HR Leader Emphasizes Customer Service
By Lisa Carroll
When she arrived on campus in January, Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Christine Peterson brought with her a dedication to deliver quality customer service to CUA employees.
Before coming to CUA, Peterson worked in human resources in the health care industry, where she said customer service plays an integral role due to the competitive nature of that industry.
“Health care entities are trying to evolve into high-touch, high-tech environments,” she explains. “My speculation is that higher education has also gone through a similar transition of needing to become more focused on the customer, because if you’re not, the university down the street is going to get the customer.”
This summer, Peterson sent out an online survey to faculty and staff to get their opinions on how customer service in the Office of Human Resources could be improved. Once she reads through the results, she will begin to construct plans to remedy problems. She also plans to summarize survey results for members of the CUA community.
“I think the main thing that faculty and staff want around here is a reasonable sense of service,” she says.
Peterson has made this issue one of her top priorities and is making sure everyone on her staff knows that.
“I tell my staff, you don’t have to know all the answers,” she explains. “When someone calls you and they have a question, it’s OK to say you don’t know the answer and then say, ‘I’ll research it for you and get back to you in 48 hours,’ and you better get back to that person in 48 hours or less!”
HR Column to Premier Next Month
Beginning with the October edition, each issue of Inside CUA will feature a column on a human resources topic written by Christine Peterson or one of her managers. The purpose will be to keep members of the CUA community informed of new initiatives and developments in HR.
Since implementing this change, Peterson says she has received positive feedback about her staff and herself.
“Once you have a reputation, be it good, bad or indifferent, it is very challenging to change it,” she says. “I don’t have the grandiose expectation that everything is going to be absolutely wonderful, but it is very encouraging when I get a nice compliment about a staff member.”
Improvements to Look Forward To
In addition to bolstering HR’s customer-service orientation, Peterson has initiated other changes. Under the direction of Benefits Manager Laurie Borman, the department hired Alliant Inc., a benefits broker, to negotiate with CUA’s benefits vendors in order to ensure optimal benefits at an optimal price.
The broker also will help the HR department automate benefits enrollment for the next open-enrollment period in November. This means that staff and faculty will be able to use their computer to update their benefits selections.
An assessment of training needs for faculty and staff will be undertaken this year with the help of Ivonne Ambrozkiewicz, manager of training and organizational development. Ambrozkiewicz also will be working on improving CUA’s new-employee orientation program, something Peterson says has been on the office’s to-do list for a very long time.
Automation Plus the Personal Touch
In the long term, Peterson hopes to fully deploy all components of the office’s PeopleSoft management software, enabling the department to automate as many tasks as possible.
“In today’s world, an effective human resources department or team is a very delicate balance between automation and people,” Peterson explains. “The more I can automate repetitive tasks, the more I can focus my staff on providing those things that machines can’t do, like customer service and listening and advising. The balance is getting those two to the right place so you can be highly effective and efficient. That’s one of my biggest challenges.”
In the future, Peterson also would like to automate the hiring process. Currently, job applicants cannot submit applications through CUA’s Web site. They must complete applications by hand. Automation will streamline the process for keeping track of applications through every step.
“From an HR perspective, the most important thing CUA can do is to recruit, develop and retain qualified talent,” she says. “There are many ways in which we can do that, but at the end of the day, it’s bringing those talented people here, really developing and optimizing them and retaining them. If we can do that, everything else is pretty easy, actually.”
Peterson describes CUA as “one of the most awesome work environments” she’s experienced in her 30 years in human resources. That positive work environment is something she aspires to market to those outside the campus community.
“There’s a very genuine level of commitment and respect here,” she says. “It shows through on a day-to-day basis. People are well intentioned. People really care about the university, and they become really invested here.”
Back to Top
Last Revised 19-Aug-08 05:01 PM.