A commitment to employee training and development

Published: January 06, 2015

training_class_3_small Dana Conway of Conway Coaching and Consulting leads a Learning Series session.

Program offerings available for those at every level


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“Overall, we’re trying to help people develop their talents and gifts to the fullest,” says Kara McClure, manager of learning and organizational development in the Office of Human Resources. “That sounds blue-sky, but we want to help people pursue learning that advances their career interests within the context of the goals and mission of the University.”

What sets Notre Dame’s learning and talent development programs apart, says McClure, “is that we truly offer something for all levels within the organization. From Workplace Literacy for those wanting to enhance their reading skills to Building Leadership Excellence for senior leaders, we try to identify and meet the needs of our talent pipeline.”

Professional development, she notes, “has a strong and visible commitment from senior leaders.”

Robert McQuade, vice president of Human Resources, sums it up: “We feel a tremendous responsibility to provide development opportunities for our staff and faculty, just as we educate our students. It ties in with our mission to prepare all who work and study here to be able to make a contribution to the world. The University invests over a million dollars a year in training and education for employees, which puts us at the forefront of our peer academic institutions in terms of our overall commitment to employee development.”

training_class_2_small Jay Rifenbary, of Rifenbary Training and Development—one of many prominent outside experts who conduct training and professional development programs on campus.

The University’s commitment begins with the onboarding process and continues through one’s entire career, says McClure. So far this year, Onboarding has reached nearly 700—and recently, postdocs have been included.

In addition to an introduction to the University’s culture and Catholic mission, Onboarding now includes training in subjects such as workplace harassment and goal-setting and performance management in Endeavor. A campus tour has been added as well.

For all employees, new and experienced, acquiring new skills and knowledge to perform one’s current job and for the future, says McClure, is emphasized in the performance management process. “Every staff member is expected to accomplish at least one development activity each year.”

On a more general level, the department also offers Career Services, which helps people explore what they want to do in their career. Workshops are available on subjects such as managing your career, developing a personal brand, résumé writing and preparing for interviews. Participants may complete a variety of assessment tools to help identify specific career interests as a part of workshops or during individual counseling sessions.

Many employees view the individual learning programs and learning series as the primary means to their development. Others may seek to develop themselves through the various educational programs comprising Learning at Work Academy programs. These on-campus offerings range from English as a New Language, High School Equivalency Preparation, Workplace Literacy and Computer Skills Training to the Ivy Tech Associate of Applied Science degree.

When McClure joined the University in 2008, the department offered fewer than 15 different programs annually. In 2015, that number has grown to include more than 60 different topics, almost half of which are new or updated each semester.

“When you do something—such as the Today’s Administrative Professional program or Frontline Supervision —that people find useful, they want more. They want different,” McClure says. “We’re constantly on the lookout for new ideas. We keep our ears to the ground and listen to make sure we address as many needs as possible.”

New on the radar are courses on developing skills using social media and on generational differences in the workplace. “We are also experimenting with ‘blended learning’ by combining web-based self-paced learning with instructor-led sessions,” she says. “The challenge is finding or creating high quality digital programs that teach interactional skills relevant to the University.”

The department is also available to create custom programs such as staff retreats or team building exercises to help departments or work groups perform well together.

Ultimately, the goal, says McClure, is that employees “be intentional about their development. We want to work with employees and managers to assess interests, explore opportunities and build skills to achieve goals. We want to help you prepare to move up, or to love the job you have.”