Spotlight – Information Technology Services (ITS)

December 2, 2020

There is an array of styles, outcomes and processes when it comes to Action Planning for employee engagement or workplace surveys. The “Spotlight” section in the Workplace Survey (WPS) newsletters shows how various Yale departments present the WPS results to their teams and how the results evolve into action planning and expected outcomes. The goal of the articles is to learn what Yale colleagues are doing, share best practices, and provide leadership with real examples of what’s happening at Yale.

In this first newsletter, we are “spotlighting” the Information Technology Services (ITS) division led by John Barden, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer. The ITS 2019 Workplace Survey Improvement Program is led by Ryan Schlagheck, Senior Director, Enterprise Reporting & Analytics, and Randal Ritter, Senior Project Manager, Enterprise Reporting & Analytics. All three leaders provided content to the answers below.

Q. What were the first steps and timeline in reviewing the 2019 Workplace Survey results?  

The ITS Senior Leadership Team (SLT) evaluated the results between January and March 2020.  Our preference was to see more detailed segmentation on the data. “We were able to work with HR and Sirota to segment the data by several dimensions of diversity, and this proved critical to highlighting our opportunities” says John Barden.  Taking a deeper dive into the data provided cuts on the demographics that highlighted very different areas of opportunity than the homogenized data did, and really improved how we thought about the recommendations.  We had hoped to kick off the implementation program in March or April, but the impact of the global pandemic on the university resulted in a pause on this work while we redirected our teams to supporting the needs of students, faculty and staff,—initially in the transition to remote work, and then in support of the phases of campus reactivation.  Our attention to the Workplace Survey resumed in June and continued through August.  During that time, we engaged both the ITS Leadership Team and the ITS Climate, Culture and Inclusion Task Force to review the data and recommendations and provide consensus on the initiatives we were targeting.

Q. What were next steps for sharing the results and action planning?

The review resulted in nine initiatives (see Table 1.) that would address key areas of improvement. A leader was assigned to each initiative and held accountable for delivering the expected outcome. Charters for the nine initiatives were developed in August, with initiative milestones identified in September and October. Implementation is in progress and most areas are on target to be completed by the end of FY21.  Each initiative leader has formed a team to plan and deliver the initiative, soliciting volunteers from the team with strong interest in being a part of implementing each change.  To date, there is participation on several initiative teams from both managerial & professional and clerical & technical staff.  Teams meet monthly or bimonthly.

Summary observations were shared by University CIO John Barden at a virtual IT Town Hall on August 28, 2020, and via an article in the September 3, 2020 IT Update.

Q. How and when is progress reviewed and prioritized?

The ITS Senior Leadership Team reviews progress toward the WPS goals monthly, providing support and addressing barriers to progress as needed. The prioritizing is based on ensuring that the chosen initiatives and their outcomes will actually benefit the ITS staff, which in turn benefits the community we serve. There is also an emphasis on transparency of decision-making throughout this process—showing how the data stacked up, where ITS is doing well and where there were opportunities for improvement.  We’re in a rhythm of monthly communications to keep the team informed of our progress and point out opportunities for staff members to participate.

Q. Where are you now in the action planning process and rollout?

Leaders for the nine initiatives have been identified, teams have been formed, charters have been completed, initiative milestones have been set, and work toward the milestones is in progress. The initiative leaders provide to the program lead and project manager the monthly key messages, which are then communicated to the SLT.

Q. What are the benefits of having a project manager?   

Generally speaking, a project manager drives a methodology for planning and managing the work to ensure the project remains on track, that issues and barriers to progress are escalated for resolution, and that the objectives of the project are met. We are running this improvement program the same way we run delivery projects. Leveraging a bit of internal project management skills  is helpful in keeping the program on track and visible in a sea of competing priorities.

Q. Would you be able to share at least one action item that was implemented and the outcome?       

  For the initiative “Promote transparency and provide access to senior management”, each of the senior management team members has begun holding skip level meetings with the team, including the CIO. These have been particularly important in providing a substitute for the “water cooler” discussions that have been absent during the pandemic. They have also been enormously helpful in providing substantive feedback about day-to-day operational experiences at every level, and input on how our strategic plan is being received by everyone.

Q. Do you believe the work will help transform or change the organization?

Yes.  In early 2018 we solidified three overall strategic goals for IT – 1) One IT at Yale, 2) Service Quality, and 3) Workplace of Choice.  The workplace survey provided us vital information to assess areas of opportunity supporting our Workplace of Choice initiatives and has given us a much more targeted set of goals to accomplish.  Fundamentally, these initiatives are about elevating and reinforcing the best aspects of organizational culture.   What we’ve heard from the survey, which was echoed by staff as we’ve communicated these initiatives, is that continuing to emphasize transparency and drive for equity is some of the most important work we can do.  It’s no coincidence that nearly all of the initiatives we are working on this year will in some way or another increase transparency, clarify process that underpin equality, and help to better define shared behavioral expectations across all roles.

Q. What single piece of advice would you share with a leader?

Leading change, especially change that impacts culture, is challenging, time-consuming work.  John Barden adds, “What is being revealed through scrutinizing the data is only a conversation starter - but it is a source of incredibly important questions.  For example, if the data suggests one group feels influence in decision making and others do not, engaging the team in the hard dialog to ferret out “why” is the only way to expose the opportunities and create the lasting structural change that will make Yale stronger.”

Q. What single piece of advice would you share with a team? 

Culture change takes root when we hold each other accountable for the desired behaviors we want for an organization.  Hold your manager and your peers accountable both when you see the desired behaviors play out – which should be celebrated – and when the non-desired behaviors are evident, which may need more encouragement and reinforcement.

ITS Initiatives and Expected Outcomes


Expected Outcome

Establish ITS Work from Home guidance for staff

Recommended practices and resources for managers

Promote transparency and provide access to senior management

Hold skip-level meetings and provide access to the SLT 

Implement Inclusive Recruiting Practices

Modified Job Intake Form for diversity & inclusion. Include a diversity statement in all job postings. Standard set of Interview Questions that focus on diversity & inclusion. Open positions advertised on diversity job boards. Training and education of hiring managers and staff. Removal of bias in job descriptions.  

Examine Total Rewards, Pay Equity & alignment to market data

Increased transparency, communication and education associated with our compensation practices and methodology with all ITS staff. 

Simplify career paths

Provide staff with well-defined career paths.  Ensure position descriptions are current. 

25 Science Park Safety

Increased public safety presence in and around 25 Science Park. 

Meaningful performance evaluations for all ITS Staff (Assure 1:1 feedback consistency across M&P & C&T)

Provide guidance for how to conduct meaningful, in-depth performance evaluations and provide meaningful feedback throughout the fiscal year.

Research “high tech” firm employment practices, culture and retention strategies

Gain an understanding of the employment practices, retention strategies and culture of the high-tech sector and how those learnings can be applied for ITS staff. 

Ensuring fairness of opportunity - Extend ITS diversity and inclusion training curriculum

Identify the next set of courses which build on the learnings from the Unconscious Bias series delivered to ITS staff in FY20 and Creating an Environment of Mutual Respect, delivered to managers and supervisors of staff. 

For questions about the ITS 2019 Workplace Survey Improvement Program, please email Ryan Schlagheck or Randy Ritter.