopts ‘Quick Fix’ solutions in response to employee suggestions

One of Thomas Harden’s first actions as UW-Green Bay’s new chancellor was to ask faculty, staff and administrators for their ideas.

Simple ideas. Better ideas. “Quick Fix” ideas for low-cost remedies to small but nagging workplace irritations. Ideas for minor policy adjustments, or people-friendly ways to boost morale or make campus life more pleasant.

“Many of the issues that go unresolved year after year in an organization are not that hard to fix,” Harden said in his August address to the annual faculty/staff convocation. “They fall under the category of ‘This is so simple and obvious, why hasn’t somebody fixed this yet?’ There are improvements we need to make that do not take long to identify or much to correct.”

Harden’s request yielded an array of employee suggestions from across campus, ranging from job-posting practices to possible morale boosters to campus landscape aesthetics. Some ideas remain in the discussion and development stage; those already implemented are announced as follows:

  • Policies clarified on academic use of Weidner Center — The University is committed to encouraging more student and faculty use of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. The “Quick Fix” primarily affects the academic units in music and theatre. Scott Furlong, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Tom Maki, vice chancellor for Business and Finance and the top administrator for the Weidner Center, finalized the details earlier this semester. The Weidner Center relies on per-use fees to help cover actual operating expenses. The facility’s dual campus-and-community mission necessitates charges be applied uniformly to all non-profit users. That policy does not change; the “Quick Fix” involves increasing a University academic fund to underwrite additional use by academic units.
  • A thank-you from Phoenix Athletics — In a gesture toward co-workers sharing the burden of state-mandated furloughs and salary reductions, the Green Bay Athletics Department is offering UW-Green Bay faculty and staff complimentary basketball tickets around two of the University’s furlough days. Faculty and staff members can obtain up to four free tickets to the women’s basketball game against Southern Illinois on Monday, Dec. 28 as well as for the men’s basketball game versus Detroit on Saturday, Jan. 16. The University will observe campuswide furlough days on Dec. 28 and Jan. 15. “This expands on something we’ve done in the past with our annual Recognition Night, where we thank faculty and staff for their dedication in working with our student-athletes,” said Athletics Director Ken Bothof. “This takes it a step further and encourages them to bring family and friends. Some people think employees get free tickets to every game. They don’t… in fact, faculty and staff are among our most loyal donors and ticket buyers. This is our way to let all our University co-workers know they are appreciated.”
  • Improved handicapped parking near Cofrin Library — Work could be completed as early as mid-November on adding more convenient handicapped parking near the Circle Entrance to the Cofrin Library. At present, a limited number of 15-minute spaces exist around the traffic circle at the head of the Main Entrance Boulevard; two of these spaces will be re-dedicated and modified for handicapped parking. Crews will enlarge the paved surface at each of the two spots to accommodate those who use wheelchairs or have other mobility issues. In addition, a second access ramp will be cut into the curb to create a more direct path to the main west entrance of the Student Services Building. UW-Green Bay’s division of Facilities Management and Planning will oversee the paving work by private contractors.
  • Spruced-up landscaping around the central campus — In response to requests from employees and others who enjoy the campus landscape on a daily basis, Facilities Management has re-prioritized and accelerated existing plans to freshen up high-visibility plantings. Most notable is the circular garden just outside the main Circle Entrance, where bus passengers and other visitors use the first-floor entrance. Attractive but low-maintenance perennials are interspersed among the stones. Previously scheduled, but recently completed, were additional updates elsewhere on campus. New plantings have been made outside windows along the concourse corridors at the Theatre Hall/Studio Arts complex and the Laboratory Sciences/Environmental Sciences/Instructional Services buildings. “Some of the original plantings (shrubs and perennials) only last so long, or they never really thrived,” says Paul Pinkston, interim facilities director. “We went in and eradicated the weeds, took care of some of the overgrown stuff and in many cases started fresh.” A priority next season, he said, will be continuing to spruce up the large concrete planters on the plaza atop the below-grade Student Services Building
  • Flexible work hours, and telecommuting — The University recently finalized new policies and clarified existing practices with regard to employment work hours and telecommuting. Chancellor Harden said he encourages supervisors and managers to explore such options on a select, case-by-case basis if the arrangement makes sense for both the institution and staff member. The “Alternative Work Patterns Policy” would, for example, allow high-performing staff members with a 40-hour week to work four ten-hour days, if agreed to by the supervisor and not disruptive to the office, co-workers or clients. Additionally, an employee in work status during a specific number of core hours might be granted scheduling flexibility for beginning and ending times, again contingent on University approval. Similarly, the new “Telecommuting policy” is dependent on the needs of the University and the department, the ability to ensure that work is performed at an acceptable level, and that there’s no negative impact on the unit or co-workers. Any request for a telecommuting arrangement is to be initiated in writing by the staff member seeking permission to work at home or at some other off-site location. Details of the policies are on-line at the Human Resources website,
  • Encourage internal applicants for vacant positions — Chancellor Harden shared his sense there are some employees who believe the University, historically, has not done enough to “promote from within.” While hiring policies are guided to a great extent by state and federal law and, often, the desire to attract top candidates from regional and even national talent pools, Harden says he agrees that qualified internal candidates should feel they have an equal chance at any vacant positions. “If there has been any impediment to that,” he said, “we’re going to make sure that the internal candidates are not just encouraged, but provided opportunities to develop a skill set for the ability to apply for and be successful in these positions.” The UW-Green Bay Human Resources Office now includes the following statement in all postings: “The University encourages current employees to submit credentials for vacant positions or to forward the posting on for consideration by others.”

Chancellor Harden says consideration of possible “Quick Fix” items continues, and he welcomes additional faculty and staff suggestions. “It has to be something that doesn’t take a lot of money because we don’t have a lot of money for this… It is not just what’s wrong, it’s what can we do to help you. What can we do to make your life easier? What can we do to recognize, to some degree, the work that you do?”

He said he is impressed by the response to his original call for employee suggestions.

“One, the involvement — the sense of ownership across campus — is strong,” Harden said. “Two, many of the suggestions were things that were already under consideration or in the early implementation stages. My general sense is that in many ways it’s a very well-run enterprise, but there is always room for improvement.”

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