Readers' Choice winner 2024: Queen's University IRC

Alison Darling of Queen’s University IRC — a 2024 winner of the Readers’ Choice Awards for HR — spoke with Canadian HR Reporter about how the school ensures it delivers topical, relevant content, and two new programs it’s launching around DEI and performance coaching.

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CHHRTV - Readers Choice Award Winner - Queen's University Industrial Relations Centre Draft Sarah Dobson 00:00:12 Hi there. I'm Sarah Dobson, Managing Editor of Canadian HR Reporter, and today I'm speaking with Alison Darling, who is the Director of Professional Programs at Queen's University IRC. The university has been named one of Canadian HR Reporter's Readers Choice Award winners for 2024. And I'm looking forward to hearing about some of their winning strategies and initiatives. So welcome, Alison. Thanks for joining us today. Alison Darling 00:00:38 Thank you so much, Sarah. Sarah Dobson 00:00:40 So yes, congratulations, and lots to cover. Let's get started. To begin, how does Queen's IRC ensure that it stays relevant? I know you talk about offering cutting edge research, best practice and emerging industry trends? So how do you make sure that you stay on top of what people need to know? And when it comes to lifelong learning? Alison Darling 00:01:02 Yeah, that's a great question. So thank you for that. There are many ways that we do this. Obviously, Queen's IRC is part of Queen's University. So we have the benefit of you know, seeing what our faculty members our professors are putting out in terms of the research that they're doing. We also work closely with our program facilitators, and coaches and speakers to keep into on top of industry trends that are happening, data that they're seeing. And then they use that information, obviously, to inform their programs, and also the articles that they write. Our thought leadership section of our website hosts all of our articles, research papers, so people can kind of use that as a great resource to get to find out further information. In the earliest articles that I have seen go back to the 1960s. Of course, we're keeping that up to date every month. But it is a great resource that does showcase research, current trends and other data. Obviously, our participants are a key part of the learning process that we have here. So at the end of every program, we send out post program surveys, I personally read all of the responses that come in, and that showcases what our programs are doing well areas for opportunities, and again, any kind of new programming ideas that our participants have. And I also try and speak with as many of them as I can, when I'm out at programs, just so I can find out more about pain points in their particular industries. more comprehensively. Over the past year and a half, we've been conducting an entire curriculum review on the HR od side of our programs. So we've been looking at how our programs are fitting together. And again, further opportunities with regards to new industry trends that we're seeing that can help us inform new programming. And we'll speak a little bit more about some of the new initiatives that we have coming up. Another couple of ways that we make sure that we are the forefront is through working with our professional designation partners. So this year, we have been approved for HRPA and IPMA educational credits. So that means when people are coming to Queens, IRC to take one of our professional development programs, they can use those as educational credits towards their professional designation. So that's another key ways that we are engaging, engaging in that area. And then finally, we make sure that we are attending the key HR conferences that take place across North America, ones that we have found particularly useful and HR leaders summit that takes place in Toronto each November, as well as shrooms annual conference. So there are many ways that we're kind of keeping on top of research and trends that way. Sarah Dobson 00:03:47 Very impressive. Sounds good. Well, speaking of initiatives coming up, can you talk about the upcoming launch of your dei program in October 2024, in terms of the learning outcomes and takeaways? Alison Darling 00:04:02 Yeah, absolutely. So this program is one that is particularly close to my heart, we've actually been working on our workplace Equity Diversity Inclusion program for the past two and a half years. What was really important for me when formulating this program was that it would contain useful takeaways and strategies that people can really use to embed EDI initiatives within their organization. So it didn't become another checkbox exercise, but it was really something tangible that is actually going to make a difference in organizations. So with that in mind, the program really focuses on deepening participants awareness of influencing factors related to EDI and then working with our participants so that they can construct a really robust EDI organizational strategy using planning frameworks. And then also look at ways to measure success. So again, really kind of looking at okay, what can people take away from this program to me Do you make a difference and lasting difference in their organizations, if people would like to find out more information, we are hosting a free webinar. So again, under the thought leadership section of our website, you'll see a webinar section. And so definitely sign up for that we have two industry leaders in this space, who will be teaching the program. And so we are absolutely thrilled in October, we're launching it in in Toronto, we've already seen significant traction for the program. So as I said, it's been a long time coming, we typically incubate programs and much more quickly than this. But it was very important from my perspective to get this one, right. So that we can really come in and make a difference in this space. Sarah Dobson 00:05:44 For sure, it's such an important area, we want to keep that momentum and focus going. So another big area, of course, for Queens IRC is the performance coaching program. Can you talk about some of the key benefits and objectives there? Alison Darling 00:06:00 Yeah, absolutely. So we are launching our performance coaching program also this coming fall. And so this is one of the kind of more immediate outcomes that we've seen from our curriculum reviews. So historically, we've run programs in performance management, and in coaching skills. But as part of the curriculum review, we really saw that there was an opportunity to to marry these programs together to create performance coaching, and a beat because we really want to embed, you know, when you're looking at programs, or performance management, when you're looking at performance development, it really needs to be from that coaching mindset. And I think that's quite a shift from where we've been in the past with performance management. So yeah, we are very, very excited about this, our facilitator on this is a Forbes coaching council member. So she is an absolute leader in this space, and really is bringing in, like I've said that, that the importance of coaching into the performance management. So we're, again, our courses, really focused on giving people the skills that they need, as opposed to just, you know, sharing theory and concepts. So it's really looking at turning best practices into tangible actions, and including strategies to help align individual and team contributions, really into the organizational strategy. We're looking at incorporating coaching models, and things like that, to ensure we have the, you know, the best research on models in there. And so that people are really confident going back to their workplaces knowing that they do have the skills and the confidence to be able to apply what they learned in the class. And again, we are running a webinar on this program as well, that takes place on July 24th. So again, people can sign up via our website under the thought leadership section. I will say These webinars are kind of new initiatives for us as well. We only launched them last week, and we have seen significant traffic. So you will certainly if you're interested in attending those webinars, we would we would love to see as many people there as possible. And we have hundreds already signed up. So I think again, that shows how critically important both of these topics are. And again, I think it's pique interest. Like Like I've said, we're kind of taking performance management. And we restructuring that of focusing on what leaders can do to coach and lead their teams, particularly now given how much the workplace has changed in 2024. Sarah Dobson 00:08:28 Absolutely such an important area. Well finally, can you just talk a bit about why it's important for Queens, IRC to be recognized with the Readers Choice Award for 2024? Alison Darling 00:08:40 Yeah, absolutely. It it. Honestly, it means the world to us. So last year, we won Best labor relations training, and this year, we've won in four categories. So again, labor relations, HR certificate programs, executive development, and professional development as well. So really, those are all of the aspects of our business. And so for the team, for our facilitators for the university, it really does mean the world to us. Just to show that yes, what we're doing is appreciated. It is making a difference and that our participants and you know, other people that have taken apart in giving us these awards really recognize that so we often stay here at Queen's ISD we are a small but mighty team. And we really are so it, it just speaks to all of that we are such strong believers in lifelong learning, not only at the IRC, but also at the University. And so this recognition truly, truly is an honor. We've already gone out, you know, since the the notices went out yesterday, we've been sharing it with our member groups, and the feedback has been fantastic. So yesterday when I opened one of our programs, one could inform everyone about the awards that we had just Someone that the class actually clap. So I think you know, people do recognize that that it goes a long way. And we understand a lot of our brand and a lot of our reputation lies in awards such as this. So we are absolutely thrilled. Sarah Dobson 00:10:14 Yes. And for four categories, definitely impressive. That's great. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today about the many reasons why Queens IRC was a Readers Choice Award winner for 2024. Alison Darling 00:10:28 Thank you so much, Sarah. It's great to connect with you. And thank you so much for your time today. Sarah Dobson 00:10:34 Likewise, thanks, Alison. And for more great insights on HR, be sure to check out