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Quick Questions

Ken Pinnock, director of People Development

Quick Questions with Ken Pinnock, director of People Development

Ken PinnockNow that we’ve shared some insight into the new Human Resources strategic plan through our Quick Questions with Amy King, we’re ready to take a deeper dive into what’s new in professional development. DU Digest sat down with Ken Pinnock, director of HR’s new People Development team, to discuss some of the new things happening now, and what you can expect in the future.

Q: Why is your department now called “People Development?” What is the significance of this change?

We do talent management, which helps manage an employee through their whole employee life cycle. The goal is to stay with employees throughout recruiting and onboarding, and work with them to develop their skills to progress in their careers. This may also include helping them transition to a new role within the University as opportunities may arise.

The term “talent management” can be perceived to sound impersonal, so we renamed our group to People Development; this is becoming commonplace among top-performing organizations.

Our team right now consists of me, Greg Giesen and Shannon Seales. In my role as director of People Development, I work closely with Amy King and senior management to understand the direction of the University and look at what learning programs we can align to support that. For example, the status of women and people of color studies showed us that we have an opportunity to improve orientation and onboarding. So in my role, I am looking into what programs and practices we can implement to make that happen. Working from direct feedback from employees sets the stage for us to be successful. I’m also available for leadership development, mediation and coaching, along with the talents of Greg and Shannon.

Greg Giesen is the manager of People Development. He’s the one really leading the development of our initiatives, with particular emphasis on our leadership and management learning programs. His expertise is in leadership development and he’s a certified coach and mediator. He also offers consulting services.

Shannon Seales is the newest member of our team. She’s a professional facilitator and trainer, so her role is developing and leading learning programs.

Molly Rossi used to be on the talent management team; she’s now part of Equal Opportunity. However, there is still a lot of blending between her role and ours in People Development. She manages our employee relations consulting and services, and provides a safe environment for employees and managers who are having concerns. Employees are still welcome to talk with whomever in HR they’re most comfortable with, and we work closely together to recommend the best course of action and resources.

Q: How do you envision your revamped department serving the University community? What are some of your goals?

I have a vision to enable managers and leaders to build the positive culture they want for their units. Human Resources doesn’t drive culture, leaders do, but we can help equip leaders with the skills and competencies required to build a positive and engaging culture within their units.

I also have a goal to connect hiring to performance management to career development; they all go together. For example, when someone comes into DU, they’re hired for specific competencies based on the needs of the unit. From the beginning, we’ll make a personalized development plan specifically linked to performance, giving the employee a clear path for growth. This type of planning has proved to result in engaged employees that stick around! This will be a challenge, as it’s something organizations from all industries struggle with. However, with the commitment to development from senior leadership, I believe we can do it.

I also want to enable units to utilize workforce planning, so they can be proactive in aligning open positions with their unit’s strategic direction.

Q: What new programs are you most excited about?

We’ve formed a professional development advisory group with representatives from all over campus, and we’re working with this group to inform programming and provide feedback. This has led to several programs I’m excited about.

Our Leadership Academy is an eight-month program that focuses on developing the leader from within. We will begin selection this fall, and classes begin in January, 2016. The theme of the academy centers on inclusive excellence, and the sessions will have elements focusing on communication skills, conflict and change management. We’re hosting one more information session on Thursday, Sept. 3 from 3-4 p.m. (register via PioneerWeb) and we have a selection committee in place; the academy is limited to 15 participants.

We’re also developing the “Colorado 14ers” program, which will offer a variety of professional development “pods.” Each “pod,” named after one of Colorado’s many 14ers, will offer several courses focused on one interest area. When you complete the requirements for a certain “pod,” you’ll receive a certificate of completion and a prize (such as gift certificates, etc.). We’re still working out the specifics, but it will be a great program.

Finally, we’ll be utilizing, an e-learning application, to complement our campus programming. houses a plethora of learning courses ranging from technology, to public speaking, to supervisory skills. This will be available to all faculty and staff beginning in the fall; watch DU Digest for details.

Q: What existing programs have you maintained from previous years?

We’ve re-launched the mentor program. We changed the format a bit, but the program itself was already in place. It exists now on a more rolling basis; there isn’t a strict timeline for when to sign up, and meeting frequency is up to the mentor and mentee to determine. Visit our website for more information, and to sign up if you’re interested!

We also got feedback from employees wanting the annual legal policy update to transition to an in-person session, so we’ll be bringing that back late in fall quarter.

Q: How do the programs and services you provide help with employee relations issues? Where should we go for help and support?

Employees can come to any of us when they have questions, concerns, conflicts, or challenges. Policy issues start with Molly Rossi in Employee Relations. In People Development we can coach employees on how they might address problems. Regardless of who you come to first, we can refer you to the right person and course of action. There is a lot of collaboration within human resources, and we want you to go to who you’re comfortable with.

Our training programs are a resource that can help mitigate or minimize issues. We’re providing skills to help folks manage workplace issues. I do recommend one-on-one coaching for particular concerns; it really does help.

We have an ongoing selection of courses; explore our website to find what you’re looking for.

Q: One of the task forces appointed by Chancellor Chopp last year focused on professional development for employees. How are we doing in implementing recommendations from that task force?

The onboarding program was specifically highlighted in those reports, so we’re reworking the program and rolling it out in stages. Some things we’ll be doing are expanding the amount of time we spend with new employees and adding more topics. We’ll have orientation sessions twice a month, and we’re exploring having regular follow-ups where people from those groups can come back together.

The first-ever Professional Development week, set for Feb. 15-19, 2016, didn’t come from the task force but from Chancellor Chopp directly. We’re looking forward to hosting a wide range of sessions for employees at all levels; watch your DU Digest for more information as we get closer to the date.

Q: If an employee is interested in participating in the new People Development programs, how should they go about it?

At DU, the current thinking is that employees should drive their own career development. Employees need to own that, and we encourage you to discuss your professional development needs with your manager, and reach out to us or visit our website to see what’s available. We are beginning to integrate professional development into performance management, so it will become more natural to engage in our programming.

The new performance management system we rolled out this year does have the capability to log all your professional development courses, so for the next performance year you can truly integrate your development into your goals. Employees should talk with their managers about their individual development goals, and work that into their yearlong goal plan. In the future, we’re also looking to appraise managers on how they work to develop their staff.

By Katie Watt
Posted Sept. 3, 2015