GW has invested time and money to identify issues regarding staff culture, most recently appointing the inaugural Chief People Officer Dana Bradley. The incoming administrator will oversee the human resources departments, which includes performance management, payroll, compensation and benefits.
The new position is long overdue, but Bradley will not make the most of her role unless she puts employees first.
University President Thomas LeBlanc solicited feedback from staff last academic year through a survey, which found that employees feel unappreciated. Throughout the year, officials also announced updated paid leave policies and extended staff’s holiday break – steps that address LeBlanc’s goal to alter the University’s “transactional” culture.
But meeting the needs of staff and faculty cannot be achieved by LeBlanc alone. Administrators have been most effective when they have made personal relationships with others, like Dean of the Student Experience Cissy Petty. In her first year on the job Petty has met individually with students and heard out their concerns in both formal and informal meetings. Employees should know to take advantage of Bradley in the same way students can utilize Petty – by hearing out staff complaints through one-on-one conversations.
Bradley can make herself available to staff when LeBlanc cannot, taking the weight off of his shoulders and allowing Bradley to solely focus on improving employee culture. While LeBlanc’s decision to survey staff could gauge employee satisfaction, it could not identify specific staff concerns that could be better understood through personal meetings. Bradley can use the survey as a baseline for improving staff culture and talk individually with employees about how to bolster the workplace.
The inaugural chief people officer will manage GW’s array of staff issues, including inconsistent leadership, inefficient communication, a poor service culture and a lack of employee appreciation – all uncovered from officials’ survey last fall. Her experience in previous human resources roles demonstrates that she can manage staff and mitigate employees’ concerns. To do so, she must initiate discourse among staff and faculty through community meetings or town halls instead of additional assessments. Bradley can become a more direct and effective leader if she can bring specific complaints from the staff to administrative level.
GW is the only school among its peers to have a chief people officer, but the job is increasingly popular among large companies. In large corporations like The Coca-Cola Company and Sears, a chief people officer has helped to establish an inclusive culture for staff to air concerns. The position is often responsible for tasks like strategizing with administrators, surveying employees and crunching numbers of business performance. Bradley should follow suit with other companies to ensure she is gauging feedback from both officials and employees, but she can take her role to the next level by focusing her job on listening to staff concerns.
The staff and faculty Bradley will lead have daily interactions with students and other members of the GW community. When employees feel validated and respected by administrators, the tone of staff and faculty will likely shift in the right direction.
Bradley will have a large responsibility in creating an amicable workplace. Incorporating the voices of faculty and staff at a personal level is necessary for Bradley to make bigger changes to the University’s flawed employee culture. If Bradley advocates for the University’s valuable employees, she has the chance to better the daily lives of all University workers.
Zachary Nosanchuk, a sophomore majoring in political communications, is a columnist.