Adaptability looks different today than it ever has before and as vice president of human resources at Brown University, Amanda Bailey embodies it. The ability to shift gears and face the ever-changing environment requires data-driven solutions and the initiative to prioritize for best results.
Bailey leads the day-to-day operations of the central human resources team that consists of more than thirty full-time members across several different HR teams. After twenty-six years in HR, Bailey credits her ability to be adaptable as a result of her professional development. She has spent over half of her career devoted to HR in education.
Prior to working in higher education, Bailey worked in K-12 settings and for private corporations. “I’m one of the HR professionals who started from the ground up,” she says. “I rolled up my sleeves, got to work, and kept seeking new ways to learn more and develop quickly. I’ve been very fortunate to be at the helm leading very talented teams.”
“HR is in disruption. Like other business functions that evolve over time, the HR disruption in education is accelerating at a greater pace,” she notes. According to Bailey, this disruption has informed her how to identify HR strategies and adapt her style to implement them according to the culture of the organization and the team’s capacity to learn and grow.
It was the lens to remain adaptive that influenced Bailey’s decision to rely on data to make operational and strategic HR decisions. “HR representatives are aware of the value of relying on data to make decisions.” One recent example was conducting a Work Prioritization Assessment (WPA). One of the driving forces for conducting the WPA was related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the workload that it created for the HR teams. Their workload tripled in many cases as a result of additional responsibilities within each team, and the WPA allowed them to use data to identify their work priorities and either reassign or temporarily suspend work.
“The WPA used data to identify what work is done regularly, including special projects or initiatives, and the estimated time associated to perform such work,” she says. “The assessment allowed us to prioritize work that protected our employees’ health and safety and identify other work that was not a priority but still being done regularly.”
“We reflected on the data and decided how best to maximize our efforts to the most critical priorities,” she continues. “That’s a place that every HR representative wants to be.”
“We reflected on the data and decided how best to maximize our efforts to the most critical priorities. That’s a place that every HR representative wants to be.”
Adaptability and strategic thinking allowed Bailey to shift with her team as Brown University faced the COVID-19 pandemic. She was instrumental to ensure employees were represented in the university-wide public health awareness campaign, Brown Takes Care. “It was important to recognize our employees as part of the solution to keep our community safe and healthy,” Bailey says.
Employees are represented in social media, signage, posters, banners, newsletters, and websites to share important safety guidance such as mask wearing, social distancing, and regular hand washing.
Brown’s Leadership Institute, a presidential initiative that launched weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic and administered by HR, also required quick and imperative shifts. What was initially designed to be a five-month, in-person program shifted to a nine-month, virtual program that included individual and peer coaching sessions and individual assignments that “put leadership theory into action.”
Participants found the program valuable in spite of their workload due to the pandemic. “Being able to timely pivot to a virtual program and having the ability to network with other colleagues provided much-needed flexibility and collaboration during this time for our leader participants,” Bailey says.
In times of constant change, adaptability “is required to create organizational results,” she says.
Editor’s note, 3/2/21: Amanda Bailey is no longer at Brown University.
“Partnering with Amanda Bailey the VP for HR along with other sponsors at Brown University to design and deliver a leadership development initiative focused on enhancing their top talent was a highlight of 2020 a very challenging year. Wishing Amanda continued success in 2021.”
–Brian McDonald, President
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