November 19, 2014

Employee Assembly Talks Turnover, Staff Complaints

Print More


Members of Cornell’s Employee Assembly discussed the importance of maintaining staff morale in light of high employee turnover during a meeting in the Physical Sciences building Wednesday.

While President David Skorton — who was originally scheduled to speak — was unable to attend due to a cold, Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources, answered members’ questions concerning what Opperman described as a recent increase in staff complaints and turnover.

“For a number of years, the idea was, ‘We needed to get our budget taken care of and then we’ll go back to the way things were,’ but people are realizing that won’t happen,” Opperman said.

B.J. Siasoco, executive vice chair of the E.A., asked Opperman if the University could take specific initiatives to better help its staff.

“There are culture and climate issues we need to address,” Opperman said. “I think the long-term answer is to address how [human resources and faculty] work together.”

According to Opperman, one of these issues is the recent economic slump that caused staff to search for additional jobs. In addition, Opperman stressed that the age gap between staff members needs to be respected.

“We have new generations coming in and older generations who are staying longer than they had planned to,” she said.

Michelle Stefanski-Seymour, an ambulatory technician at the University, said she believes Cornell should support faculty growth.

“We are trying to support employee growth,” she said. “[Cornell] need[s] supervisors to promote growth for faculty members.”

Human resources has implemented a formal rotational program, which encourages faculty members at Cornell to explore different positions and increase their career-progression, as part of a new attempt keep employees satisfied, according to Opperman.

“It is an intention of ours to use career growth mechanisms besides changing jobs to help people create movement,” Opperman said.

A housing questionnaire was also sent out to graduate students and faculty in response to complaints about the lack of affordable housing. Greg Mezey ’09, chair of the E.A. and director of food and beverage for the Statler Hotel, emphasized the need to make the best of such resources.

“We need to lay groundwork … so once we get data we aren’t a year behind in analyzing results [of the survey],” Mezey said.

When asked about how the E.A. and faculty could form relationships with President-Elect Elizabeth Garrett, Opperman advised members of Cornell’s staff to directly contact her.

“We have to start out with assumptions. Assume she will want to engage with the non-faculty workforce,” Opperman said. “What we do know she isn’t fazed by disagreement — to me that’s a really positive thing.”