This is the third and final article in our series introducing each of the new teams created through Human Resources’ reorganization, which we wrote about in February’s issue of The Spot.
On any weekday at 8:30 am, you will find the four members of the Human Resources Shared Services Team and their leader, Administrative Director Mary Jo McNulty, checking in via Zoom. This daily meeting starts the day off on the right foot.
“Initially we wondered if meeting every morning would be too much, but we agreed to see how it went. Soon we all were saying, ‘Oh yes, we’re definitely going to meet every morning,’” HR Assistant Natalie Carey said recently. “We check in about what we’re working on, but it’s not all about work. It's also about a connection with each other. We talk about how our kids are doing. One of our team members recently got married. Our conversations keep us grounded.”
Natalie is the newest member of the Human Resources Shared Services Team. After working in payroll within the automotive industry, she was looking for a career opportunity at an organization that aligned with her sense of purpose. She arrived at Lehigh on January 2, 2020, the day that HR’s reorganization became official.
“My teammates said, ‘This is new to us as of today as well,’ but to me, since everything was new, I didn’t have any expectations based on how things used to be done,” she said.
In addition to adding Natalie, the team also benefited from the expansion of May Lin Cueva’s role from part time to full time. Rounding out the team are Senior HR Assistants Betty Rubio and Monica Guiher.
About the Shared Services Model
Moving to a shared services model for administrative services in Human Resources is a significant change. In the past, each Human Resources Assistant specialized in a dedicated area, such as talent acquisition or benefits. Each employee in those roles reported up to the directors of their area.
In the shared services model, the goal is for all HR Assistants to eventually be able to support the full range of HR benefits and services provided to Lehigh faculty and staff. Through cross-training, each team member will be able to fill in for other team members and field most HR-related questions from staff and faculty.
From Unpleasant to Pleasant Surprises
Of course, 2020 had some opinions about how this transition would roll out. Within days of Natalie’s arrival, May Lin sustained an injury and had to take leave, delaying some of their cross-training. Just a few weeks after she returned, COVID-19 sent everyone home.
Fortunately, the team rallied in both situations. Team members split up the alphabet and began sharing the load in order to make sure employees receive the attention they need. May Lin says the move to remote work ended up being a pleasant surprise.
“When I started at Lehigh I was a part-time data entry clerk. It suited my life perfectly. With three pre-school children, I could come in, do the data entry, and leave,” she said. “Now that the kids are in school, I work full time and have had the opportunity to expand my role. And being home has worked out well.”
May Lin says that one crucial decision that Human Resources made two years ago made the switch to remote work smoother than she thought possible.
“It's amazing to think that when we were located in the old building on Brodhead, we had so much paper. If we still had physical filing, we wouldn’t have been able to work nearly as well this way,” she said. “All the digitization we did before we moved to Third and New is what really made it work.”
“Here To Help”
Having a combination of newer and more experienced staff has also proved to be an asset. Senior HR Assistant Betty Rubio, who in her thirteen years at Lehigh has performed a wide range of duties in the office, stepped up to provide key institutional memory.
“I do feel like I'm here to help. Some things I'm rusty on, but I can fill in the blanks about why we do things certain ways,” Betty said. “I can give a little bit of a history behind our procedures and share how things have progressed through the years.”
Prior to the reorganization, Betty’s already full plate included processing bills, assisting retirees in receiving certain benefits, and assisting employees with tuition benefits. While none of those duties have gone away, Betty has jumped in to take on additional responsibilities as well.
“I’m doing benefits orientations for new faculty and staff now, which gave me the opportunity to refresh the presentation and put it in my own words,” Betty said. “Using my creativity and getting positive feedback from new employees made me really happy.”
Senior HR Assistant Monica Guiher is also adjusting to a new range of work at Lehigh. “Before, I specialized in employment and compensation,” she explained. “Now I'm learning about benefits. I'm starting to learn about Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) and how to process requests for short term disability. So my duties have broadened out.”
Monica can draw from her previous work experience as well as studies in HR management. Like Betty, she’s enjoying the opportunity to change things up and stretch herself beyond her previous role.
A Work In Progress
As the team works together more, they are able to compare the different processes and procedures in place for each area. Monica sees opportunities for improvement. “Now that we can see how other people are doing things, we’re asking ‘Why are we doing it like that?””
The excitement for making larger structural improvements to their processes is tempered by the reality of their existing workload. “We'll get there,” Betty said. “We're a work in progress. All good things take time.”
Natalie is looking forward to the journey. “I'm excited for what's ahead because there's going to be so much evolving and changing,” she said.
Mary Jo is thrilled with how all four team members have tackled a challenging year. The experience has left her with a greater appreciation for her colleagues.
“It's all new and different, and it's tough, but their resilience blows me away,” she said. “They're happy, and willing to take on anything. They really are. They have been, in the true sense of the word, a team.”
Mary Jo’s team feels the same about her. They know that she understands that as they gel as a team, mistakes may happen. And they appreciate her willingness to chip in. “I don't know how she finds time to do everything,” May Lin said. “Maybe she doesn't sleep.”
Read more about HR’s new teams: