Bravo! Encore!

John Jay College employees applaud varied enrichment opportunities closer to home.

Bravo Employees at a ceramics class, one of many personal and
professional summer workshops offered via Bravo!

In most corporate and educational cultures, summer is a time of slower pace and time off - a season to recharge the batteries. But there are different ways to rev up the institutional energy, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice seems to have found one that works.

In July, the college held its second annual Bravo! Summer Employee Institute, a midweek symposium open to all employees, both full-time and part-time, who wanted to take a break from their workaday routines in favor of two days of "personal and professional enrichment and development." The 300 employees who took part had a choice of more than 40 seminars - from managing personal debt to dealing with difficult people; from meditation to team-building; from "Learn to podcast" to "So you want to be a crime scene investigator."

The Bravo! Institute idea is part of a broader attempt by the college to improve how employees feel about their jobs and their lives. More than 200 employees responded to an "Employee Engagement Survey" conducted last year under the direction of Senior Vice President Robert M. Pignatello. The survey was meant as a starting point for addressing a dismal reality of modern life: A study of 90,000 people worldwide by Towers Perrin, a firm that helps organizations improve performance, found that just 21 percent were engaged by their work.

As a result of last year's survey, John Jay's administrators took a number of steps to address what seemed to be the areas of most pressing concern. They increased the college's training budget, offered more professional development opportunities and embraced the new CUNY Work/Life program, a University-wide initiative to help employees balance their work and personal lives.

Judging by the results of the same survey this year, some attitudes seem to have changed for the better. For instance, the respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, "Doing my job well gives me a sense of personal satisfaction." In 2008, only 69 percent agreed; this year, virtually everyone did - 98 percent. Other areas changed less dramatically, but still significantly. Eleven percent more said the college cares about its employees this year than last year - from 47 percent to 58 percent.

The Bravo! Institute alone doesn't account for the improvement, but it's a start, and one that Pignatello hopes will be a model for other CUNY colleges.