Employee Development Efforts Revamped

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

As the Human Resources Employee Development Program marks its 10th year, it is being revamped to identify and address departmental, office and university-wide needs more specifically.

Under the new plan, the program will emphasize a "group" approach to professional development, with a strong role for middle-level management. This reorganization, coming after intensive meetings among Human Resources personnel over the past year, is part of the University's re-engineering process, administrators said - adopting new methods and concepts of accomplishing tasks in the face of constricting economic and social trends.

"We simply want the program to be a more integrated one," said Vice President for Human Resources Leo V. Sullivan. "This new approach sharpens the focus of the program and transforms it from being individual-based to one which is management and university-based."

"Through our meetings and discussions, including with professionals at other institutions," said Director of Employment and Employee Development Bernard O'Kane, "we have developed what we feel is an evolution of the current program, one which can support University directives and also be of increasing value to individual employees."

Historically, O'Kane said, the program was geared to individual employee skills and knowledge development. When the University replaced employee evaluation methods with the Performance Management System in 1991, he said, the program began to focus more on helping employees meet their performance needs. Now, as Boston College strives to enhance its organizational effectiveness, future initiatives in employee training and development will have a management or functional perspective, O'Kane said.

To accomplish this, O'Kane added, his office will collaborate with individual departments and work groups to identify key objectives and develop strategies to integrate learning into the work environment. Some of the learning objectives might include the use of technology, working in and managing diverse work groups and orientation of new employees.

O'Kane singled out the work group concept as integral to the program's new approach. A group might consist of managers and other personnel in a particular office or department, he explained, or of employees from a cross-section of the University who perform a similar function - the office or departmental Information Technology representatives, for example.

"In the past, an employee might attend a seminar or workshop which would be valuable for that person's development, but he or she might not be able to really utilize this in the workplace," O'Kane said. "In this scenario, a department or work group would devise a plan where selected individuals would attend a seminar or workshop and develop changes and innovations at their worksite accordingly.

"This is where the University's mid-level management will play a major part," he continued. "This process will involve supervising managers in needs assessment, identifying the skills and programs that will be most valuable in their area and, just as importantly, gauging their success and overall impact."

This new approach is reflected even in the registration procedure, O'Kane noted. A manager sends in a form to the Employee Development Office "nominating" an employee to attend a specific workshop, seminar or other event, and must briefly state how the program will help achieve necessary work goals.

"The program selection should be based on the employee's work responsibilities within the context of departmental objectives," O'Kane said. "The question about achieving the work goals is one which needs to be discussed between the nominating manager and the employee. Again, this is a way to set some objectives and then see how they are being met."

The Employee Development Office will also encourage employees to participate in service-oriented programs and opportunities, O'Kane said, as well as spiritual retreats. The office has compiled a list of capsule descriptions and contacts for the Faculty Fellows Program, Undergraduate Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and Ignatio Volunteer Programs, among others.

"Service to others is an essential part of the educational mission and tradition of Boston College," O'Kane said. "We want to introduce opportunities for employees to take part in the University's work in surrounding communities and to discover more about one's spiritual life."

O'Kane added that programs in personal development, although distinct from those sponsored through the Employee Development Office, will still be offered to the University community.

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