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Organizational Performance

by Marilyn Van Norman
Increasingly, the results of an organizational capacity evaluation are seen as integral to running a successful career/employment centre and feed directly into strategic planning. The assessment measures the organization’s ability to meet its goals and achieve its mission. The results of effective assessments can be used to help position the career/employment centre.

Every five years at the University of Toronto, I initiated a thorough review of the centre—its vision, mission and approach. The result of each review was a five year plan. All staff members were involved in the process, as were students on the Career Centre Advisory Committee. We would also hold focus groups of student users and employers. The staff divided into groups to study various aspects of the centre—where we were, where we would like to be and how to get there. Sometimes the vision statement was changed.

In one notable review, we designed the Self Managed Career Development Model which continues to guide programming and services at the University of Toronto Career Centre to this day. The Self Managed Career Development Model was one way of looking at the career development process.

It divided the process into four fundamental parts:

  • Discover Your Skills and Options
  • Identify Work Opportunities
  • Market Yourself for Today’s Workplace
  • Manage Worklife


There was no definitive starting place, but rather the model provided the opportunity for an individual to plug in wherever they thought they were on the continuum. We believed that it was as relevant for a teenager as it was for a seasoned professional considering a career change. Essential to the Self Managed Career Development Model, in addition to it being self directed, was that it stressed the importance of continuously assessing the marketplace and the impact of changes taking place.


Some of the areas traditionally included as a part of an organizational performance review include strengths and weaknesses, vision and mission, organizational structure, staffing, teamwork, values, training, programming and communication.

Organizational capacity evaluations are often conducted by external consultants. Their process may include interviews with individual staff, focus groups with students and employers and feedback from internal partners such as registrars and academic advisers. They often start the process by having the career centre staff gather a significant amount of information including annual reports, assessment tools, program information, budget information and organizational charts. While time consuming and expensive, some academic cultures give external reviews more credence than internal ones.

Theories and practices around client feedback to career/employment centres have changed significantly over the years. When I first started working at the University of Toronto Career Centre, the only assessments that were done were student evaluations at the end of all workshops.

From that point, satisfaction surveys were added following career/job/volunteer fairs, career information days, individual counselling sessions, Extern Program participation and the on-campus recruitment program. Students and employers completed the latter. In other words — every event/encounter was evaluated in terms of student/employer satisfaction. In addition, needs assessments were carried out annually.

When I left as Director of the Career Centre at the University of Toronto students completed an on-line satisfaction survey of all services and programs as part of their annual registration process. Responses from over 25,000 students were attained each year. In analyzing this data we were able to ascertain the degree/program/gender/college/major/year in school and so on, thereby knowing to whom to promote various services and programmes. That information was invaluable to program planning.

Satisfaction surveys, although important, do not address all assessment needs. It is often too tempting to use the same satisfaction surveys for all workshops rather than design individual ones which will provide a greater depth of information. Employment surveys are another measure of the success of the career/employment centre’s programs and services. With the advent of writing learning outcomes, all programming will be assessed according to the successful attainment of the learning outcomes.

Employer surveys help to ascertain the level of satisfaction employers enjoy when recruiting at your centre. Their feedback can also be used to lobby for things like additional staff, web enhancements, new or enhanced interview rooms and improvements to the service they receive while at your centre.

Just as self assessment is integral to the career planning process, career/employment centre evaluations are essential to ensuring that a relevant and high quality service is offered to clients and employers.
Currently National Co-ordinator of Innovation and Outreach for the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), Marilyn Van Norman has over 30 years proven experience in career centre and student services management. This article is excerpted from her recent books, From My Perspective…A Guide to Career/Employment Centre Management and From My Perspective…A Guide to University and College Career Centre Management, published by CERIC (2009) and available through the ContactPoint MarketPlace.

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