Friday, 23 August 2013

Staff Development Week

Just a relatively brief post to record this year’s staff development week...

In February 2013 the college in which I work formed a ‘
Federation’ with another college. Senior management are very clear that this move is the strongest way of securing a thriving fiture for the college considering the £260 million cut from FE by the government. The senior team is also very vocal that this is not a merger but a partnership which will save both colleges money due to shared services, procurements, vacancy management, financial bids and strategies etc (each college has since save £750,000). There is only one other FE Federation within the UK so the future is unknown for such a venture. As expected, this has generated a certain amount of uncertainty for staff and activities within the staff development week tackled this.

The main conference was held at the Ricoh Arena and staff from both colleges were invited. The seating plan ensured people from different departments and colleges mixed. The majority of the day was spent together in a large conference suite, but for part of the afternoon the programme was college specific. The day consisted of performances by the Federation Choir, an enterprise challenge (which was actually quite fun!) and staff awards. The morning keynote speaker was Ian Dunn, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Coventry University and the afternoon keynote speaker wasbusinessman Theo Pathitis (of Dragon’s Den fame). Both men discussed enterprise spirit. Theo in particular was a great motivator and full of enthusiasm for business and enterprise. After his speech positivity filled the air!

Having been made redundant in 2011 as the result of a merger between two secondary schools, I have been sceptical about the Federation. However, the conference day changed my mind. Now that I have had time to reflect upon the day, I can see it was a carefully crafted event intended to make staff feel more positive about the new Federation. The conference certainly achieved its aim as far as I was concerned; I left the venue feeling hopeful for the future. I enjoyed the activities, the speeches and it was nice going to a venue such as the Ricoh. Was I merely ‘sucked in’ by a tightly marketed event? Maybe a little (my suspicions nature hasn’t completely gone!,) but it was a valuable day and I feel happier having attended.

Another activity was the staff olympics. This was intended to bring together staff from across the college in a fun and relaxed manner. I am not at all sporty, but thoroughly enjoyed this day, especially the table tennis and obstacle course. The library was a small team so we didn’t win any prizes, but we received a trophy for taking part. This day really lifted spirits across college and was very much needed to counteract the uneasy feeling generated by the Federation. I appreciated being able to put faces to names and link departments together whilst in a non-work-related scenario.
Within my own department, activities included visiting a local gallery to see artwork on display created by one of the library assistants. We had an afternoon of craft activities which included Asian cooking, pompom making and making zip flowers. None of this was in any way related to library work, but as we work across three sites staff development week is the only time of the year we are all together and departmental team bonding activities are needed.
The overall theme of this particular staff development week was staff bonding - whether it be within a team, a college or a Federation. Although I don’t wish to appear naive, I do feel that staff development week has - by and large - made people feel happier and more positive about future events. And, as I learnt from the self-awareness psychology course attended last year, these are both necessary elements for a content and effective individual (who should then become a productive and valuable employee).

(Sorry folks, not such a brief blog post afterall!)

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