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Strategic Thinking: Human Resources Invests In Lehigh's Staff

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    During the question period at April’s Town Hall meeting, a staff member inquired as to what the university was doing to further the goal of investing in Lehigh’s staff. This goal is included in the university's Strategic Plan.

    The May 2008 report of the Strategic Thinking Investing in Faculty and Staff Group contained many recommendations and the staff member wondered about the status of these recommendations.

    This question resonated in the Human Resources office (HR). We thought it would be helpful to share the various initiatives and programs that HR administers that address many of the recommendations that emerged from the Investing in Faculty and Staff Strategic Thinking Group.

Background

Lehigh’s Strategic Plan – Advancing Our Intellectual Footprint – was preceded by a vigorous and inclusive discussion on campus in 2008 known as Strategic Thinking. Part of the strategic thinking process was a working group on the subject of investing in faculty and staff to be at the forefront of distinguished universities.

    Taking the concept of “investing” broadly, the faculty and staff working group delved into every aspect of the work environment at Lehigh. As the Strategic Plan notes:

To attract and retain diverse and talented faculty and staff to Lehigh requires that we be responsive to the needs of today’s workforce. Work/life balance, childcare, elder care, and the vibrancy of the community are issues that impact productivity and career decisions for both men and women.

    Staff: Making Lehigh a Family

    The role of staff in pushing Lehigh to “the forefront of distinguished universities” was expressed in the strategic plan as follows:

We have a professional staff that is fully engaged with faculty and students and plays a central role in our mission of research, teaching, and service. Lehigh staff members are committed to making the living environment a learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students. They enrich the learning experience and make our research and teaching productive. They are educators in the broad sense and they add a dimension to Lehigh that creates the feeling of family, not an institution.

    Some staff have suggested that more information about the contributions and importance of staff would be helpful.  Reflecting on those concerns, HR’s staff examined its activities and reaffirmed ways in which  its programs contribute more directly to the needs outlined during strategic thinking.

Workplace Learning

    One of the direct ways HR invests in Lehigh staff is through its educational offerings, known better as Workplace Learning. Through the strategic thinking process, it became evident that while skills training is important, staff members are seeking other kinds of learning to enhance their careers.

    In particular, many staff expressed interest in programs that could help them manage their careers and work smarter. The resulting set of program offerings has been well-received. Regular offerings include:

  • Career Coaching: Support is offered both for individual staff members looking to chart a course for growth in their careers and for supervisors who wish to help their employees develop their professional path.
  • Crucial Conversations: This highly popular program offers an in-depth approach to communicating when it matters most. Past participants report transformational experiences during the program that positively impact their careers.
  • Lawful Leader: Monthly sessions for supervisors, both new and seasoned, which cover the full range of topics related to leading a team in accordance with Lehigh policy, labor law, and best practices.

    When possible, HR also presents special programs, such as the upcoming two-day event, co-sponsored with the Employee Relations Advisory Committee (ERAC), featuring faculty-staff relations expert Susan Christy.


Promoting Work/Life Balance

    Another area where HR invests in staff is in the area of work/life balance. Here again, through the process of strategic thinking, HR has re-shaped its programs to focus on areas that staff indicated are of interest or concern in their lives. HR initiatives and programs in this area include:

  • Wellness Committee: HR has re-charged the Wellness Committee. The recent Benefits and Wellness Fair presented by the committee offered over 20 exhibitors, including campus and community resources, as well as Lehigh’s benefits providers. The committee is planning an even more robust menu of programs in the coming academic year.
  • Employee Assistance Program: Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) is a well-utilized resource for employees. Staff members experiencing personal stress, or simply looking for information on issues related to work/life balance, can reach out to IBH either by phone or online at any time. IBH also offers workshops at Lehigh, including the upcoming focus on elder care (read more here).
  • Flextime: As we’ve reported in the past, Flextime may be an option for staff at Lehigh. This can provide employees with the flexibility they need to balance their professional and personal lives.
  • Retirement Planning: Lehigh staff can avail themselves of a wealth of financial planning resources, including four Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan investment tools beyond the TIAA-CREF pension plan paid for by the university. Workshops, one-on-one counseling sessions, and pre-tax payroll deduction are all offered to staff and faculty in an effort to keep this daunting but crucial part of everyone’s lives on track.

Ongoing Improvement Efforts

    In HR, there is very little down time when it comes to implementing initiatives to improve the workplace experience at Lehigh. A few initiatives the office has been involved with recently include:

  • Benefits Allocation Review: HR and a campus-wide committee are engaged in a rigorous review of employee benefits, including Lehigh’s benefits philosophy and an examination of each benefit’s contribution to the overall package.
  • Online Employment Applicant Tracking System:  Rolling out this month, the applicant tracking system will streamline the hiring process. This will impact operational efficiency across the university.
  • Staff Compensation Review: After a thorough review five years ago, HR is starting an equity review to ensure Lehigh’s salaries continue to meet the objectives of the market referenced staff compensation system.

    Whether related to benefits, career development, or work/life balance, the HR office keeps the strategic goal of investing in Lehigh’s staff top of mind when planning programs and initiatives.

    Still, despite these efforts, many staff members still primarily engage with HR when they are in need of benefits information or have a policy question. The staff of the HR office hopes that more employees will take time to consider the wealth of offerings created expressly for their benefit and partake of these programs.

    If you have a suggestion that might improve HR programs and benefits, or increase participation, you are encouraged to share it with the office. Consider calling the appropriate HR staff member or sending an email to inhro@lehigh.edu.

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Spotlight is published monthly by Human Resources. Please address any comments to Hillary Kwiatek, Spotlight Editor, Human Resources, 428 Brodhead Avenue, send email to hik210@lehigh.edu, or call extension 85165.

Current and past issues of Spotlight can be viewed and searched at: Past Issues.