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Employees expand skills, provide support while working remotely

Like many people throughout the country, University of Houston-Clear Lake employees are adjusting to working remotely, attending online meetings and sifting through new challenges presented by not being in an office. Human Capital Advancement Manager Esther Herrera understands the obstacles many face while not being in the office and also saw it as an opportunity for employees to strengthen their skills. Herrera has become a weekly “voice” of advice to UH-Clear Lake’s more than 800 employees.

“Professional development is key to a person’s success because it ensures that the individual is equipping themselves with the knowledge and experience needed to positively contribute to their communities,” Herrera said. “As a learner-centered university, UHCL is focused on the impact it will have not only in present-day, but also in our future.

“We are in a new season of growth inside and outside the university, and UHCL is full of individuals who are eager to equip themselves with the professional skills needed to be a strong contributor to our mission and vision.”

UHCL sent employees home to work and support students March 23 after the governor issued stay-at-home orders. Since then, Herrera has been seeking out and sharing tools employees can use to improve their skills online, including UHCL Professional Development through LinkedIn Learning’s Learning Paths. The

“Certificate Plans” offer help to employees who wish to master a specific new skill. Herrera points out that, with more than 200,000 learning tools available, employees have many choices. As of mid-April, more than 2,048 courses have been visited and 1,067 courses completed. And, she added, that 28,396 videos have been viewed/heard and 28,366 videos completed. Total professional development hours are 1,241.

“We built a collection of courses that are bundled together by topic, such as Working Remotely, Technical Skills, Managing Employee Performance and several others,” Herrera said. “The implementation of our ‘Course Spotlight’ announcements have also helped give employees insight to what’s available to them within these UHCL Professional Development Collections.”

“As I anticipated UH-Clear Lake employees are not only working successfully from home but taking that extra step to strengthen their knowledge and skills,” said UHCL President Ira K. Blake. “They have excelled, and by doing so, they are some of the best models for our students, whom I remind at the end of my weekly Hawk Talks to stay healthy, stay focused, work hard and keep a positive attitude.”

Executive Director of Human Resources Brad McGonagle is proud to see so many employees updating skills and expanding their knowledge during this trying time.

“The utilization of LinkedIn Learning as a professional development and human capital advancement platform has been a priority by President Blake and the UH-Clear Lake Core Leadership team for the past year,” said McGonagle. “To see how much our campus community has taken advantage of this great learning opportunity during this time just goes to show the true resiliency of the Hawk Spirit and the value we place on improving ourselves and our campus community.”

In addition to LinkedIn Learning, Herrera said that UHCL employees have access to the Employee Assistance Program. And, from that site, they can visit the free, online www.mylifevalues.com to find a wealth of information regarding their professional career, she added.

She also pointed to several internal university resources including the University Staff Association, comprising all UHCL staff, that offers training workshops and events, and the Center for Faculty Development that can help faculty enhance their skills. Finally, she emphasized the many professional organizations to which many UHCL employees belong. For instance, the university is an active supporter of the Texas Educational Support Staff Association that provides many educational opportunities.

Herrera said that the UHCL “Leaders in Flight” program will begin in early 2021. The nomination-based experiential program will guide participants through a series of sessions that will help them awaken the leader within. And, although employees should be back on campus by then, Herrera and others on the Human Resources team will looking at online options as well. More details will be available in the fall.

“The great thing about working on developing your professional toolkit is that it can be done anywhere – at home, on a mobile device, or in the office,” Herrera said. “I read once that Thomas Jefferson said: ‘If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.’ I do not know if he actually said it, but I like the quote. A person’s skill set must continue to grow if they are committed to being part of something new.”

For more information, visit UHCL’s Human Resources online.