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On April 28-30, Charlotte was home to the 2013 College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Southern Region Conference. I didn’t see any official numbers, but I’d say there were about 250 folks in attendance. This was my first time attending this type conference and I was especially grateful for the opportunity to attend. It was a really great conference, packed with lots of relevant information. You may recall that the salary market analysis conducted back in the fall used data from CUPA for the review and that I also serve on an ACRL committee to review CUPA library position descriptions. I drove in to Charlotte both days and can honestly say that this is one commute I am thrilled not to have to make with any regularity.

The opening keynoter, Dr. Christopher Bouer, author of Better Ethics NOW: How to Avoid the Ethics Disaster You Never Saw Coming, suggested a preventative maintenance approach to ethics and values training. Research shows that institutions lose about 5% of their bottom line to unethical practices. Good ethics programs that are easily defined, clear and concise will reduce fraud losses of up to 15%. Ethics are the total of our guiding values; the rules we follow even when no one is looking and all we know about doing the next best thing. My take away from this session was to make sure that supervisors include a conversation concerning the library values statement as a part of our new employee orientation.
The next breakout session provided the opportunity for affinity groups to connect. I along with other WFU troopers, Angela Culler and Christy Lennon, attended the private institutions gathering. Here we discussed endowment distributions, admissions, diversity recruitment efforts, title IX and faculty background checks. When polled concerning the number of institutions conducting faculty drug and background checks, almost all attendees responded affirmatively. Only one institution indicated that they had gone back and conducted checks on those hired prior to implementation of the policy.
Leadership Conversations: Developing Managerial Capacity for Inclusive Excellence through Dialogue, featured Pearl Alexander and Cheryl Cofield, both of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who discussed ways to foster inclusiveness in team/group meetings. Attendees participated in role playing activities to generate self-insight and improve listening techniques. During the paired up listening exercise, I wanted to say, yes I understand, or I remember when, but our instructions were to listen only for the full two minutes. It was hard. We practiced giving delighted attention, equal time and uninterrupted conversation. Interruptions can derail the communicator, causing him or her to lose their intended message. During the session we also watched the Susan Boyle video of her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. The underlying theme is here was no one expected her to triumph. They all made assumptions based upon her demeanor. So this is the same in life. Our perspectives are often timed colored by our individual opinions, attitudes and beliefs. Many times these assumptions are laced with unconscious biases, sometimes racially based. The presenter’s example focused on stereotypes of laziness which often lead interviewers to probe deeper than usual for evidence that applicants will actually work if given the job. Diversity mature leaders strive to be aware of these conversations. Value added does not always reside with the usual suspects. Leaders need to work at creating a culture of dialogue. The experience of being understood versus being interpreted is so compelling you could charge admission. (presenter’s quote) This session was really good and they covered lots more of which I am happy to share, but I’ll stop here and move on to the next session.
Enhancing Employee Engagement in Difficult Fiscal Times, topic for Ann Lennon of the UNC System and John Toller, ECU’s presentation, stressed the importance of tracking employee engagement. Research indicates that about 30% of employees are engaged, with 50% not really fully engaged and 20% actively not engaged. People are the source of power for our learning communities representing the engine and fuel for sustainable success. What attracts new hires and what retains is closely aligned and should have respect at the center along with future career advancement opportunities, maintaining job interest and adequate compensation. These three things were cited as factors which lead to dis-engaged employees. 1) Being under-utilized. Leaders need to tap into the full potential, redesign jobs and listen well. 2) Being invisible. Leaders need to recognize people personally and appreciate them. 3) Feeling like they are not making a difference. Managers need to celebrate successes no matter how small. Engaged employees are willing to give extra effort, they feel energized because their needs are met; they feel enabled because they have what they need to get the job done. Empathy was cited as the glue that holds it all together. Here are some other best practices:
•Show respect
•Build career paths
•Capitalize on engageable moments
•Write thank you notes
•Demonstrate strong leadership
•Actively managing change
•Focus on the customer
•Have equitable rewards in whatever forms are possible
•Promote collaboration not competition
•Use power sparingly
•Invest in the core
•Identify strengths and utilize them – right fit
•Hire or develop great managers

There’s more to come from day 2 when I attended sessions on employee recognition, standards of professionalism, social media in HR and the tough legal questions. Including both days in one post makes for a much longer post and I really want to hold your attention, so I’ll report more a little later.