Psychologist called into college to help create common culture

7th October 2011 at 01:00
Positive atmosphere encouraged after merger of institutions

City of Glasgow College has called in education psychologist Alan McLean to help create a common culture a year after the college was formed from the merging of three institutions.

"This is a critical time for the college, because at the moment it feels quite chaotic and everyone feels under a lot of pressure," said Nicola Laing, curriculum leader in the engineering, energy and science department.

She is one of 15 "cultural connectors", staff members from across the college who are working with Mr McLean to encourage a positive new culture. They hope this will help staff deal better with the inevitable teething problems created by massive changes to structures and systems.

"When mergers fail, they fail because of the human factor. People don't factor in the risk of failing to engage or get people involved," said David Bovaird, head of staff development.

The group will pursue three projects throughout the year. Reel Culture, a short film highlighting the strength of the college, will be premiered on 15 November. Culture Barometer, a simple questionnaire, will attempt to gauge how staff feel about the culture within the institution. And Culture Crafts workshops will be delivered to departments across the college.

The aim is to persuade as many staff members as possible to take ownership of the culture and atmosphere, said Ann Middlemiss, head of innovation and development.

Mr McLean, author of The Motivated School, trained the connectors for two days in June on his theories and approaches to culture. He will continue to support them and hold masterclasses for groups across the college.

It was important to tackle the issue of culture early on in a merger, he said, as the changes could lead to territoriality, a clashing of management styles, inter-group rivalry and the development of sub-cultures as people compete for resources or jobs.

"Before you put people together, you have to bring them together. It is about getting the beginnings right, so that is why it is good to do this so early," he said.

An EIS spokesman said the merger was "very much a work in progress". While much progress had been made, the harmonisation of staff terms and conditions, staff morale and embedding a single college ethos remained a challenge.

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