VT Employee Connect providing electronic communication on campus

BLACKSBURG, Va., March 10, 2005 – The days of departmental memos, printed manuals, flyers on bulletin boards, and even campus newspapers are slowly becoming a thing of the past. More and more, they are being replaced by e-mail messages and websites.

And like the rest of the world, Virginia Tech is turning more and more to these new electronic forms of communication to communicate with its employees. Campus-wide communication with faculty and staff members, once done exclusively by paper, is more and more becoming electronic.

But not all Virginia Tech employees use computers in their day-to-day jobs. Many staff members don't have personal computers in an office, and some 400 campus employees don't have an e-mail account for information to be sent. Providing these people with critical university information has become an important priority for the university.

To meet this challenge, Linda Woodard, assistant vice president of Personnel Services, has assembled a team of university departments, including University Relation, and the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology to find ways to provide computer access and training for all Virginia Tech employees.

While the general need for more computer access was recognized, Woodard said several specific issues, including University Relations' discussions about replacing Spectrum, provided the impetus for the discussions: One issue was budget reductions forcing more university departments and state offices to rely on electronic distribution of information and references/links to websites replacing paper copies of newsletters and memos. Another was providing more opportunities for employees to view their own personal employee data on Banner's Web for Employees. Distribution of pay stubs electronically was yet another issue. "We brainstormed with members of the Staff Senate and Commission on Staff Affairs about ways to achieve greater accessibility, with minimal investment of new resources, and this project, now called "VT Employee Connect" was born," Woodard said.

Richard Harshberger, who retired from his role as the director of University Leadership Development in 2003, has been serving as the project coordinator for VT Employee Connect.

Woodard and Harshberger met with managers in Facilities and Student Affairs to get a better understanding of needs and concerns, "since these are the areas where most of the employees were located. Members of the Staff Senate and Commission for Staff Affairs also helped identify already available public-access computers (e.g., library and computer labs), so that we could start mapping locations that had accessible computers and identifying those where more attention should be focused. Information Technology has been able to assist with providing computers that would have been surplused, which are very suitable for the use we have identified."

As of this semester, the "VT Employee Connect" is well under way, with the majority of the university's employees having access to a computer. Training sessions have begun to familiarize employees with the systems they will use to receive university communications and interact with administrative systems.

"We have received support from many of our senior management areas and have met with representatives of these areas to discuss locations on campus for computers," Harshberger said.

Input from staff members on campus has been an important component in the on-going computer-access initiative. Recently, the Commission for Staff Affairs heard a full report on the project presented by Woodard and Harshberger. Commission members were able to provide suggestions which will be used to fine-tune the process of providing campus-wide computer access. Commission Chair Jean Brickey said, "The commission was very pleased with the support from the university community."

For more information on "VT Employee Connect," contact Harshberger at rharsh@vt.edu.