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Workforce development group fosters employee success, growth

December 03, 2013

Inside the ASU Office of Human Resources (OHR), a small, but energetic five-member group has a single mission: to foster a culture of lifelong learning and help the university’s faculty and staff grow, both professionally and personally.

It is a big job, but the OHR Leadership and Workforce Development Group is succeeding by providing a wide variety of career and personal growth seminars, workshops and individualized consultations. Although most of the training is held at the Tempe University Center on University Drive where OHR recently moved, the group often goes on-site to facilitate workgroup meetings.

The group traces its beginnings to the mid-1990s, when its predecessor was a unit within OHR, simply called Employee Development. In 2008, the group got its current name and a new mandate when then OHR senior director Kevin Salcido, who now heads OHR as associate vice president/chief human resources officer, wanted to emphasize the importance of leadership development in the group’s training offerings.

He made the effort a university-wide initiative and gathered input from a diverse group that included leaders from the ASU Police Deptartment; the Deptartment of Intercollegiate Athletics; University Business Services; Eight, Arizona PBS; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Biodesign Institute; the University Technology Office; the Office of General Counsel; the Office of Vice President for Research & Economic Affairs (now Knowledge Enterprise Development); University Student Initiatives; and the W. P. Carey School of Business.

As a result of Salcido’s stewardship and vision, the Leadership in the New American University professional development program’s first pilot program was held in December 2008. Leadership in the New American University has since become the Leadership and Workforce Development's flagship offering and currently includes two multiple-day programs: the Supervisor Development Program, offered three times a year, and the Mastering Leadership Program for mid-level leaders, currently offered once a year. Plans are in the works to offer other programs beginning in 2015.

There have been 15 Supervisor Development Program sessions to date, and in 2013 alone, the program has trained 65 staff members. The first pilot series for the Mastering Leadership Program ran from June to December in 2010. A total of four seven-day Mastering Leadership sessions have been successfully completed so far. This year, 17 leaders from various business and finance divisions and an academic unit will participate. Julie Binter and Heather Strouse, the group’s organization development consultants, facilitate the current Leadership in the New American University offerings, which feature subject matter experts from Financial Services, the Office of the General Counsel, Planning and Budgeting, and several human resources partners. 

Despite a planned slowdown in September and October, the team up through that time already had offered 130 consultations or workshops to 2,125 ASU staff members. Last year, 1,382 staff members participated in 101 workshops.

“Demand for these programs has increased 30 percent this year, and we’re a little overwhelmed,” says Cory Dillon, Leadership and Workforce Development director. “We’re working on scalability now. We are trying to find ways to leverage ASU groups and combine our customers into larger classes that make maximum use of our time.”

Maximizing their time is a smart move because, in addition to the multi-day Leadership in the New American University programs and other workshops the group offers, it also supports university departments by offering consultations on workplace issues and professional development classes. Workplace issues addressed include goal setting, team interactions and coaching. Classes cover topics such as leadership, interpersonal and communication skills, time management, presentation skills and the always popular True Colors personality assessment workshop.

“We’re constantly asking ourselves whether anything has changed,” Dillon says, “because our goal is to make learning practical, relevant and ‘sticky.’ We love to hear that people are using the tools and techniques we have shared with them and making progress.”

Judging from the feedback the group receives on all of its offerings, it is meeting – and regularly exceeding – its goals.

Jon P. McMorris, a specialist at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, had this to say on his feedback form: “You did a great job in the presentation of materials during the Emotional Intelligence workshop. I hope there is an opportunity to create a part two of this course, as I have already found the information to be beneficial.”

Michele Lefevre, a program manager at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, is another happy customer.

“I just wanted to let you know that I have been using many of the time management and change management techniques,” Lefevre says, “and I just got a promotion. I am really excited and am trying to use these good tools to be an awesome manager.”

In addition to its well-received training programs, Leadership and Workforce Development  takes its mission one step further with its new employee orientation sessions and employee recognition programs under the direction of ASU’s unofficial employee cheerleader Linda Uhley, whose official title is senior program coordinator. Last year, for example, a total of 1,188 benefits-eligible faculty and staff attended 33 orientation sessions under Uhley’s direction.

Once new ASU employees have been made welcome at orientation, they can look forward to the ASU employee recognition program, which – as the name implies – recognizes faculty and staff achievement and dedication throughout the year with events that include the President’s Awards for Sustainability, Social Embeddedness and Innovation, in addition to the employee recognition celebrations and service awards banquets.

A final piece of the recognition program lets employees take employee recognition into their own hands. Any staff member who sees one of their peers offering exceptional service or just doing a generally great job can go online and send their peer a SUN Award. It’s an easy and fun way to make a coworker smile and make ASU a great place to work.

To contact Leadership and Workforce Development, email

Karen Murphy
Office of Human Resources