September 4, 2015
Those in charge of the Texas Tech University Human Resources department don't want it to be thought of as a big stop sign.
“I think overall it’s important that the campus sees us as a collaborative partner and not a roadblock – sometimes people associate human resources with the process police or those types of things,” said Jodie Billingsley, assistant vice president of human resources and payroll services. “While it is very important that we monitor and achieve compliance, there’s a right way to do it. It can be extremely challenging, but I feel like our relationships are really good on campus so if we have to say no, it’s only after we’ve exhausted every possible solution.”
With 37 employees in five focus areas, Human Resources offers exactly what its name states: tools for the people employed in the Texas Tech community. From hiring the best candidate for open positions on campus, to coaching employees to be successful, to all the nitty gritty details about benefits, retirement and pay, Human Resources is there to help.
“Individuals have many different perceptions about Human Resources; some people are very experienced with working with us and some people aren’t,” said Todd Phillips, associate managing director of talent management. “I think some employees may have the perception that ‘you only go to Human Resources if there’s a problem.’ And we want employees to understand, this is a place you can come for solutions.
“A lot of times, we’ll ask ‘what would you like to have happen? What is the result you would like to see?’ And then we’ll try to work toward getting there,” Phillips added. “So whether it’s an employee, a supervisor or whomever, let us know what’s going on and what you’d like to see happen and we’ll work on that. It’s not something that you have to come to HR and all of a sudden there’s a full-blown investigation. Everybody thinks we’re so focused on compliance, but not necessarily. What we are all really focused on is making our employees successful.”
When a campus department is looking to hire a new employee, the first area in Human Resources to interact with is compensation and operations.
“In compensation and operations, we start out working with the department to make sure they have the right positions in their organizational structure they need to fulfill the business needs of their department,” said Lacey Ellis, associate managing director of compensation and operations.
From there, the talent acquisition area recruits for that position and helps the department make a good hire. The new hire paperwork then comes back to compensation and operations to determine how much the department will pay the new employee and where that money will come from.
“We make sure departments follow the rules, university policies as well as federal rules,” Ellis said. “We have a lot of things we have to be compliant with and we want to make it easy for the departments, as easy as we can, for them to be compliant so we can keep our grant funding.”
Talent acquisition is the area in charge of recruiting new hires and working with applicants from the time they apply until they are hired and onboarded.
“In our talent acquisition area, we focus on strategic hiring: How do we hire the right people in the right positions instead of having positions that are continually turning over?” Billingsley said. “And we look for those trends. If that’s happening, we reach out to those departments and ask if we can help with their next hire to see if we can work through the process together.”
Another way Human Resources helps departments is by visiting with the top applicants when departments are making strategic hires.
“Use us as the resource when you’ve narrowed down your top applicants to explain the university’s benefits so there are no surprises when they arrive,” Billingsley said. “That’s definitely one of the ways we can assist in the process.”
One thing almost all new employees want to know about is their benefits, and Texas Tech has a whole area of Human Resources dedicated to it. From insurance and retirement to holidays and leave time, they can help employees shape their plans to best suit their situations.
Once new employees are in the door, they are most likely to interact with talent management, which has a two-fold focus: employee development and employee relations.
“The development side is our training section, whether it’s leadership training, communication skills, team building with a group, or a change of management,” Phillips said. “We work with organizations and help them work through their specific situations. Employee recognition is an important part of that as well, so we encourage our departments to nominate employees for distinguished staff awards. We recognize employees for their years of service during a Length of Service ceremony as well. We also have service excellence awards which recognize employees any time of year who are doing an excellent job and supervisors want to reward their effort.”
Talent management also manages employee leave and special accommodations.
“Helping our employees who are experiencing difficulties in life such as a medical condition, whether it’s their own or a family member’s, or if they have a disability, or helping managers who have an employee who may have a disability and they need some assistance in accomplishing their job, we manage all those functions as well,” Phillips said. “We help the departments and the employees work together.”
The final focus area, HR systems, is about developing, communicating and executing appropriate solutions to meet the university’s needs related to HR reporting, learning management and information verification.
“We work on efficiencies, trying to make all of our processes efficient,” said Candice Rice, associate managing director of HR systems. “We’re moving away from paper and trying to automate as many processes as we can. Any time we can automate a process and make it more efficient for our campus that’s a big initiative for us.”
HR systems manages the university’s learning management system, which can host training programs for the Texas Tech campus.
“Although we are focused in different areas, HR is like a giant game of Jenga: you don’t necessarily touch one piece without affecting all the others,” Phillips said. “In HR, we come from very diverse backgrounds that include private industry, the government sector and the military. We bring with us many different experiences and approaches, which I believe has made us an effective team and successful in what we’re doing, in trying to establish the culture.”
And Billingsley said in many cases, people do reach out to Human Resources.
“Employees and managers come to us for advice: ‘how do I work with my manager better?’ or those types of things. Those types of things can be in complete confidence,” she said. “It never leaves the office. And then they go back and usually it helps them. With our resources, we are able to work with both the employee and the manager, individually or together, depending upon what the situation requires.”
While Human Resources can help with specific problems, it also can help point the way for general questions.
“I think we’re a good place to come when you’re not sure where to go,” Phillips said. “We may not know, but we’ll help you find out. We do have a lot of contacts with other resources, whether it’s the Employee Assistance Program that runs out of the Health Sciences Center or whether it’s maybe the Student Counseling Center or student enrollment or Student Business Services. We have a lot of employees that are also students here: Title IX issues, working with the dean of students and the Title IX officer, the general counsel and such. It’s a good place to come when you don’t know where to go.”
Billingsley said because Human Resources is involved in both the hiring and termination processes, there is a lot of pressure to maintain the positive way people – employees past, present or future, or just the general public – see the university.
“We’re the first department employees interact with when they’re coming in and we’re the last they interact with when they’re going out, so regardless of the reason they are leaving, it’s a requirement to treat each employee with compassion and just be very sensitive to their situations,” she said. “I think it’s extremely important, anytime we interact with someone, to leave them with a positive impression.”