William Paterson University HR Takes New Approach to Talent Development With University-Wide Program

2021 Higher Education HR Awards

William Paterson University’s HR team is the recipient
of CUPA-HR’s 2021 HR Innovation Award.


In response to employee requests for more unified and inclusive learning and development programs with dedicated time to participate, William Paterson University’s HR team devised the Summer Learning and Development Program, in which the university closes on Wednesdays from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. for 6-8 weeks over the summer so that all 600 non-faculty employees can simultaneously attend programs and workshops.

The program was implemented on three levels: individual, departmental and institutional. At the institutional level, the university president articulated and supported an overarching theme and outcomes, set aside designated and protected time for participation, and committed to funding online learning platforms and outside facilitators. On the departmental level, many departments committed to participating, invested in their management skills training, and dedicated time for their employees to participate. On an individual level, employees committed to participation, and over 100 employees volunteered to facilitate workshops and/or provide expertise.

The program has contributed significantly to the university’s organizational cultural change process and institutional commitment by featuring bias workshops, modified workshops for students, and inspiring a pilot employee mentorship program. And despite the challenges of the pandemic, additional employees have volunteered to develop workshops and serve as online facilitators.

“By using Zoom technology, we were able to streamline the scheduling system, offer additional workshops, run workshops simultaneously online, and distribute workshop materials electronically,” says Annette Baron, senior HR generalist. “As a result, employees were more self-sufficient and they were provided with additional choices to navigate their own development.”

Confirming the program’s success came in the form of overwhelmingly positive post-workshop surveys that garnered high marks on participants’ ability to immediately apply what was learned in the workshops to their personal and professional lives, plus high engagement with facilitators and increasing enthusiasm for additional workshops.

This new approach to talent development has succeeded in building a positive university-wide internal culture by:

  • Demonstrating institutional support for professional and personal development by providing a university-wide theme and resources of both time and funding,
  • Providing a platform for employees to engage in meaningful individual and group activities that create shared experiences, develop common language and foster collaboration, and
  • Inspiring additional ways to support employees, such as mentorship programs, diversity and equity programming, goal setting and career advancement development.

About the HR Innovation Award:
CUPA-HR’s HR Innovation Award recognizes innovate thinking in higher education human resources. Two awards are presented each year. CUPA-HR will make a $5,000 contribution to each recipient’s institution. Learn more.