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Friday, June 09, 2023

UW-Madison examines workforce diversity

An ongoing project to overhaul UW-Madison’s human resources system will also emphasize diversity in all its forms.

The Human Resources Design Project began after the 2011-’12 biennial budget required the chancellor to develop a new personnel system and have it implemented by July 2013.

The project focuses on goals such as improving the work climate and seeks to increase adaptability of the university as a workplace while prioritizing equity and diversity.

Accordingly, the Diverse Workforce Work Team composed of faculty and students is currently reviewing recommendations of the project’s 13 other work groups to ensure recruitment of currently underrepresented groups. In addition to a positive workplace climate, the team points to diversity as tied to employee retention.

Project leader Robert Lavigna called diversity “extremely important” for the strength of the workforce.

“It’s not just defined demographically,” Lavigna added.

Rather, in its draft recommendation the team says diversity includes other “elements” such as different levels of English proficiency, political views, armed force service and health status.

An ongoing study of faculty worklife at UW-Madison cited on the Diverse Workforce team’s website has found that underrepresented employees “tend to perceive a more negative climate than others” and are therefore more likely to resign from university employment.

A forum held Tuesday was conducted entirely in Spanish to make employees who don’t speak English as their first language feel more comfortable voicing their opinions on the changes.

Lavigna says turnout at these multilingual forums, which also include Tibetan and Hmong, has been successful.

The Diverse Workforce team has made a few recommendations for diversity’s integration into the process, recommending both only a warm welcome and a continually respectful climate, which is largely dictated by employees and directors in the workplace.

Mary Hoddy, diverse workforce team facilitator, said the team also recommends greater training and resources to help achieve these ideas.

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“We really need to be aggressive in our outreach to get a more diverse workforce so that we can provide a better climate for our students who come here,” Hoddy said.

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