Volume 12, Number 7 November 19, 2004

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Renewed HRD will focus on responsiveness

Staff have built capacity to offer innovative, proactive & consultative service across campus

Since August of 2002 the Human Resources Division (HRD) has been transforming itself to better meet the University’s changing needs and work in closer partnership with colleges and administrative units.

It’s a change that may prove key to how well the U of S meets its ambitious goals for the next decade or two.

Barb Daigle, Associate Vice-President of Human Resources, says HRD’s renewal process is an effort to improve its performance “and deliver effective consultation on leading-edge human resource practices, leading to positive and enabling work environments and positive change across campus”.

Barb Daigle
Barb Daigle

Daigle adds the new face of HRD is the result of a lot of self-assessment and hard work by the division’s staff.

She says the change is starting to be noticed by people in colleges, departments and units – and it will become even more apparent when HRD holds an open house Nov. 24 and launches its new website at about the same time.

She notes that just as the University has set new strategic goals to become more dynamic, innovative and world-class, her division has also been challenged to strive for higher standards. “The Human Resources Division has been given a mandate to support the University Plan through examining existing practices and supporting enabling work environments.”

The road to a new HRD began shortly after Daigle arrived at the U of S in mid-2002. An analysis by HRD staff of the division’s structure and operations found it wasn’t doing many of the things that human resources units in successful organizations do. Although staff in HRD were extremely hard-working and committed, they knew their work was largely bureaucratic and focused on ensuring compliance with rules and policies, rather than serving the needs of colleges and units through development of creative solutions and best practices.

“We were very reactive, more of a traditional personnel kind of shop,” she says, adding there were gaps where HRD didn’t provide the skills and project-management abilities that such a unit needs. “We were not spending time developing our own skills to serve the needs of the University.”

So Daigle and her staff set out to change the culture of HRD. Along the way they have revised its structure, set new values and priorities, and created a detailed 2003-07 plan as part of the University’s overall integrated planning exercise.

“If you want to move in a different direction, you have to do things differently,” she notes. “Some of this work was tough for everyone – but we have emerged as a stronger unit, able to solve our problems and learn from our mistakes, which will make us more effective in our work with our clients.”

“We focused initially on ensuring that HRD’s internal culture is positive, to improve our skills and become problem-solvers. We have examined our role in the organization and the quality of services we provide. We have developed our internal resources to stop doing some things, do other things more effectively and better align our services with the University’s needs.

“Our staff have taken on a huge challenge and their progress is tremendous. I am really proud to work with such open-minded, professional and dedicated staff.”

She adds that the two years spent “building capacity” in HRD aim to make it a more consultative, service-oriented unit for the rest of campus.

That means adopting a more open, innovative, professional and sometimes even risk-taking approach that’s designed to be proactive and help colleges, departments and units manage their human resources issues before problems arise.

“Our agenda is positive, to help create good work environments, help people work effectively individually and together, and find solutions for challenges in the organization, many of which are long-standing. A challenge for HRD is to find solutions that meet the needs and expectations of staff within effective use of the University’s limited resources.”

Daigle is quick to note that effective human resources management for the University’s future is a collaborative enterprise.

“Leadership and people issues are the role of everyone, not just HRD. Our job is not to control the organization through rules and policies – it’s to empower the leadership to operate it effectively. HRD can’t do it all on its own, but we can provide models and processes.”

In a more detailed sense, “HRD’s job is to help get the right people into the right jobs, with the right skills, the right rewards and the right processes – the right fit.”

Daigle says HRD has identified five strategic priorities for supporting the University:

  • Supporting effective recruitment of new faculty and staff, ensuring a representative and diverse workforce, and making the U of S an employer of choice for prospective employees.

  • Ensuring retention through positive work relationships, clear job roles, appropriate staff complements and good work environments.

  • Managing appropriate compensation, ensuring incentives and rewards that lead to high performance, and ensuring financial sustainability.

  • Promoting clear competencies, job accountabilities and frameworks to support high performance.

  • Supporting leadership by identifying competencies and helping to develop selection, development and succession planning for current and future leaders at the U of S.

To do this effectively, HRD has realigned its staff into five teams covering:

  • Leadership - on matters such as planning, policy, communications and goal-setting.

  • Consulting Services - service as strategic partners with units, offering expertise in change, labour relations, performance management, workload issues, and others.

  • Operational Services - working with units on day-to-day issues like recruitment, compensation, job evaluation, and benefits.

  • Information Management - handling all the data relating to the HRD functions.

  • Health and Wellness - promoting individual and organizational health and wellness, return-to-work strategies, and administering related plans.

Staff in each of the teams are assigned to groupings of the more than 30 colleges, departments or units on campus, to provide for personalized human resources service.

As part of the rollout of HRD’s new structure and services, Daigle says a brochure giving a preliminary look at the changes was distributed around campus a few months ago, and a memo has recently been sent to deans, department heads and unit managers giving them details about the changes and their contact people in HRD. The same information will appear in the new website.

In addition, a new Leading People Series began this fall, offering workshops for middle-level staff who lead others. It gives them a look at HRD’s goals and services, along with professional development in a number of human-resources areas like recruitment, problematic behaviour, diversity in the workplace, and health and wellness.

Daigle says universities are complex places in which to build effective human resources units. It has taken some time to renew HRD and she says she appreciates the patience people have shown as HRD staff have built their capacity to do a first-class job.

“Our HRD team is renewed and excited about the future. We are better prepared to tackle the work we have to do, we are focused on results, and we look forward to working with the community to find solutions for HR issues.”

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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