The University Record, May 24, 1999

HR/AA’s McClain headed for Cal State

By Jane R. Elgass

When Jackie McClain departs Ann Arbor for the sunny skies and sometimes shifting terra firma of California later this month, she leaves behind a legacy of improved policies and programs better designed to serve the needs of a diverse workforce.

Currently executive director of human resources and affirmative action (HR/AA), McClain will become the vice chancellor of human resources of the 22-school California State University (CSU) system on June 1.

At the U-M, 12 units report to McClain: Benefits, Employment Services, Employee Relations, Conciliation and Consultation, Internal Consulting, Human Resources Information Services, Academic Personnel, Diversity and Equity Services, Sexual Harassment, Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, Family Care Resources Program and Human Resource Development.

“I am deeply appreciative of Jackie‘s leadership of HR/AA over the past several years,” said Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer. “I am confident that she will bring the same high degree of standards and professionalism that she demonstrated here to her post in California.”

At California, she will be responsible for developing and implementing human resources policies for executives, faculty and staff; providing direction to the system‘s chief negotiator in collective bargaining; serving as the key executive on issues concerning employment and employees; and ensuring that CSU‘s human resources practices are current, responsive to the needs of the system, and comply with federal and state regulations.

With the U-M since February 1994, McClain says that among all the accomplishments of HR/AA during her tenure, she is proudest of the establishment of an alternative dispute resolution process. This process gives faculty and staff a way to handle problems without resorting to a grievance procedure. “It is working very well and has helped many faculty and staff work through problems,” she notes.

McClain says that she shares credit for improvements with all of the HR/AA staff. “The hard work is done by the absolutely professional staff in this department,” she says. “Everyone works hard and contributes to the effort. All deserve credit. I simply open doors and provide opportunities.”

She also is very pleased with the changes in the Benefits Office that have resulted in improved customer service, the concept of UMatter, Work~Connections and the Foundations of Supervision course offered by Human Resource Development.

UMatter is an ongoing employee recognition program that is not event-based. Individuals are nominated for the award, which is presented to the staff member during some sort of unit activity, such as a staff meeting. “Major events are fine to celebrate high points,” McClain notes, “but recognition is best done by the people closest to the individual being honored. It means more in that context.”

Work~Connections is a joint program with Risk Management that offers one-stop access to University services for faculty and staff during an injury or illness and their subsequent recovery and return to work, which McClain cites as “a tremendous stance for the University to take.”

“Work~Connections helps employees by providing services that consider their needs, as well as the University‘s need for a healthy and able workforce,” McClain notes. The program uses a team approach to help the faculty or staff member. The team includes the faculty or staff member, his or her supervisor, and staff from Human Resources, Risk Management, MWorks or Employee Health Service, the employing unit, and treatment professionals.

The eight-session Foundations of Supervision course is designed to give participants practical knowledge and skills that will help them be effective managers. It was created by more than 40 University staff who participated in curriculum development teams to design specific course content that meets high priority University needs.

In addition, under McClain‘s leadership and with the support of the Office of the Provost, the dual careers program has been strengthened and specific staff have been designated to work with faculty and staff on this area of growing concern.

While the list of accomplishments is impressive, McClain says challenges remain.

“We‘re on the road to commissioning a compensation study and have the support of the administration to issue a request for proposal,” McClain explains. The University today faces more competition with other employers than in the past. Enhancements of benefits programs and policy changes have helped put the University in a strong recruiting position, but salaries remain a sticking point in some areas, she notes.

Also on her wish list is an online virtual career center that would help staff explore career objectives and determine what they need to do to meet those objectives, as well as a list of campus classes they can attend. She hopes the Web page will be in place before she leaves.

HR/AA is the first of the units that report to Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer, to undertake an internal assessment. “We are on target for completing the assessment July 31,” McClain says. “We‘ll soon be gathering comments from individuals outside HR/AA within the University and outside of the University. This will be a very sound tool for my successor to identify issues that need to be addressed and make plans to move forward on particular projects.”

With M-Pathways scheduled to go live for HR in 2001, McClain says the biggest challenge will be maintaining the current level of customer service. “We have a commitment to minimize any disruption,” she says. “We‘ve had 80 people from outside HR working on process engineering to find the best ways to deliver our services.”

Revitalization of the ombuds program for faculty is another important project, and the sexual harassment coordinator position has been restructured—high burnout and turnovers have been a problem—into one that someone “can work at and live through,” McClain explains. A search to fill that position is under way.

McClain says the “family-friendly” policies and programs that have been implemented over the past few years “are moving in the right direction. However, we do need to do a better job of educating supervisors and administrators about flexibility and what the rules and regulations allow.”