Why are we doing this? 

To enhance experiential, or "on-the job" learning and career mobility for IT professionals and employees working within the IT community. This also formalizes a process for employees who are interested in learning, developing new skills, and networking in areas outside of their team. Experiential learning is one mechanism to help ensure the skills of our IT workforce meet current and future institutional needs, a specific strategy under the Workforce of the Future goal in the OneIT Strategic Plan, and aligned with UI Health Care’s ICARE core values.

What are the goals for participation in SPARK experiences by units and individuals?

All OneIT units (ITS, collegiate and administrative IT units) will participate. A work unit is an IT department in any org. What qualifies for "work unit" participation includes:

  • One or more staff members participating in a SPARK observation or immersion in another work unit
  • Hosting one or more employees from a different work unit for a SPARK observation or immersion
  • Hosting an open house

An employee from unit A attending an open house in work unit B does not mean unit A meets the work unit participation criteria. For example, if Sam from Extended Technical Support attends an open house hosted by Research Information Systems, this does not mean ETS gets credit for work unit participation.

Eighty percent of individuals in the OneIT community will participate. What qualifies for individual participation includes:

  • Participating in a SPARK observation or immersion in another work unit
  • Hosting one or more employees from a different work unit for a SPARK observation or immersion
  • Attending or hosting an open house. To receive individual participation credit for hosting an open house, the employee must have an active role in the hosting (e.g. presenting, hosting a table, Q&A with guests, planning etc.)

Can I participate if the host is or I am working a hybrid schedule or remotely?

Yes, if the SPARK session works for the host and the participant. Keep in mind that some jobs are required, by the nature of the work, to be done on-site and not remotely.

What are some tools available to participate in a hybrid/remote SPARK opportunity?

Visit the Information Technology Services website for information on working remotely.

How can SPARK help with increasing resources for a project?

When a project would benefit from additional resources in terms of temporary staff, SPARK provides a mechanism for staff that are interested in the work to join the project team on a temporary basis, which helps resource the project and allows the participant to learn new skills or apply existing skills in a new context or situation.

Will SPARK help me get a new job?

Possibly, but it there is no guarantee. SPARK is intended to enhance experiential, or "on-the job" learning and career mobility. As the acronym suggests (SPARK stands for Sharing Perspectives and Realizing Knowledge), it is also a way to share perspectives across teams so we can communicate best practices and understand the way other teams work.

Will the host unit hire me after I participate in a SPARK?

As with helping to get a new job, there is no guarantee of this. You may discuss these prospects with the host.

Will I always be able to use the things I learn in my current position?

No. Positions differ and your job description may not require the skills that you learn during a SPARK opportunity. It is important to discuss this with your supervisor.

How do I participate and work with my supervisor? (short- and long-term conversations and planning) 

Visit the SPARK OneIT website, which explains the program details. If interested in participating in SPARK, talk with your supervisor about interests you have. Your supervisor may ask questions to better understand your interests, goals and what possible links or connections could be made to support your interest. If you already have an idea of what you are looking for, share that with your supervisor. Sometimes, your supervisor and you may need to reach out to your leader or HR Representative to research the right connection or team.

How do I find out what opportunities are available or if I can do this? 

As opportunities are available or formalized, they will be posted on the OneIT website, however, many of the opportunities may be informal which are generated by your interests, career goals or networking desire.

Review the opportunities posted on the OneIT site and discuss the possibility with your supervisor or local HR staff.

My manager said this wasn’t a good time. What do I do now? 

Each team experiences busy times which may require reviewing an appropriate time to schedule a SPARK experience. These busy times may impact the host team, as well. Coordination of schedules is reasonable and will help the SPARK experience to benefit all teams. If you hear a similar response from your supervisor or the hosting contact or supervisor review options for scheduling being mindful of your deliverables, your team’s deliverables and the host’s deliverables.

Is it ok for a supervisor to decline a request to host a SPARK experience?

When a request for an observation experience is made, the receiving party should evaluate the request and determine if they can accommodate, when it makes sense and if there is a timing/plan that works for all involved. If there are high demands to host, perhaps holding a “lunch and learn” or an open house to answer questions and show the work the team does would be beneficial with less disruption than individual observations. If a supervisor is needing to determine the best way to manage a request, we welcome them to reach out to their manager, a SPARK project team member or their HR Representative.

Is it ok for a supervisor to decline a request for a SPARK experience for a team member?

Every team member’s performance, deliverables and time management skills differ. If a supervisor has concerns with a request for a SPARK experience, the supervisor should review and discuss those concerns with the employee concerned. Whether the concerns are related to timing, frequency, or resource constraints, or other factors, it is important to have the discussion with the employee. If you are a supervisor planning for this type of conversation, don't hesitate to reach out to your manager, HR Representative, or SPARK Core Team Member for guidance.

Who do I contact about creating or participating in an experience? 

For observations, start with a discussion of your interest with your supervisor. You both may need to research which host(s) would be the best fit. Once the host is determined an inquiry could be made either by you (the participating employee) or your or supervisor. Once the experience is planned, you should complete the SPARK Workflow form for supervisor and host supervisor approval.

For an immersion experience, you should communicate desire to participate in an immersion experiences with your supervisor and HR Representative. As immersion experiences are created, details will be shared via e-mail and listed on the OneIT SPARK website.

Are there any frequency or time limits? 

SPARK is meant to be a value-added experiential learning method. Frequency and time limit should make business sense and be minimally impactful to the team’s deliverables. The discussion between the employee and their supervisor is a critical part of the process to identify the right experience(s), duration and destination.

How do I track my time for SPARK? 

Record time in the SPARK project in Team Dynamix for OneIT and ITS and ESC for HCIS.

How do I get funding, if necessary? 

For observations, funding is not required.

For immersion, the experience is focused on solving a strategic business need. The leader or manager of the team creating the experience would work with Finance and HR to identify the funding for the experience and the structure and requirements. Often a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would be created to make sure the employee, their supervisor and the host unit are aligned and clear about the specifics of the immersion.

How do I backfill the person leaving to do an observation or immersion?

For observation, a backfill would not be required unless the experience impacts coverage or on-call requirements. The employee and their supervisor would need to manage this as part of the scheduling the experience for the right time and duration.

For immersion, the supervisor/manager of the employee identified for the immersion experience would need to work with HR and Finance to understand the backfill options, if warranted.

How do I provide feedback and share what I learned from my experience? 

A post-SPARK survey will be sent to participants to gather feedback and help create metrics for the program.

What if I don’t like the SPARK experience that is recommended for me and I want to do something different? 

It is recommended to discuss the concerns honestly with your supervisor/ leader to better understand why the experience was recommended and how your desired experience may differ. The experience that has been recommended may fit the desired goal of your SPARK request or more dialogue or discussion may be warranted to determine the right SPARK experience.

How do you measure success? 

The SPARK project team, HR representatives, and area supervisors or managers will review feedback received from all parties and use qualitative and quantitative data to understand how the program is being used, its success and opportunities for improvement.

How do I recognize the host (Thank You, SPOT Awards, Make A Difference, email recognition)? 

Recognition of the host employee or team is always a good idea, especially if they went above and beyond to provide knowledge and invested time in your questions and development. Each department has recognition programs that may fit the level of recognition warranted. Also, a timely thank-you note or email to the employee/host team and their leader can be a perfect form of recognition. The OneIT Thank-You Program is a recognition program that may be an option.

Do I include any of these experiences in my performance review? 

SPARK experiences could help develop skills, knowledge and abilities which impact performance goals. These types of experiences could highlight how an employee approached the achievement of their goals. However, an Observation SPARK experience would not be a stand-alone goal.

I completed a SPARK experience. What’s next, now what?  What if I want to learn more or am interested in a new position? 

A SPARK experience is just one factor of many in an employee’s development and career path. Employees should work with their supervisor, HR Representative to build their career goals and development path. Keeping track of the various experiences, projects, and deliverables for their resume, interviewing and career developments is a helpful tool.

Learn more about SPARK