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Princeton Weekly Bulletin   October 9, 2006, Vol. 96, No. 5   prev   next   current

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  • Editor: Ruth Stevens

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HR classes connect staff with new skills, peer networks

Princeton NJ — Diane Griffiths used to struggle with delegating work to other people.

“I have always been the type of person to feel that since I know how to do it, I’ll just do it myself and get it done faster,” said Griffiths, who is a lead information specialist in the Office of Information Technology’s support services.


Diane Griffiths, a lead information specialist in the Office of Information Technology’s support services, is the first staff member to earn a Management Development Certificate through the new learning and development program offered by human resources. More than 800 staff members have attended at least one of the curriculum’s 27 classes, such as the session on diversity taking place in this photo. (photo: Denise Applewhite)

After Griffiths enrolled in a series of learning and development classes given this year by the Office of Human Resources, she learned strategies for teaching skills to other staff members, and ways to step back and patiently manage their work, rather than intervene.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I’m learning to delegate work to others and then just supervising how it gets done, rather than doing it all myself,” she said.

Griffiths is one of 125 staff members enrolled in the Core Learning Curriculum and Management Development Certificate program, and the first to complete it. She and her fellow students say the classes have given them fresh ideas for handling problems and challenges, introduced them to staff members throughout the University who have become an essential peer network and enhanced their confidence in the workplace.

Since the program started last February, more than 800 members of Princeton’s staff have attended at least one of the curriculum’s 27 classes, which offer instruction in topics such as motivating others in the workplace, coaching for success, the legal aspects of supervision and influencing others.

“Some people are looking to get a fresh coat of paint on their management skills, some are newly appointed managers and others are aspiring to be managers,” said Maureen Imbrenda, the learning and development manager in the human resources office. Those who enroll must get their manager’s approval to attend the classes, which meet during the workday. Managers also agree to help their employees apply what they learn on the job.

The courses, which typically meet for one four-hour session, wade into real-life management situations, such as how to handle an employee’s frequent tardiness and how to measure whether performance expectations are being met. Students confront those kinds of situations in class by learning strategies, discussing different approaches and role-playing scenarios, taking turns acting as the boss and the employee.

Mary Kemler, assistant director of University ticketing in University Services, said the classes have introduced her to a cross-section of employees who have served as a valuable resource for management advice. The classes emphasize group discussion, so the employees come to rely on their peers for advice and feedback as much as the instructors, who are Princeton staff members certified as facilitators.

“Having other like-minded people to bounce ideas off of has been great,” she said. “There is a real camaraderie in these classes. You definitely get the feeling you have a campus-wide community of support and resources.”

Kemler said the classes have given her the tools and the confidence to become a better manager. Her supervisor, Nick Robinson, agrees.

“I’ve seen her change in so many different categories — the way she organizes her time and the way she deals with problems that occur, really thinking through them,” said Robinson, associate director of University ticketing. “It’s making her think about all aspects of her work and asking, ‘Is this the best way to handle this?’ It’s opening her mind to new and inventive ways to work.”

Sandra Gillette, assistant to the dean of the faculty, found the small-group discussions in every class were a constant source of new ideas about how to approach management challenges.

“The free nature of the discussions is so useful,” she said. “You hear an example and you think, ‘That’s exactly where I am in this situation.’ You can talk openly, get constructive advice from your peers and come up with something you hadn’t thought of before. The courses gave me a new set of eyes. Everywhere I’ve made a tweak in my dealings with people, I’ve had a good result.”

Gillette found the classes on setting performance expectations for employees and on giving performance appraisals invaluable. She just completed her certificate by taking the program’s newest course, which is on diversity, and has signed up for three more classes. The human resources office is in the planning stages of creating an Advanced Leadership Academy for those interested in continuing their learning once they have completed the certificate.

Twylen Hicks, who has been a patrol officer in the Department of Public Safety for the last two years, found that the classes have helped him in interactions with his peers on the job and with members of the community out in the field. Last month his department promoted him to assistant fire marshal.

“I’m grateful for having acquired these skills,” he said. “They really played a key part in my successful selection for my new position.”

The Core Learning Curriculum is open to all faculty and staff. Participants may enroll in one or two courses to work on a specific area, or may pursue the eight courses required for the Management Development Certificate.

For more information about the program, visit


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