Staff Council: It’s a Two-Way Street
Staff members attend a Staff Council town hall event in Clough Commons in April 2016.
Eighteen months after Georgia Tech established the first Staff Council in its history, how is it doing? In many ways, the group’s success is tied to employees’ willingness to reach out, speak up, and get involved.
“We are here to serve as the voice of the staff to communicate concerns, issues, and ideas to upper administration,” said Staff Council Chair Laura Pusateri, special events manager in Institute Communications. “And we want to provide solutions and changes for the staff that they feel are beneficial.” In order to accomplish that, everyone who works at Georgia Tech — regardless of what department you’re in, what shift you work, or whether you’re here on campus or part of far-flung staff in GTRI-Cobb County, Savannah, or Metz, France — is encouraged to get to know Staff Council.
Made up of 20 members representing five employee classifications who serve three-year terms, the group is headed by a chair, vice chair, and secretary, and includes committees on employee engagement, employee health and well-being, campus physical environment, compensation and benefits, and communications. Nearly 150 employees have served on a committee since the Council’s inception.
Council members are accessible to staff through weekly office hours, town halls, monthly general meetings, and a new Twitter account (@GTStaffCouncil).
“We hear things from town halls, we hear things organically from conversations with staff members, as well as through our committees,” Pusateri said. “And we try to find out what the majority of people are saying.” To date, the most oft-discussed topics have been training and recognition opportunities, and the rising cost of campus parking.
The Council listened. The group was instrumental in raising the amount of award money for outstanding staff awards, is poised to launch a new one-year service recognition program, and is developing new staff awards and rethinking the way the money is allocated. It has recommended giving winners the flexibility to receive their awards in cash combined with, say, a year of free parking — or other perquisites that would enhance the quality of day-to-day life at Tech. While controlling parking costs is out of the Council’s hands, members have worked with Parking and Transportation Services to increase awareness of how employees’ parking dollars are allocated.
Staff Council has also addressed the issue through Inform Georgia Tech, a quarterly speaker series that provides staff with an open forum for asking questions, brainstorming solutions, and interacting with Institute leaders such as Director of Athletics Todd Stansbury and Chief of Police Rob Connolly. Though organized by Staff Council, the events are open to the entire campus, including faculty and students. The date for the next Inform Georgia Tech session, on the topic of the new benefits administration system, OneUSG Connect – Benefits, will be announced soon.
“We want to help get everybody on the same playing field in terms of understanding what the issues are, not to stop the conversation, but to continue the conversation about what we can do collectively,” Pusateri said.
This summer, Staff Council is busy reexamining its bylaws in an effort to increase its own effectiveness, conducting a survey to assess employees’ awareness of the council, and planning outreach activities with at least 12 departments across campus.
As it moves forward, Pusateri explained, the council’s efficacy is a two-way street, and she wants every employee to consider getting involved, sharing, and engaging.
“We need people to feel comfortable engaging with us. We won’t know if we’re going down the right path or if we are working on issues that are important to the staff if they don’t let us know. We can only fulfill Tech’s motto of Progress and Service by working together.”