The University of Newcastle, Australia

Creating space for collaboration

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Collaboration is significantly improved when the right infrastructure is in place to support work at “the interface”. The NeW Space building will be such infrastructure, built to encourage and showcase interdisciplinary research and delivery.

As the Faculty of Business and Law prepares to transition to the city campus, strong foundations are being created with a cross-unit collaborative approach to planning the move. Teams in IT Services, IFS, Marketing and Communications, the Library, UON Students, the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Health and Safety and multiple schools and faculties are working together to ensure the physical relocation and operational kick-off in NeW Space are a success.

“To see these high levels of cooperation and collaboration on arrival at UON has been very encouraging,” Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Business and Law, Professor Tony Travaglione said.

“This is a particularly exciting time for UON. NeW Space is an amazing achievement and one that we can all share in and benefit from. Staying focused on our common purpose is the key,” Tony said.

Across the organisation, other areas are looking to address the message repeated in the last few years of the Your Voice Survey – that people across UON want to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Relationship-building and communication is firmly in focus for the Vice-Chancellor’s Division. Friendly networking with the Vice-Chancellor and colleagues has begun. One such event was a hotly contested ‘Bake Off’ which helped to raise funds for the Shaping Futures Scholarship Fund.

“Some of the best ideas come along at the most unexpected times – but it does start with people coming together,” the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen said.

The VC has initiated a Senior Management Group (made up of PVCs, Heads of Schools and Directors) which meets to address issues of strategic importance. The VC has also scheduled visits to units in her division to discuss ‘issues of the day’. Weekly catch ups with Divisional Directors are also another channel for sharing information.

“Leaders play a crucial role in meeting our vision and strategic goals. I think often we get so focused on that as leaders that we forget that we need to engage and energise our staff,” Caroline said.

“This year, I’ve taken steps to prioritise such activity and already, the benefits are flowing both ways,” she said.

This year, as in previous years the VC will meet with Faculty Boards, Units and Schools and members of the Executive Committee are also working to ensure their staff have a direct line of sight and input into the ‘business of the day’ being discussed at the Executive Committee. The VC has asked that PVCs and Heads of Divisions continue to engage directly with Schools and Units to hear ideas and what’s new and to discuss any concerns arising in a collaborative spirit.

In the Faculty of Science, the commencement of Professor Lee Smith in the Pro Vice-Chancellor role has been all about engagement and communication. Lee commenced on 27 March and has already hosted ‘Meet and Greet’ events at Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses to provide the opportunity for introductions and to engage face-to-face with Faculty staff. School level meetings also provide the opportunity for open discussion and updates on current events and activities.

Recognising that times of change require even better communication than ever, the Faculty of Science invited professional staff to attend a learning and development day in December 2016, allowing them to focus on communication styles, the future of work, developing personal leadership and building effective teams.

Broadly, the Faculty has appointed a single onboarding officer to improve processes for new starters and implemented staff training in ‘Innovation, Start-ups and Entrepreneurship’ to facilitate a diverse workforce and a culture that motivates staff to be agile, innovative and creative.

The Faculty of Science Research Hub has implemented several new initiatives and support schemes to incentivise applications and increase competitiveness including focused workshops to support staff with industry collaboration and linkage grant applications. Additionally, the new ‘Women in Research Fellowship’ has been introduced this year.

Leadership Breakfasts continue as a way for our leaders to share insights and experiences over coffee and Campus Conversations and the Staff Collaboration Forum are two successful initiatives that kicked off in 2016 and we invite staff to send in topics for the 2017 program.

“Each of us plays a key role in building great communication and collaboration with colleagues and this is key to maintaining the strong collegiality which distinguishes UON from larger, more siloed universities," Caroline said.

“I’m delighted to see the commitment of our staff to building on this strength as we work to find ways to overcome barriers in our changing world."

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