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Opening cross-boundary synergies across Wits

- Wits University

Academics and professional staff form new networks.

Human Resource Development Unit contributes to staff development in the areas of leadership skills and capability

There is undoubted strength in unity. Too often we are isolated in our corners given the way in which traditional universities work – and as a result, we aren’t always able to optimally harness experiences and ideas towards innovation or ‘scale up’ our projects for maximum impact. Therefore, a key to dissolving silos, as part of our aspiration towards the goals of the Wits 2033 strategy, lies in forging open and collaborative networks within the University (and beyond).

In pursuit of improved, integrated, and dynamic staff development at Wits, a group of practitioners from Faculty Teaching and Learning Committees and central staff development teams recently went through a cross-boundary leadership programme, facilitated by Common Purpose (South Africa).

Over a three-month period, 22 practitioners participated in an immersive programme aimed at developing leadership skills and capability, whilst nurturing cross-boundary thinking, and the building of synergistic relationships across teams and functions. The programme was driven by the Human Resource Development Unit (HRDU), funded via the ETDP SETA (Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority).

For Myrtle Adams-Gardner, a participant and Academic Quality Manager at the Wits Business School, the programme has equipped her with useful skills for effective leadership in a world that is changing rapidly. She believes that her “capacity to navigate and understand differences has improved tremendously because of the exposure to diverse views and immersive experiences, which has fostered a more inclusive and open-minded perspective. The programme has provided opportunities for learning and development practitioners across the university to work together to foster a thriving environments for academics and Professional Administrative Staff, in a changing higher education landscape.”

While there are many takeaways from the programme, Pam Moodley, a Web Technical Lead and Designer, praised the mutual respect and positive relationships forged through the programme.

The outcomes of this initiative have been inspiring for Dr Chantelle Murray, Head of HRDU, who emphasises that one of the intended goals was building a community of practice within the realm of professional staff development – to the benefit of the practitioners, and of course, staff development generally.

The three-month programme consisted of engagement with leaders from local government, corporates, communities, non-profits, start-ups, and higher education. Group projects reinforced application and promoted new ways of thinking about solving problems, and working together collaboratively. One tangible outcome has been the development of a Consolidated Staff Development Portal, which houses all staff development offerings, irrespective whether they lie with faculty teaching and learning teams, or with the central teams. This portal is now available under the People section of the Wits website, and under the Learning and Development tab. It will be an ongoing work in progress as the teams build and refine.

To view the portal, visit the Learning and Development page under the Wits People section of the website.

In closing, the HRDU, in partnership with other stakeholders (and with the required funding support), will continue to drive cross-boundary capacity-building sessions across teams and functions to support the goal of dissolving silos and improving efficiencies. These opportunities will be communicated on the HRDU intranet page, and other communication platforms, as they become available.