Talent development and engagement | Building a shared culture and belonging

by Henri Miller, Chief Business Officer, Office of Student Affairs; and Warren Scherer, Director, Gender and Sexuality Campus Center

When Student Affairs was established at UW–Madison in 2018, it came together as several distinct areas, each with its own culture and practices. Our organization has grown tremendously since then, underscoring a need for shared culture and belonging.

One of Student Affairs’ strategic initiatives is talent development and engagement, and as our core team met and reviewed where we should focus our efforts, we identified some key opportunities. As a complex — and relatively new — organization, it was important for our new staff to understand how their role contributes to the overall student experience. We also saw opportunities for improvement in staff retention to help reduce the burden on departments, colleagues, and recruitment efforts. These opportunities led to the development of a cohesive and consistent onboarding experience for Student Affairs employees that we anticipate rolling out in time for summer hires.

The team set out by establishing several key agreements. First, we defined “onboarding” as recruitment through the employee’s first work anniversary. We also grounded our efforts in the understanding that “success and retention” is heavily influenced by the employee’s relationship with their supervisor.

We worked with our human resources partners in Student Affairs to standardize certain aspects of the recruitment and hiring process. This included the use of consistent and clarifying language about Student Affairs and specific roles within job postings. The team also created guidelines for supervisors to help welcome new staff to campus, including campuswide and Student Affairs-specific training opportunities for both to consider. Student Affairs will be regularly hosting new employee breakfasts as part of the onboarding process.

It has been a pleasure to lead the talent development and engagement core team (Warren) and to help put these recommendations into practice (Henri). We also acknowledge the teamwork of Ben Clark (Wisconsin Union), Wanda Manning (Central Administration), Jennee Schansberg (Rec Well), and Ruth Vater (Rec Well).