HR shares goals for comprehensive strategic plan


Pitt’s Office of Human Resources held a recent series of informational sessions and forums for employees focused its fledgling strategic plan.

The in-person and virtual sessions gave faculty and staff an opportunity to learn how HR is seeking to improve or enhance its mission and services and add to its offerings where needed. Breakout sessions provided opportunities for feedback, which HR plans to incorporate into future forums and its ultimate plan.


The Office of Human Resources has hired Shanel Divito to serve as the director of strategic initiatives, effective Sept. 6. In this new role within HR, Divito will be responsible for managing strategic projects and will work closely with other HR senior leaders in supporting their individual strategic initiatives and providing guidance on integration of the overall HR strategic plan.

Divito previously served as the assistant deputy director, human capital and hr operations, in the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. Prior to that, she served as the director of inclusion and collaboration at Pittsburgh Mercy. She earned a BS in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a master’s in industrial and labor relations from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

James Gallaher, vice chancellor of human resources, led the sessions and summarized the key points of the plan. Gallaher arrived at Pitt in fall 2021 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as the executive director for strategic initiatives in its human resources department.

“We do different things for new employees, but sometimes it feels like we’ve kind of lost the focus in terms of our current employees,” Gallaher said at the Sept. 20 session. “As we … do more around professional development and roll out new plans, we need to make sure that we’re focused on current employees as well.”

Here are some areas of the strategic plan that Gallaher addressed during the sessions:

Diversity, equity and inclusion: HR seeks to work with Pitt’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion on “partnerships from an HR and diversity standpoint, making sure we use a diversity lens in everything we do,” Gallaher said. “And then really thinking about those generational differences and how do we maximize our recruitment effort and retention efforts from a packaging standpoint, if you will, with the benefits and salary and all those sorts of things that (are) associated with this group.” Gallaher asked those in the breakout groups to “think about what’s missing from that area, and what do you think should be a priority?”

Gallaher said HR is exploring approaches to employee engagement surveys as well as “expanding leadership and management development programs. We have some great things that are delivered by our own OEDI folks, but we want to provide opportunities for even more people across campus to participate and continue the expansion of our leading-edge benefits.

Employee onboarding/offboarding: “(We’re) looking at the whole employee onboarding and off boarding process, just making sure that from the time employees get an offer letter to the time that they start a new position, within even weeks after that, or months after that, that we have a good understanding of all the steps in that process and how we can make it as smooth as possible. Because it’s a pretty critical time for a new employee and we just want to make that process as good as possible.

“Also, we know that there’s always going to be turnover,” he added. “We want to make sure we have a good understanding of why folks are leaving the organization. … That sort of funnels back to the other end of that where we need to make adjustments. From a culture and an employment standpoint.”

Child development center: “UCDC (University Child Development Center) is known as a great commodity for the institution, but we want to make sure we stay there — that we don’t rest on our laurels,” he said. “We have a great new director at UCDC and he’s taking a look at some of the policies, procedures and other things to make sure they’re as up to date and best for all of our employees as possible.”

Benefits plan: “One of the consistent things that I’ve gotten feedback on is that we have a wonderful benefits plan, and we don’t want to want to change that unless it’s in a positive direction,” Gallaher said. “We really want to look at those leading-edge benefits, new contemporary benefits that fit our employee population and strengthen our benefit offerings as much as possible.

“We think about compensation as more than just the salary that we all receive, but also the great benefits package and the other things that in terms of time off and benefits and flexible work and all those sorts of things, so being able to tell you the total value of that.”

Branding: “One of my favorite things is having an employment brand … so that when we’re out recruiting, we’re out engaging the community, either locally, regionally or nationally that we have a brand that we’re talking about in terms of Pitt and why it’s great to come work and what are some of the wonderful benefits in association with being a Pitt employee,” he said.

Work-life balance: “We did a great job, as I understand it, during the pandemic,” said Gallaher, “and we want to make sure we try and keep that flexibility and work-life balance as close to what we’ve achieved with the pandemic as possible. Of course, it doesn’t work for everybody in every job. But for those where it does work, we don’t want to rest on our laurels.”

Mental health: He said they are looking at our policies and programs to “make sure that we’re addressing mental health issues and challenges. We’re making it sort of at the forefront and a basis of what we do, because we learned during the pandemic that mental health and well-being is extremely important to a good productive work environment. And it’s sort of working on the ‘whole employee.’”

Process efficiency and customer service: “Here we want to focus more on a performance-driven culture: better aligning our compensation or a salary program, let’s say with performance, giving more tools or developing more tools for supervisors and employees to be able to focus more on performance, creating service-level agreements within OHR, how long it will take a certain process to get to completion or to get a call back. So we’re already working on some of those things for this year’s objectives (with) more to come around that.”

Gallaher said he’s working on a data dashboard to distribute information that’s necessary for the responsibility centers, such as quarterly diversity data that says: “Here’s what your workforce looks like. Here’s some of the deficiencies or some of the areas where you’re doing great” to help RCs to better manage their workforce needs.

They also want to create multiple avenues for feedback to HR, including “doing regular customer service surveys, maybe focus groups to make sure that we’re hearing from the client base in terms of how we’re doing with the delivery of our services, and then develop and implement innovative and flexible recruitment or retention strategies,” he said.

HR advisory committee: “One of the first things that we’ll do after this plan is solidified is to develop an HR advisory committee, that will give us some guidance and insight into the different aspects of the campus environment and thoughts (about) things that we need to work on as a priority.”

The committee, he said, will be “essentially a group that will help guide our work, evolving the HR delivery model. A couple of things (in the works include) going to an HR business-partner model where we have folks balanced between HR and the RCs.”

“And then making sure that we continue the fight to get enough resources in OHR,” he said. “This is one of the few campuses where I’ve been where I go out to the campus and folks say, ‘You need more employees.’ That’s not usually the case. I think much of the campus acknowledges that we need more staff to better serve the campus, and we’re working tooth and nail to try and do that.”

Gallaher emphasized that flexibility and agility in Pitt’s approach to human resources, hiring, retention and employee contentment will go a long way in navigating the currently tight but ultimately dynamic U.S. labor market.

“We know that the labor market is extremely tight right now, and it appears that it’s going to stay that way for a little while,” Gallaher said. “So we want to make sure we’re being as flexible as possible in terms of how we recruit, where we recruit, and then what things we do to make sure that employees want to stay here at Pitt … so we don’t end up with a higher turnover rate, particularly in those difficult-to-find jobs.”

Here is an outline of priorities for the Office of Human Resources proposed Strategic Plan:

Employee engagement and experience

  • Advance University Child Development Center excellence through updated policies, procedures and staff engagement while expanding family childcare options

  • Conduct employee engagement survey

  • Expand leadership and management development programs

  • Continue expansion of leading-edge benefit options

  • Develop Pitt employment brand and strategy

  • Develop Total Compensation philosophy and tools

  • Embrace new approaches to work/life balance and flexible work

  • Promote policies/programs that prioritize mental health and well-being at the University of Pittsburgh.

HR community, capability and capacity

  • Create HR advisory committee

  • Evolve HR delivery model: Implement HR business partner model; adequately staff OHR core functional units; develop HR community of practice; institute rotation program, where HR staff move between jobs.

Process efficiency and customer service

  • Foster a talent- and performance-driven culture

  • Create service level agreements for all HR units

  • Develop and disseminate HR data dashboards for all RCs

  • Create multiple feedback loops to assess and enhance HR customer service

  • Develop and implement innovative and flexible recruitment and retention strategies for high turnover/in-demand job families

  • Redesign temporary employment service (All-Temps)

  • Advance HR technology: Select and implement online performance-management system

  • Maximize utilization and efficiency of current HR systems

Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at

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