The Foundation to Transformation: Expanding Faculty and Staff Engagement Part 3

Transparency is vital for success and implementation during organizational change. Including faculty and staff during the brainstorming, planning, and application stages will enable everyone to feel that they served an important part in the institution’s transformation. 


In the third and final part of this series, we will explore how to create acceptance and support of new initiatives through individual feedback. Sometimes, there may not be the time, capacity, or ability to engage every single faculty and staff member in person. However, their thoughts and ideas are still important to the process. Three effective ways to build staff rapport is convening stakeholders, hosting focus groups. And using electronic surveys.


Convene Stakeholders 

When undertaking work as delicate as an organizational restructure, it is critical to convene the leadership of all stakeholders to build the case, chart the course and share the framework of a timeline. Without this, the organization allows space for the “rumor mill” to thrive and uncertainty to flourish. When doubts begin to set in, the institution is at a risk of losing quality employees. To avoid this type of fiasco, the following communicative steps should be taken: 


  • Meet with the leadership team first. This provides leadership time to process and understand what the change means for them; and how to support the change strategy when it is communicated throughout their teams. 

  • Instruct the leadership team of their responsibilities throughout the forthcoming changes. Also, encourage them not “cosign” on negative remarks. Provide a place or resource for them to go to ask questions and gain clarity when issues arise from their staff. 

  • Send talking points with clear outlines of next steps. Include what the leadership team is able to say right now to all staff and what they should not yet release. When possible, give a timeline of when things are expected to happen, so people can prepare themselves but remain focused on serving students in the meantime. 


Focus Groups

After the leadership staff has been updated and all staff are informed of the upcoming changes, the college should work to engage the college as a whole. A strategy to brainstorm with diverse perspectives from across the college – without the difficulty of hosting an all college-wide workshop – is through focus groups. 


Focus group sessions involve organized discussions with a select group of individuals to gain information about their views and experiences on a specific topic. When planning a focus group, it is pertinent to have the right people in the room. Swim often advises that focus groups are coordinated with a number of identified stakeholders from each department within the college that the new initiative could potentially impact, or need insight from. 


Focus groups can be used in the exploratory stages of a large-scale transformation to evaluate propositions, develop new ideas or strategies, assess the impact or even generate further avenues for improvement prior to implementation. 


Because focus groups can serve a variety of purposes the role of the moderator is very significant. The group facilitator becomes critical, especially in terms of providing clear explanations of the purpose of the group, helping people feel at ease, and facilitating interaction between group members. They must encourage productive discussion and guide the group in a beneficial direction in order to achieve what the focus group is designed to achieve. 


Swim’s clients who have chosen to participate in focus groups have found the results rewarding, as they accomplished several things:


  1. They received the necessary feedback from multiple perspectives to continue moving forward with the initiative. 

  2. They promoted inter-departmental collaboration, which enhanced the acceptance of the college’s transformation. 

  3. They empowered participants within the college to feel a sense of ownership in the college’s transformation. 



It can be difficult to convene all stakeholders in one room, especially when they work at different locations and have students to serve. One way to overcome this is by disseminating electronic surveys. Electronic surveys can provide many different benefits to a college.


  • Easy way to conduct and disseminate.

  • Affordable mechanism to collect data.

  • Ability to collect candid answers and feedback. 

  • Consolidated method to analyze and generate actionable results. 


This strategy has some limitations, such as removing the benefit of allowing peers in different departments to discuss new insight. However, those limitations may be outweighed by the efficiency in collecting data and feedback. 


A great electronic survey provides the college with clear, reliable, actionable insight to inform your decision-making. The survey should ask a mix of yes/no questions with open-ended questions and allows an institution to collect quantitative data along with qualitative opinions to help from feedback or suggestions. 


While participants may feel freer to express their true thoughts and opinions through anonymous surveys, there is a level of information that will need to be collected for the surveys to be informational enough to deduce recommendations and results. For example, demographics, such as the participant’s department, will need to be collected in order to draw correlations with the responses. 


Leadership engagement, surveys, and focus groups are critical in building staff rapport during times of change and allows each department to recognize that they have an essential role in the institutions’ transformation. While speaking with every individual at the institution and collecting one-on-one feedback may not be possible within time constraints, these methods allow for the institution to hear the insight of every member of the community. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to apply for aid yearly?

Yes. If your financial circumstances changes, you may receive more or less aid. For example, your eligibility for financial aid could change significantly, especially if you have a different number of family members in college. Renewal of your financial aid package also depends on your satisfactory academic progress (SAP) towards a degree.

I probably don’t qualify for aid. Should I apply for aid anyway?

Yes. Many families mistakenly think they don’t qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. There are a few sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need, but you have to fill out a FAFSA to qualify. The FAFSA application is free, we recommend that everyone fill it out

Will financial aid cover all of my costs?

Maybe. In some circumstances, financial aid will cover the student’s full tuition and fees for the school year. However, it could only cover a portion. Once your FAFSA is processed and your award has been packaged, you will receive a letter outlining your full award.