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Shortly after joining IU in June 2014, John Whelan, in his new role as associate vice president of University Human Resources, took to the road and conducted listening tours on IU campuses. In this Q and A, he shares what he learned and his visions for the future.
You’ve been in your new position for only nine months, yet you've managed to make great progress. What inspired you to cover all this territory so soon?
I feel very strongly that HR needs to be “customer driven.” All of the work HR does should be informed and guided by the needs and objectives of IU’s faculty and staff members. The vast majority of my time has been spent meeting with individuals and groups to understand what IU needs HR to do.
What did you discover from your listening tour?
There is a positive feeling about the individuals who perform HR functions throughout the university—they are well liked and respected. That being said, a number of opportunities exist for the way HR work is delivered at IU. First and foremost, there seems to be a desire for greater consistency with the way HR operates throughout the university. Many people, including individuals in HR positions, expressed a desire for improved communication and cooperation. The university community would also like to see more efficiency and simplicity in some of our HR processes.
Did anything surprise you along the way?
While I wouldn’t say I was surprised, the most noticeable theme I observed is the amazing level of personal commitment our faculty and staff have for IU. This is more than just a job for most people—they really believe in the mission of Indiana University. As a new member to this community, that has been very encouraging.
What, if any, changes can IU employees expect?
The most important area of emphasis has been creating a closer community of HR professionals throughout IU so that we share information more regularly and work together rather than in silos. We will also focus our efforts on the “customer experience” to make interactions with HR as easy and efficient as possible.
What’s the coolest thing you and your family have most enjoyed about being here?
My family and I have been fortunate to live in a guest apartment in McNutt Hall on the Bloomington campus while we try to sell our house in Texas and find a new home in Indiana. Living among the students has helped us assimilate to Indiana University quickly and has been a great reminder that we are here for the students. I also learned that the best times to do your laundry in the residence halls are Friday and Saturday nights!
In ten words or less, what is your personal HR philosophy?
Human Resources must be customer driven.