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Grand Challenges in Employee and Community Engagement

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

All of us face “grand challenges” in our personal lives from time to time — these are the serious, almost unsolvable problems that fundamentally change our lives. Over the last year, I had two of my own grand challenges — a bout with lymphoma and a granddaughter born six weeks early. The year brought lots of tough decisions for my family, but also great opportunities to experience success, healthy development and recovery, and resilience. Both of my challenges are in a good place today: I am six months into complete remission and Lucia celebrates her first birthday on August 2 as a developmentally on-time toddler.

Not only do we face grand challenges in our personal lives, but also in our communities, our organization, and our professional lives. The University of Minnesota is focusing on grand challenges facing the broad communities of the state, the nation, and the world. In March 2014, President Kahler highlighted the following grand challenges in his State of the University address: poverty, social inequality, religious intolerance, world hunger, climate change, and disease (read the transcript here: State of the University 2014). The communities in your region also face grand challenges, which may find their roots in the challenges President Kahler named and on which you have a unique perspective.

You shared your perspective on our organization and your professional life in the Employee Engagement (E2) Survey. The results highlight some of Family Development‘s organizational grand challenges. FD’s leadership team takes these results very seriously and is updating and adding strategies for improving your experience working for both FD and Extension. Upcoming actions include the following:

  • Communicate our strategic directions and priorities at the program level through multiple avenues.
  • Strengthen supervisory and leadership development.
  • Understand the root of the frustration that over a quarter of our staff reported on the E2 survey.
Created by Eleni | The Keep-Calm-O-Matic
So can you guess what the focus of our upcoming regional meetings with all FD staff will be? During the week of August 10, meetings will be held in Willmar, Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids, and Owatonna, and three meetings will be held in September for the Central Region and campus-based staff. You will have a chance to discuss grand challenges in your area and how you might work together to address them as a regional team. At the same time, we on the leadership team will highlight the steps that we are taking to improve employee engagement and get your feedback on how we’re doing.

Now that I’ve shared some of my own grand challenges, I’m looking forward to visiting you in your regions and learning more about you, your work, and the grand challenges you are facing. How will we experience success, healthy development, and resilience in the next year?

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