Dear NMC family,
For more than a year now one of the most common questions I’ve heard is, “when are we going to return to normal?” With more of us getting vaccinated, and restrictions loosening, soon we will have more freedom in how we interact with each other and our students. But to be honest, I don’t think we should automatically return to how things used to be. While the pandemic has been challenging, it has also been liberating and, in some ways, even inspiring to see what we have all been capable of doing! Why would we want to limit ourselves to return to how we used to do things?
As I first mentioned in our spring town hall, I’ve asked Diana Fairbanks and Mark Liebling to lead a “Reimagining Work” team to explore this issue when it comes to how we do our work at the college. They, with input from President’s Council and a cross-campus team of co-workers, have drafted the attached “Guiding Principles” document that sets out a high level vision for the future of work at NMC. Our college has a history of leading innovative change, and this could be another great example of that tradition. To continue being honest with you, while it sounds exciting, it’s also a little scary for me, and likely some of you. Personally, I actually like a little structure and predictability, but I also know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to assess and reset our work culture for the benefit of our employees and ultimately our students. That is simply too important to pass up. Our learners will be entering, or in some cases re-entering, work environments that are also changing and we need to model agility and innovation for them.
So what happens next? We expect the state will soon ease restrictions, as vaccination rates increase. As that happens, and COVID-19 cases fall in our region, we will also begin to ease restrictions on our campuses. That will likely take place this summer and we will continue to communicate these changes with you. But while everyone will be allowed to return to campus with fewer restrictions, there will not be a mandate to do so. Please collaborate with your teams and vice-presidents to assess what is best for you, your co-workers, students, donors and other stakeholder groups impacted by your work. We have a wonderfully diverse set of programs and departments at our college and there will not be a “one size fits all” approach to this opportunity. It’s also important to embrace this through our well established spirit of innovation and thoughtful risk-taking. As with our “PDCA” (Plan; Do; Check; Adjust) model, we will continually review the decisions we make in the near term against our values and desired outcomes, to adapt and refine our approach.
By June 11, the “Reimagining Work” team will share some tools to help you and your teams assess your area’s needs, and guidelines on how to develop a draft flexible work plan. Then over the summer, the “Reimagining Work” team will gather more input and address potential challenges and opportunities to help you be successful. We will continue to communicate with you on this important initiative throughout the process. Diana, Mark, the HR Team, and your vice presidents are resources to help you work through these decisions with direction from the attached “Guiding Principles” document.
This is an incredible opportunity that will take work, but has the potential to have an enormous, positive impact on our community. I know for some of you it may feel uncomfortable to not have all of the answers, and I understand, but ultimately, it’s more important to get it right than to rush resolution. During this time, communication and patience will be critical. Please continue to be kind and considerate of each other, our students and other stakeholders. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions for the “Reimagining Work” team please email Mark and Diana. And as always, I am here for you and look forward to doing this important work with you.
Nick Nissley, Ed.D. | President | Northwestern Michigan College