When a large corporation looks to create a stronger and more dynamic workforce, training courses for managers are usually an important part of the solution.
But the City of London took this solution further than most, sending more than 350 of its employees back to the classroom – literally. And we’re not talking an afternoon seminar. How does a four-year executive program at the Richard Ivey School of Business sound?
Jeff Fielding, London’s chief administrative officer, was looking to help his co-workers create a more cooperative workplace by getting hundreds of people in different areas of City Hall working towards a common goal – implementation of a new strategic plan for the city.
“This was a huge opportunity and simply a delight for us to work with Ivey,” says Fielding who, with other city employees, celebrated his graduation from the course this past week.
“Personally, it gave me the opportunity to get to know a lot of the managers and allowed us all to better understand the direction we wanted to go as a corporation.”
Fielding says he sees the benefits of what was learned on a daily basis.
“We see this as just the first step in where we want to go,” he says.
“Ivey has given us the opportunity to address our workplace culture and we are already seeing the benefits.”
The program, offered in three to five separate modules annually over four years, included simulations and case studies directly relating to the city and helped to increase cooperation between departments.
A customized Executive Development program was designed around the city’s corporate objectives with content specific to the industry, including sessions about Ethics and Social Responsibility, Change Management and Contingency Management.
The approach was a success in one important area. Although voluntary, the program had a participation rate greater than 80 per cent among eligible employees.
“The idea was to further develop the skills, capabilities and knowledge of all the managers,” says Ivey Associate Professor Gerard Seijts.
“As well, the idea was to put in place an infrastructure for broad cultural change.”
Seijts, who helped lead the award-winning project, says most managers were tentative at first, which is to be expected. That soon disappeared.
Last year, the program won the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators award, presented annually for excellence and professionalism in municipal administration in education, environment and innovation.
“It was a great opportunity for managers to get to know one another, break down the silos in a sense,” says Seijts, adding Ivey has worked with other municipalities, including Stratford and Calgary.
“The response from the managers was one of feeling more comfortable in managerial situations and becoming more capable in leadership roles. And in these times, solid leadership is truly needed.”
Ivey uses its case-study approach to turn theoretical knowledge into practical skills.
The courses included simulations of real-life situations that affect city employees and the citizens they serve. There are special projects designed to enhance problem-solving and decision-making skills.
The customized program was designed to help with the unique challenges facing the London community – from attracting profitable new businesses and professionals to enhancing the quality of life for all Londoners, says Ivey Dean Carol Stephenson, adding the program will have lasting benefits.
“Ivey and the City of London share a great deal in common, including a determination and a dedication to enhance the profile of this city on a global scale,” says Stephenson.