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Putting people first: Team focuses on human relations to improve work life

Human relationships – in a variety of ways – are integral parts of life. The workplace is no exception and is probably defined even more by the relationships we have with those around us. Think about your daily work environment and the variety and quantity of individuals you encounter in one way or another. Clearly, when those interactions are positive our work days and productivity levels are much better overall compared to when the interactions are not positive.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a unit on campus to help us achieve those positive interactions and help us build and strengthen relationships along the way? Well, you’re in luck.

There is a group of individuals positioned within Human Resources where individuals merge into one unified, cohesive team that works on behalf of all employees campus-wide.

Respectively, the members of the Employee Relations team for academic areas and the Office of Faculty Recruitment and Retention (OFRR) along with the newly created HR consultant, make up the team that focuses on these all-important relationships.

Led by Pam Nesbitt, director, academic Human Resources, these areas and the individuals within them work tirelessly to ensure the most positive working relationships for all employees. As director of academic HR, Nesbitt absorbs the roles and responsibilities of both the Employee Relations director position and the director of OFRR. Her focus, along with her team’s, is strongly positioned on the people, relationships and interactions that occur on campus. 

As a whole, they are invested in people and the relationships that make each area successful. They also provide a direct channel of communication between the areas they serve and their team.

“This is a cohesive team and they are here to support employees, supervisors and faculty,” Nesbitt said.

Employee Relations, which might be most familiar, offers faculty and staff a wide array of support including consultation, guidelines, workplace growth opportunities, conflict resolution, trainings and more to facilitate a favorable work environment for all – and in order to do so, the people and their relationships and emotions play the biggest part.

The Office of Faculty Recruitment and Retention works closely with faculty and focuses on the faculty members’ partners in an effort to help them increase their chances and opportunities to find employment while also assisting them in their transition to the area. OFRR and Employee Relations couple with each other, with the end result being strengthened relationships and workplace satisfaction for employees of our University and beyond.

Katherine Prochno, HR academic consultant, serves the College of Liberal Arts as well as provides employee relations support to the College of Education and the Krannert School of Management. Her role differs slightly from the other areas as her position handles all HR functions. According to Nesbitt, the success of this new position has inspired other areas across campus to begin looking at adding consultant positions.

Completing and then using information gathered to improve the work environment for non-academic staff on campus through the Quality of Work Environment Initiative (QWEI) is among the team’s many accomplishments. The recent Supervisor Springboard Training pilot was a direct result of the QWEI survey and will be launched campus-wide this fall as a way to continue to enrich the skills of supervisors across campus.

In addition, the team worked to change the grievance policy to the more favorable Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) concept. The changes to the policy – which became effective July 1, 2015 – bring a more user-friendly, non-adversarial approach to the process which benefits all involved.

While their accomplishments and successes are many, the team never stops looking for ways to improve the lives of those they work on behalf of. Currently, a new exit interview platform and process is in the works. Details will be shared once the process is finalized.

“I want to recognize and applaud all three areas and the respective roles they play on campus,” Nesbitt said. “Each area provides necessary support and resources for the University as a whole. Their presence supports recruitment and retention of valued faculty members, helps ensure positive work environments and provides a network of individuals ready and willing to assist their peers in whatever work-related situations they might encounter. I am very proud to be a part of this team.”

 
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