University hosts IHL peers for HR conference


Maris Cooper, right, along with her colleague Bob Williams of the Mississippi Insurance Department, addresses participants of the first IHL Human Resources Staff Conference at Mississippi State's Hunter Henry Center Sept. 10. Cooper and Williams gave an overview of the Affordable Care Act and were among several speakers throughout the day to address timely topics of interest to HR professionals. PHOTO: Russ Houston

A one-day conference at Mississippi State last week marked the first time for human resources staff from the state's Institutions of Higher Learning entities to come together for a day of professional development.

MSU's Chief Human Resources Officer Judy Spencer said often HR professionals are so busy helping other employees with professional development that they neglect their own needs.

Spencer spearheaded efforts to bring HR counterparts from around the state together for a day of networking and discussion of pertinent topics.

MSU Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Gilbert, who holds responsibility for human resources management at the land-grant institution, said he was pleased to see IHL institutions together to share ideas and learn from one another.

Gilbert said that MSU is growing in size as well as quality and aims to recruit and retain world-class faculty and other employees.

"Salaries are not always the only factor in determining if they are going to come and be employed here," Gilbert said. "It is critical that we continue to look at benefits."

Gilbert said MSU was named this summer one of the "2013 Great Colleges to Work For" by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The university's human resources management office has recently implemented initiatives to enhance employee resources.

A new Employee Assistance Program provides confidential assistance to employees and their household members covering a wide range of family, marital, work-life challenges, and mental health issues. All contacts made through the program, as well as three individual counseling sessions per year, are free of charge for MSU employees and household members.

The university also created a Work-Life Balance Committee to offer support for faculty and staff facing work-life balance issues. The committee provides information and resources to faculty and staff and acts as a liaison between those seeking policy changes and those in charge of policy changes related to work-life balance.

Meg Arnold, committee chair, said issues that come to the attention of the committee include family issues, childcare, eldercare, and wellness issues, in addition to other factors that impact employee recruitment and retention.

"We want to make this the best place to work we possibly can," said Arnold, who also serves as learning and development manager within MSU's human resources management office.

Spencer said the initial day-long conference included an overview of the Affordable Care Act, a luncheon with keynote speaker Janie Walters of Champion Communications, a session on succession planning in the workplace and a legal update from MSU's general counsel. She said the event is likely to become an annual conference hosted by the various IHL universities.

Allison Matthews | University Relations

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