From the Desk: John Whelan reflects on HR accomplishments at IU in 2019

As 2020 approaches, I have been reflecting on all the work we have accomplished in IU Human Resources over the past several years to ensure that we help employees, departments and campuses accomplish their most important objectives, while also creating an environment where faculty and staff feel engaged in their work and valued by the university.

John WhelanView print quality image
John Whelan. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

We created the HR2020 strategic plan in 2015; it's our plan for changing how we do business to better serve Indiana University. Since then, we have been working on projects and initiatives to build and train our HR community to deliver nimble and adaptive processes that meet the changing needs of our employees and the institution. We also continue educating staff about the competencies, job framework and leadership best practices, and we constantly look for opportunities to enhance benefits that are important to our employees.

I'm excited to share a few of our recent projects and initiatives and how they support the university and employees:

My Voice at IU: Staff Employee Engagement Survey

My Voice at IU is a continuous process to increase staff employee engagement and ensure that IU remains a workplace of choice. By adopting such a process, IU can better understand the needs of its employees, what IU is doing well and where we can improve.

The first MyVoice at IU Survey was administered by Gallup in September 2017. The survey featured 23 questions created to measure an employee's engagement and perception of IU's culture. Using the results of the first survey, 365 action plans for change were created by 203 departments across the university, with the goal of enhancing the employee experience and improving engagement.

The second MyVoice at IU Survey was administered to staff employees in September 2019. Seventy percent of eligible staff employees completed the survey, an increase from 57 percent in 2017 and representing more than 8,000 individuals. Results are scheduled to be released starting in early 2020.

The survey is just the first step in making changes that enhance the work experience at IU. Staff and leaders will again use the results of the survey and helpful planning tools to discuss how they can make an impact on topics that matter most to them. I encourage you to get involved in your department's efforts to enhance the work experience at IU.

Four Simple Actions: Supporting staff and leaders

In June 2019, Four Simple Actions was introduced to more than 4,000 leaders across the university. Four Simple Actions is an intuitive approach to leadership that requires no training or manual and is easy to incorporate into a manager's daily interactions with employees. Great leadership doesn't have to be complicated; it's founded on communication.

The Four Simple Actions employees want from leaders:

  • ASK me what I think.
  • TELL me what you expect of me.
  • SAY something positive about my work.
  • SHARE information that will help me.

Everyday conversations will help IU build a culture where our teams thrive. Conversations create a culture where employees perform at consistently high levels, work with passion and move the organization forward. They also build a culture that attracts and retains high-performing employees.

Using the Four Simple Actions can help leaders become more effective, improve employee performance, increase employee engagement and begin meaningful conversations with staff.

With the help of IU executive leaders, the Four Simple Actions were shared via a monthlong email and video campaign hosted by IU HR. Each week, leaders at IU received a video featuring an executive who shared how using these actions helped them build stronger, more effective teams. As part of the campaign, leaders continued learning more about how to integrate the Four Simple Actions into their daily conversations as part of an online challenge. IU HR will continue to develop and introduce leadership and staff development tools as part of our strategic plan.

Enhancing benefits

As part of our ongoing evaluation of HR services, we're introducing more transparency, making it easier to take advantage of your benefits and enhancing benefit programs with IU employees in mind.

President Michael A. McRobbie shared some exciting news this fall about how IU is strengthening its investment in IU's support and service staff. Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the contribution from IU in the IU Retirement and Savings Plan will increase to 10 percent, and the match component will no longer be required to receive the IU contribution. This means that more than 2,700 support and service staff will now receive the same level of contribution to their IU-sponsored base retirement plan as faculty and professional staff.

HR recently shared several changes and enhancements for the IU retirement plans that also take effect Jan. 1. The changes follow a comprehensive review by the university's Retirement Investment Committee -- the group of administrative staff and faculty representatives with the responsibility of overseeing the IU retirement plans for the benefit of its participants. The enhancements reduce administrative fees and make them more transparent; eliminate redundancies in fund offerings to simplify the investment menu and encourage easier decision-making; and add new features to the supplemental retirements by allowing rollovers and after-tax Roth retirement plan elections.

Transition resources are available on the IU HR website, and employees can access help through retirement presentations, webinars, one-on-one in-person retirement counseling sessions and phone meetings with certified retirement planners.

To help faculty ease into retirement, we have also made significant changes to the Phased Retirement Program by lowering the age of eligibility from 65 to 62 and expanding the ranks of eligible faculty. This allows even more faculty members to take advantage of this program.

While we have been taking steps to enhance retirement programs at IU and educate employees about their retirement options, we continue to monitor health care costs and look for ways to provide important programs to our employees. For 2020, the average premium increase for employees enrolled in the IU-sponsored medical plans is 1.9 percent, well below the national trend. In addition to keeping premiums low, we have been able to add benefits that are important for our employees, including new voluntary dependent life insurance options, coverage for adult hearing aids, and Livongo, a new program for people with diabetes.

From 200 years ago to today, much has changed at Indiana University. Human Resources has played a pivotal role in helping the university advance over time, and we will continue to play an important role going forward with our most important asset, our people. Looking ahead, I am excited about how our projects will affect career development, growth and culture at Indiana University. Be sure to check back for updates at the HR2020 website throughout the year.

John Whelan is vice president for human resources at Indiana University.