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The second day of the CUPA HR conference was just as enlightening as the first. I began the day by attending Employee Recognition: A Look at the University of Oklahoma HR “STAHR” Program. The presenter Eric Sourie was filled with energy and enthusiasm as he delivered the program details. In the Oklahoma program STAHRs are recognized daily, quarterly with a luncheon and annually with a major celebration. The program is based entirely within Human Resources, a department of 72 employees. A STAHR is a Super Talented Associate of Human Resources. Sourie offered advice on building an effective recognition program. In a recognition program everyone should know exactly what the organization hopes to recognize? What behaviors do you want to reinforce? Is it the peers who recognize or is it the supervisor? Effective employee recognition programs reinforce the mission, vision and values of the organization and should be easy to administer. Above all they should be valued by the employees. For the most value, you really need to find out what the employees actually value. Sometimes there are challenges in maintaining enthusiasm and value around the program. It’s never a done deal, but more of a continuous cycle to evaluate, recognize, celebrate and then evaluate again. Programs should consider recognizing those: whose opinions are heard and valued, those who give extra effort, those who are examples to their peers, those who volunteer above and beyond, those vested in the success of the organization, proactive and those committed to excellence.

Creating a Culture of Respect on Campus: Developing Standards of Professionalism, explored how inappropriate interactions reduce optimum performance on our campuses and was led by Sibson Consulting representatives Barbara Butterfield and Robert Conlon. Values of the organization should be interwoven in the daily interactions of both faculty and staff. Professionalism actually starts within the search/interview process. The search committee and its interactions should display the highest levels of professionalism. This conveys the message of expectancy. Language that speaks to collegiality should be included in the job description. Professionalism is defined by respect, integrity, positive communication, fair, doing your best, knowledgeable, and controlling your emotions. Does professionalism matter? Yes it does! It should be communicated and modeled. Rochelle Arnold Simmons, Organizational Development Specialist at Johns Hopkins University, shared details of an active John’s Hopkins case study with the audience. Why would Johns Hopkins undertake a study centered on professionalism? As a leader in both teaching and research they need to be able to continue to attract and retain the best faculty, staff and students. The committee’s charge was to cultivate an environment/culture characterized by trust, mutual respect, open communications, accountability and collaborative interactions among all members of the Hopkins community and those they serve. A healthy campus has a climate of trust and respect, with work/life balance and ethics. It has behaviors conducive to physical intellectual, emotional, financial, social and spiritual well being. A healthy campus displays behaviors which are consistent with organizational values to promote a productive and supportive, collaborative, fun, dependable and safe workplace. Johns Hopkins launched a phased approach to developing the desired culture. First gathering information from the university and select peers on standards of professionalism. Next they analyzed the data to determine internal patterns and reviewed best practices. Currently they are creating an executive summary which will include a recommended implementation plan and a supporting structure. Ideas from that days’ brainstorming session is to be included in the documentation.

Putting Social Media to Work in HR, led by David Zajchowski of Rollins College, took a different spin from what I had hoped. His focus was on HR’s value and advantage in using social media in advertising position vacancies, updating and sharing university news and communicating with faculty and staff. I had hoped they would talk some about effective ways to use social media in the actual search process, however, none the less, the information given was beneficial. Of particular interest were the statistics on social network usage across racial lines. Whites lead with 79%, Hispanics with 12%, Blacks 10% and Asians 3%. The presenter asked the audience if we knew why the numbers were so low for minorities. I asked him what the source of his data was to which he replied, from Nielsen ratings. I said that says a lot since, I have never known any African American who was asked to participate in any of the Nielsen rating events. No one else had any possible reasons to offer either. Social media, if used correctly, can promote deeper engagement with communities of interest. Attendees were advised to safeguard the fine line between personal voice and institutional voice.

The last session of the day sought to provide “Answers to your Toughest Legal Questions?” and was led by attorney Beth Tyner Jones of the Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice firm of Raleigh. Some topics touched on were, retaliation lawsuits, departmental mis-classification within exempt and non-exempt categories and ADA compliance. I was also glad to hear her recommendations for universities conducting criminal background checks on previously hired faculty members and complying to Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidelines specific to adjunct faculty and the provision of health care benefits. Concerning background checks, Jones asked that we consider these factors: time passed since the offense, conduct while working with your university and the length and terms of sentence served; nature of the job held in relation to the offense and the nature and gravity of the offense. Institutions should allow faculty members the opportunity to explain. With regard to adjuncts and ACA compliance, Jones stated that most often, institutions do not track hours worked but instead pay adjuncts per course, taking into consideration the specific course’s demands, preparation time, in-class instruction time, and out-of-class responsibilities. Teaching twelve credit hours equates to 36 hours of work time. Counting of these hours is to begin in July. The discussion on having interns and volunteers advised employers to state the terms up front within the internship/volunteer agreement. Specifically one should address expected hours, mutual benefits and desired outcomes, include statements that reinforce that no wages are attached to this project and there is no commitment to hire.

Overall this was a super conference and I am grateful for the opportunity to attend. Please see me if you want to hear more on any of the topics covered.