Don't just engage, empower! That's the rallying cry from our board member, Andy Brantley, CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR). Andy (far right) is pictured here with coworkers Wes Harmon, Julie Boggs, and Jessica Waddell. In 2012, Andy tasked this cross-functional team of early career HR professionals with an important member outreach project - and left it to them to figure out how to get it done. Andy's post below describes the project and why he felt it was important to not only engage, but empower this team. Listen to the podcast here with the team about their experience and results. (Spoiler alert: these young professionals are enthusiastic about the trust and respect their leadership expressed in them and are engaged proponents of CUPA-HR.)
During calendar year 2012, the leadership team at the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) determined that we needed to strengthen our outreach to and engagement of early career higher education human resources professionals. Our membership had been growing (and continues to grow) exponentially with more and more early career professionals using our services and participating in our programs. We were very excited about this, but wanted to make sure that early career professionals see CUPA-HR as their association and higher education human resources as their career path.
Instead of viewing this through the traditional lens of “which department should take the lead,” we chose to engage three of our own early career professionals to draft and implement the early career outreach and engagement program. By using this approach, we blurred department lines (Jessica was from member service, Julie from marketing and communications and Wes from learning and professional development) and created an opportunity for someone other than a “director” to lead the project.
Jessica, Julie and Wes did their research, created a focus group and developed actions to address the commons themes identified from the research and focus group. It quickly became apparent that they were doing exactly as we had hoped….working as a project team without the barriers of their “day job” in their respective parts of the organization. They then presented their project plan to the leadership team. I was so impressed with the quality of the work and the recommended actions that I asked them to share their plans with the entire CUPA-HR staff as a model for not only early career outreach, but a model for the development and implementation of any project!
Almost two years later, we have had great success in engaging more early career professionals in conference presentations, volunteer opportunities, board and other leadership roles. The key elements of the outreach and engagement plans developed by this group are now embedded in our learning and resource development, our publications, our connection opportunities and the assistance resources we now provide (such as scholarships to our annual and regional conferences). A similar template will be used to developed outreach efforts to other under served membership groups.
The outcomes for our members are cause for celebration, but the real cause for celebration is what happened for Jessica, Julie and Wes as a result of this effort. These outcomes are relevant for our organization, but similar outcomes are relevant for EVERY organization.
Did we hit some bumps along the away? You bet. We will continue to assess how Jessica, Julie and Wes continue to have some role in our early career outreach and engagement while ensuring that the key elements of their great work are incorporated into everything we do. We will also continue to minimize and eliminate departmental barriers that limit opportunities for collaboration and that also limit opportunities for each of us to utilize our strengths and our passions.
President and CEO
College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)
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