ann sherman HR Responds to Survey with New Structure

The Human Resources office is adorned with super-sized Post-it notes that serve as visual reminders of the department’s effort to increase efficiency, leverage technology and continually improve customer service. The new structure focuses on four key roles. It is largely a response to the 2005 survey of NMU employees. It is also an effort by Director Ann Sherman to promote a collaborative, team environment where all functions are covered, even with individual absences and fluctuating workloads. Sherman gave a presentation at today's NMU Board of Trustees meeting.


chart Human Resources uses a grid (left) to illustrate its four roles. Each falls within two dimensions—one ranging from an individual to the collective; the other from a tactical approach to a strategic view.


“Our first role is administrative excellence, which emphasizes the daily tasks that need to be done well, such as staffing, payroll and compliance,” Sherman said. “The second role of employee advocate also has a tactical emphasis, but is focused on the individual, such as benefit and work issues, leaves and status changes.


“On the more strategic side, HR serves as a leadership partner. We provide coaching and guidance regarding job and organizational design, employee selection and development, team-building and communications. The final role of change leader is a very proactive approach to forecasting workforce demographics, trends in proceses and employee offerings, labor and employee relations and regulatory updates.”


Debra LaMere, recently hired for the new senior HR generalist position, will serve as the leadership partner and also delve into labor relations. “I’m new to campus, so I have the advantage of a fresh perspective,” LaMere said. “From what I’ve seen so far, the office structure in place here encourages integration and feedback.”

That sentiment is echoed by Leslie Herman, recently promoted to payroll duties, and June Nelson, who has returned to the department as a senior account clerk in charge of Ultratime after working elsewhere on campus.


“Human Resources has become more accessible and inviting,” Nelson said. “The staff also seems more relaxed. Some people used to cringe at the thought of dealing with HR, assuming they would have trouble with something. It needed a new direction and I think it’s heading the right way.”


Sherman added, “HR had been focused on making sure that what was in place was adhered to. Now we’re shifting the balance between the four areas so we’re engaged in more strategic, proactive efforts to provide excellent service as quickly as possible.”


Here are some ways Sherman said Human Resources is addressing areas most in need of improvement, as suggested by the survey:


Staffing: Janet Koski (Equal Opportunity) has relocated to HR from Cohodas Hall so people can get staffing questions answered in one location. In another development, the department will demonstrate PeopleAdmin software, which has become a popular tool at universities, to faculty and staff focus groups before it goes live in the fall. The software assists with position management and recruiting with more online functions.


Compensation: HR is evaluating the university’s compensation strategy and nearing the completion of two Sibson Consulting projects: a salary comparison for the Administrative/Professional group; and an effort to revise classification descriptions for the Technical and Office Professionals.

Communication: The department hosted an open house shortly after Sherman’s arrival to increase visibility and has a new Web site. A joint committee is looking at a health care task force and a joint labor management committee will address various issues as they surface.


Credibility: Sherman said, “We’re not just focusing on what was done in the past—we’re reevaluating and trying to make decisions grounded in strong practice, understanding and wisdom.”


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Updated: July 18, 2008

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