The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

3 Ways HR Managers Can Help Reignite Their Teams’ Passion for the Work

Prior to the global health crisis adding more work to higher ed HR’s already-full plate, most teams had pockets of time throughout the week to pause and celebrate accomplishments and plan ahead for the next big project. Now, the increased workload has created a more reactive rather than proactive environment — a way of working that cannot be sustained over a long period of time without feeling the effects of burnout.

What’s the HR manager’s role in preventing or addressing burnout? How can managers move beyond being overseers of the work and serve as encouraging coaches and mentors who reignite employees’ excitement for the job? Here are three practical ways:

Remind Them of the Purpose Behind the Work

It’s common for employees to feel bogged down when scanning their lengthy to-do lists and lose sight of the meaning behind the work. When assigning a team member a new task or project, be sure to explain how the work connects to the big picture. Instead of focusing on the what of the task, focus on the why. The what sounds like, “I need you to complete this task,” whereas the why sounds like, “I need you to complete this task because it will help the department move forward on our latest initiative.”

Let Them Take Ownership of Their Work

Change is inevitable, but many of us still struggle with it. The drastic shift in work operations due to COVID-19 left many employees feeling out of control. HR managers can help their teams gain some sense of control back by letting them take ownership of their work. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I supporting my employees by providing helpful feedback and advice that will help them complete the task or project themselves? Or am I owning the work, providing little opportunity for the team to chime in, insert their opinion or make their mark on the work? This isn’t to say managers should relinquish all authority over the work assigned to employees, but a sense of ownership is critical for employees to feel like they’re contributing to the cause.

Encourage Them to Learn New Skills or Get Reskilled

Professional development budgets were among the first cut when institutions in the push to reduce expenses in the wake of COVID-19. But this doesn’t mean employees no longer have access to free or inexpensive professional development tools. Building your reading list with books that touch on professional topics, taking an e-learning course, attending a webinar, virtual workshop, or skills labs are just a few ways you can encourage your employees to continue to grow professionally despite the institution’s reduced professional development budget.

Check out these additional resources for HR managers:

Management and Supervising Toolkit (CUPA-HR members-only resource)

Houston Community College Manager Toolkit

Creating Your Individual Development Plan (Free e-learning course)

The Importance of Upskilling During Turbulent Times


The CUPA-HR office will be closed Fridays through August 20.