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Human Resources

Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who specializes in human resources issues.

Anthony Frank, president of Colorado State University, issued a campuswide challenge in 2012: Make CSU a model school where everyone can work and learn.

An important first step was making the school more accommodating to the needs of women. One strategy was opening a child care center last fall and adding comfortable seating in lactation rooms. Since then, the school has received a $50,000 donation toward the initiative, says Amy Parsons, vice president of operations.

Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who specializes in human resources issues.

Each year, the University of Nebraska, Omaha, hires several hundred new administrative or office service workers, says Cecil Hicks, who himself was hired in May as the school’s HR director.

Human resources specialist Carol Patton says colleges and universities aren't aware of the wide range of their employees' skills.

Consider the accounting clerk who coordinates community events; the help desk manager who moonlights as an exercise coach; or even the campus registrar who is also a freelance writer.

HR expert Carol Patton says alumni have value to HR as recruiters and university advocates.

In the midst of shrinking budgets and staff, HR professionals at colleges and universities can take advantage of an often overlooked resource to help accomplish their goals.

Consider working with alumni—they typically possess a wealth of campus knowledge and skills. And they’re often eager to assist human resources in many areas, ranging from recruitment to employee coaching.

HR expert Carol Patton says data can help fix what no one may realize is broken.

As HR professionals, you track all sorts of activities—such as onboarding and employee turnover. While these types of production metrics are important, HR needs to start measuring the effectiveness of its own programs and activities.

For example, you may know the number of employees who completed a supervisory training course, but that’s just a one-dimensional metric. You need to determine whether the participants became more skilled at managing others to gauge the course’s true impact in the workplace.

Carol Patton says new HR software is more user-friendly and flexible.

Integrated. Upgradeable. Simple. Affordable. That’s the message HR professionals at universities and colleges are sending to software developers.

“We don’t want to be locked in to what we’re doing today and not be able to adjust to the world tomorrow,” says David Jones, organizational effectiveness specialist, division of housing and food services at Purdue University. Jones says no one in HR has the time to enter the same information twice or perform the same data search in different programs.

Is anybody listening? Apparently so.

Carol Patton says flexible career policies motivate faculty to develop fresh skills and broaden career paths.

How many members of your faculty would enjoy teaching the same courses, day in and day out, throughout a 30-, 40- or even 50-year career? Not many.

Staying motivated and intellectually challenged is not always possible at schools where promotions or lateral career moves are rare. Faculty may find themselves disengaged, even downright bored, teaching the same classes year after year. 

What tops the list of HR challenges at your college or university? Managing soaring health care costs? Maybe it’s faculty recruitment, succession planning, or shrinking budgets.

Below, HR professionals from four different schools share their chief concerns, revealing why it’s getting more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

Strong management rights

  • Do insist upon a management clause that grants your school operational flexibility, ranging from the ability to assign jobs to enforcing reasonable work rules.

Think outside the box. The phrase is overused, but the actual practice is definitely underutilized. Yet, it still ranks among the most important tips for higher ed HR professionals who are involved in union negotiations.

Creativity is what moved negotiations forward nearly three years ago at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Ore., recalls Art Doherty, now HR director at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.

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