The University Record, September 23, 1998

Staff input leads to new courses from HRD

From Human Resource Development

When Human Resource Development (HRD) staff were looking for a new face to go with their new place, they asked other U-M staff members what they wanted to see.

The answer? Managers and staff want to work in units that are known for their organizational health and effectiveness. In particular, managers want more help in areas like planning their unit's direction, change management, and in fostering productive relationships with their staff.

Some 34 new courses are the result, from team building to learning how to listen effectively. HRD now offers more than 100 sessions of courses for managers and supervisors and for support staff in response to thoughtful answers received on questionnaires and suggestions made in focus groups.

After getting a sense of the University's future directions and taking into account Provost Nancy Cantor's emphasis on collaboration, HRD director Robert B. Holmes says the changes in both the atmosphere at HRD's new facility and the focus of the program reflect the objectives of the University and answer the need for staff and management training.

Learning to stay on the crest of the wave as new technology pushes the University to new ways of going about the business of education and service made HRD staff realize that their strategy had to change, too, says Cindee Bryant, HRD program coordinator. Thus, new offerings for both managers and supervisors and support staff center on project planning, time and stress management, and learning how to train and evaluate people.

The new offices and training rooms in the Administrative Services Building offer the latest technology. Computer-based presentations, ceiling-mounted LCD projectors, remote-control video and audio presentations, built-in sound system, and assistive listening devices for the hearing-impaired, along with future teleconferencing and cable TV capabilities, bring HRD technology to state-of-the-art standards.

Comparing the facility to the old one on Kipke Drive, Bryant says that rooms for training sessions accommodating up to 60 participants and offering house phones and ethernet connections for laptop computers are a far cry from the cramped rooms that were often unavailable because of scheduling conflicts.

"Changes in our service were prompted by the need to stay ahead of the changes that are happening so quickly now," Bryant says. "The way HRD operated didn't fit anymore." She cites such changes as the M-Pathways program, new leadership in the University, restructuring and budget trimming as incentives for change, coupled with needs that staff pointed out.

HRD's facelift is in itself a part of looking at the future needs of the University, Holmes says. "To provide the best service, we needed a first class professional development center. I always said I wanted a facility as good as the staff we had, and we have come close." The new offices sport a spacious lobby decorated with a rotating display of works by faculty at the School of Art and Design.

"HRD is maintaining its strong emphasis on staff training," Holmes notes, "and we also have exciting new courses for supervisors and managers. We believe that this array of courses allows us to improve the health and effectiveness of units across campus as well as the people who work in them."

There are many resources to aid leadership change and transition. HRD offers parallel courses in separate sessions for both staff and managers in such topics as delegating responsibility, dispute resolution and keeping your sanity in a changing environment.

Deborah Nystrom, HRD associate, says one of the less visible--but one of the most valuable--services HRD offers is customized training that can take place at either HRD or in departments. "There are more departments using task groups to accomplish the goals for the organization," she says. "We empower them with the tools and work with them until they are ready to go on by themselves."

Nystrom also notes that changes in the workplace lead to more than just stress. More often than not, giving up a comfortable way of doing a job leads to feelings of loss and grief, she says, something that managers may not be aware of but will need to recognize in an environment that faces more change this decade than in any other.

Holmes points out that HRD also offers many individualized organizational development services to units that may need help in developing their future directions, those going through rapid change, and those that may need assistance with performance management issues. "We are getting a tremendous response to these services since organizational health and effectiveness are topics many people care about," Holmes says.

To find out more about customized and organizational development services for your department, contact HRD at 764-7410. More information on course offerings and professional development also is available on the Web at


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