First Annual Employee Engagement Event
Guest blog by Andrew Willson, Senior Communications Officer, Queen's University Faculty of Health Sciences.
As I walked into the performance hall of The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts the morning of the first annual Employee Engagement Event, the sound of drums hit my ears. While I still didn’t know what exactly the “surprise event” scheduled for 9 AM was, one thing was clear: this was not a typical day at the Faculty of Health Sciences.
When my co-workers and I got to our seats, there were drums waiting for us. Over the next hour, the group Drum Café led all of us – the over 200 staff members in attendance – in a large group drumming session. The whole thing culminated in a dozen or so staff members dancing wildly across the stage while shaking maracas (there’s video evidence if you don’t believe it).
While this session was a fun way to wake up and get energized, it also set the tone for the rest of the day. The leader of Drum Café encouraged all of us to hear our own contribution to the larger rhythm filling the hall. Only by each person playing their drum enthusiastically, he said, could we create this immense sound.
The theme of teamwork kept popping up throughout the day in various ways. Acting Dean Dr. Chris Simpson gave a presentation that showed all the goals that have been accomplished through collaboration in FHS over the past year. Ophelia Rigault, a guest speaker from Homewood Health, explained how to build strong working relationships.
One of the day’s speakers, Dr. Leeno Karumanchery, gave an especially eye-opening talk about diversity and innovation. While he pointed to studies saying that diverse workplaces give rise to innovation, he made it clear that inclusion is not enough on its own. All people in a workplace need to feel welcome, valued, and empowered in order to harness the innovative powers of diversity.
Even though his topic was serious, Dr. Karumanchery spoke with a great deal of humour and compassion, making his presentation just as enjoyable as it was educational. This talk gave us all a chance to reflect on what we can do – both as individuals and as members of larger teams – to make sure that Queen’s is as welcoming of a workplace as possible.
As funny as Dr. Karumanchery was at times, though, he may have been outdone in the humour department by the day’s keynote speaker, the comedian Deborah Kimmett. In an uproarious set, Kimmett managed to keep us all laughing constantly while also getting us to think about aging, adversity, and gratitude, among many other things. She had many pieces of wisdom for us, but what stood out for me was her emphasis on the ways in which having a sense of humour and an optimistic outlook can get you through most things in life.
The day, though, wasn’t all just about drumming and listening to inspiring speeches. There were also ample opportunities for staff members to break out of the silos of their departments, teams, and units to connect with people from across the faculty. During lunch and several nutrition breaks, we were all given coffee, food, and the chance to network.
These breaks gave me the chance to learn much more about many of the wonderful people who keep the faculty running. It didn’t hurt at all either that I got to make these connections while spending time on The Isabel's sunny patio, which overlooks Lake Ontario.
Throughout the day, we were all encouraged to collaborate, innovate, pursue wellness, and embrace differences. Even with all the drums and comedy, then, in some ways it was a typical day in the Faculty of Health Sciences after all.