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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social responsibility in higher education : conducting a social audit of a community college Holden, Jennifer

Abstract

Social and ethical accounting, auditing and reporting (SEAAR) is a process with a range of tools and techniques that enables an organization to measure, account for, understand, report on and improve its social performance over time. Before 1993, British Columbia's post secondary education institutions implemented public policy and operated with a level of autonomy that enabled them to meet the needs of their students, employees and distinct communities. After 1993, public policy aimed at increased efficiency, effectiveness and accountability centralized major aspects of human resource and labour relations policy in British Columbia's public sector. This thesis describes the process, the results and the implications of conducting a social audit to assess the social performance of one particular community college. During the years 1991 - 2000, the College grew; diligently balanced its budgets through significant entrepreneurial efforts and employees remained committed to their students and the purpose of the College. However, as entrepreneurial efforts increased, it was apparent that the increased productivity had stretched the capacity of employees to deliver services and the consequences were evident. The use of sick leave increased with a concomitant increase in the incidence of short and long-term disability leaves. More employees reported feeling stressed and expressed less satisfaction about their work at the College. Social auditing is about accountability. Its stakeholder process complements traditional strategic planning processes. Within the context of a public sector organization, a process of social auditing, previously used in the private sector, was adapted to evaluate a broad range of organizational issues related to human resource policies and managerial practices. The College had a foundation of human resource policies, practices and programs that had achieved some of their purposes over time, and the social audit clearly identified where improvements where required. Key findings included the need to attend to workload and work design issues that were creating stress, the need to refocus performance evaluation, professional development and to enhance programs that recognized the contribution of employees. Training, particularly in the area of technological skills was recognized as critical for ensuring that employees were prepared for workplace changes. In particular, the social audit provided feedback on communication processes and identified improvements necessary to enhance open and transparent decision-making. Health and wellness programs were recognized as key to restoring balance to employees' work lives and reducing stress. A number of recommendations from the social audit were integrated into the College's Strategic Plan 2000 - 2003, and funds were allocated during the College's 2000 - 2001 budget process. In June 2000, the Board of Governors allocated additional funding to manage issues related to workload and stress that arose from the strategic plan and the social audit. Through a reflective process, the research enabled a human resource practitioner to develop and implement a process of social auditing, examine and understand the effects of centralized public policy on human resource management and labour relations policy in British Columbia's public sector and make recommendations for improvement to human resource policy in one of British Columbia's community colleges.

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