Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

Employee engagement is conclusively linked to workforce morale and bottom line results. So when Insyte Partners was asked to design and facilitate a process to increase engagement among faculty and staff in a veterinary school in the Caribbean (poor us – multiple trips to a Caribbean island!) we knew that there was tremendous potential for impact.

The disconnect between faculty and staff that is not uncommon in academic environments was exacerbated by the cultural and racial tensions inherent in local national/expat relations. Local staff felt misunderstood, removed and in some cases disrespected by faculty. Many faculty did not realize the impact of cultural differences on their relationships with staff. The rapidly changing environment of for-profit education created a larger context of both opportunity and uncertainty. All of these factors and others impacted engagement levels.

Insyte led a weeklong dialogue series where staff, faculty and administrators were able to hear some very difficult truths and discover quite a bit of common ground that had gone unnoticed. The week culminated in identification of shared goals and actions for the future that mobilized tremendous energy and collaboration. A number of “prototypes” were launched. These included: presentations about the island culture by staff at faculty and student orientations; designation of a joint faculty-staff lounge; new research protocols and materials acquisition systems; innovative communication strategies that account for staff without strong literacy skills; regeneration of the parent-teacher organization for the associated day school; approval of a new sabbatical policy; and faculty/staff collaborations on a number of key strategic initiatives. Months later, the campus reports tremendous progress in terms of trust, quality of relationship and shared understanding across boundaries — silos seem less impenetrable.

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