Higher Ed Gets a C-Suite Education

Miami University’s Carol Hauser explains how university HR departments should push a lean agenda to drive campus-wide efficiency

The sun sets over Miami University's campus on a fall day.

Doing more with less—this is something nearly all companies and organizations are striving to do these days. At Miami University, it can be seen in a series of new lean-team initiatives, spearheaded by the university’s human resources department when it developed its own projects and created a University-wide credentialing program that is helmed by Carol Hauser, senior director of human resources. These lean teams are small groups of experts and stakeholders that examine the department’s processes and find better ways to perform. With the help of 35–40 teams, the HR department at Miami University has launched new projects and found ways to more efficiently and effectively utilize all employees’ skills.

The initiative in part is a means to reach the Oxford, Ohio-based university’s goal of providing students with the personal
attention they would perhaps expect at a much smaller school. Hauser understands that, in order for this goal to be met, every department from faculty to food services must share this vision. Hauser is dedicated to fostering a work environment that helps Miami University further its educational mission.

Carol Hauser, director of human resources
Carol Hauser, director of human resources

What problems have you sought to solve with the lean-teams initiative?

Hauser: Like most places, our entry-level positions can have a fair amount of turnover. We wanted to bring into those positions a higher quality of employee who was more promotable, and we wanted to reduce the time it would take to hire our custodians and food-service workers. We looked at the hiring process at that time and determined where the bottlenecks were and where we had redundant work. We were able to reduce hiring time by about 70 percent. And we also were able to increase the applicant pool by doing different kinds of advertising and job fairs. And, because we had a larger applicant pool, we initiated some assessment that will help us choose better candidates.

What other projects have the lean teams launched?

Hauser: We had a traditional front-desk receptionist, but we’re transitioning that to a real help-desk operation. Another example is our employee-portal redesign. We have people from HR and stakeholders all over the University who have given input into how that portal should function and what is most useful to them. The employee portal gives them one-click access to … sick and vacation [days], pay stubs, job descriptions, beneficiaries—all those things they might want to know about their relationship with the university in terms of employment or benefits.

We also had a very successful lean team that included students. We were trying to reduce the wait time for student payroll. For students it was a two-week lag time, because we have so many students with multiple jobs that it’s hard to keep track of where everybody is, and they tend to be a pretty transient population semester to semester. A lean team reduced that process from 14 days to 10.

What is the mission of Miami University, and what role does the HR department play in supporting that mission?

Hauser: Miami is about student success, not just while the student is here, but success when the student leaves here. We consider ourselves to be a very engaged university that’s student-centered, and the departments around Miami that are not directly involved in instruction are still very committed to student success. It would not be unusual for me to get a letter from a parent saying how much the person that cleaned the residence hall where the student lived helped that student. It wouldn’t be unusual for our employees to go to student events to support them.

“I think a culture is largely maintained by the people you hire. You need to hire people who will share a commitment and a loyalty to helping students.” —Carol Hauser

How does the HR department help maintain the culture of Miami University? 

Hauser: I think a culture is largely maintained by the people you hire. You need to hire people who will share a commitment and a loyalty to helping students. I would also say that HR is the interface for all employees in terms of their relationship with the university from an official standpoint. So how HR receives employees, how we service employees, how we explain things to them, how we include them in decision making—all those things contribute to the culture of Miami.