HR Advisors — Dealing with the unpredictable
HR advisors play an important role in supporting their faculties and administrative units and liaising with central Human Resources. There is great team spirit among the advisors, especially when they meet as a group about twice a month to report on activities, share some insights and receive the latest information about HR policies and procedures and labour relations.
Josephine Leake, Senior Director, Professional Services is actively involved in supporting the HR network and ensuring that information is readily available to facilitate their work. Josephine chairs the meetings which are more of a roundtable discussion to share information. “One of the greatest advantages of the HR network is a better alignment between central HR and the advisors in their faculties and administrative units,” explains Josephine.
The network provides a more uniform approach to managing human resources within McGill, a complex environment with HR issues that differ from one faculty to another. The advisors are the link in keeping central HR abreast of the issues while providing support to the faculties.
A new advisor has just joined the network. Preeya Bissoonauth joined McGill a few months ago as HR advisor in Financial Services. Preeya came from a medium-size accounting firm, so the transition was challenging at first in terms of size, structure and philosophy.
“As a new employee, I have been impressed by the tremendous support system, the sharing of knowledge and expertise, and the professionalism of my colleagues. The University’s commitment to learning, the diversity of activities offered to staff and the opportunities for career growth are what makes McGill a great place to work,” enthused Preeya. “As a newcomer, the most challenging part is in understanding the different processes, procedures and policies at McGill; the learning curve is pretty steep, but once you start understanding the McGill language, you know you are on the right track.”
Her greatest impact is to know that in her role, she feels that Financial Services now has someone to rely on for any HR-related issue and someone who provides day-to-day problem-solving and support. “What is rewarding is the fact that I am able to provide the necessary guidance to managers and directors and slowly but surely help to create a better work environment within Financial Services.”
Marion Münnix is the HR advisor reporting to the Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), which oversees Athletics and Recreation, Enrolment Services, Food and Dining Services, Office of the Dean of Students Residence and Student Housing, Student Services, and finally Teaching and Learning Services. “One aspect of my role is to make sure that rules, regulations and procedures are applied consistently in all these groups so that all employees know they are treated equally. More important, however, is to support change, which brings me to focus on projects such as succession planning, 360 degree feedback, performance dialogue training and customized management and employee development programs. This is done in cooperation with Organizational Development resources,” explains Marion. This is a good example of cooperation between central HR and the unit, even if decentralized.
As a senior HR professional within the network, Richard Courtois handles University Services, where about 80% of the employees are unionized, so he deals with a different slate of HR issues, programs and activities. He is enthusiastic about his unit and is committed to making sure that everyone gets fair treatment and recognition. “My focus is to gain trust and develop partnerships with our managers and employees to align the human resources vision and strategy in support of the goals of the University at large and University Services more specifically.
For Kathy Lauer, HR advisor in the Faculty of Arts, the most important challenge in her work is change. Change in the culture, moving from a sense of being part of a family to a more corporate culture. Change in attitudes about the different age groups and generations – for the first time ever, McGill’s population encompasses four generations – with different experiences, priorities and expectations. Change in the way of doing things and having to do more with less. “The challenge for me is to be one of the leaders of change, to help manage change and to motivate others, particularly during transition periods that can be difficult,” says Kathy, adding that she embraces change, which makes her work stimulating.
Lately, there has been some movement in the HR advisor network with Isabelle Roberge moving to Libraries as Senior HR advisor, working with Dr. Colleen Cook, Trenholme Dean of Libraries. The Office of the Chief Information Officer is recruiting to replace Isabelle. Laurence Cormier, who was the senior advisor responsible for Libraries, will be returning at the end of the year to a new role in central HR.
According to Josephine Leake, the faculties and units are fortunate to be able to count on this network. “The advisors bring HR expertise to their units, but more important, they all embrace the challenges of dealing with the unpredictable.” The network concept is effective and although decentralized in the way it operates, there is nonetheless a strong bond with central HR. “For me, what is the most satisfying is the development of a community of practice with the HR advisors in the field who are considered true professionals.”
Members of the HR network of advisors include:
- Alissa Goddard – University Services
- Anna Campana – Faculty of Science
- Anne-Marie Bruneau – Development and Alumni Relations
- Cathie Sheeran – Student Services
- Christine Boynton – Desautels Faculty of Management
- Danielle Côté – Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (Macdonald Campus)
- Isabelle Roberge – Libraries
- Joanne Niles – Schulich School of Music
- Kathy Lauer – Faculty of Arts
- Laurence Cormier – Libraries (on leave)
- Lucie Carrière – School of Continuing Studies
- Marie-Hélène Di Lauro – Faculty of Law
- Marion Münnix – Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning)
- Melina Tondino – Faculty of Medicine
- Preeya Bissoonauth – Financial Services
- Richard Courtois – University Services
- Shakir Ladha – Faculty of Medicine
- Susanne Baumann-Moroy – Faculty of Engineering
- Wila Anderson – Faculty of Education and Student Services (part-time)