Bridgewater State University

Building a Strategic Human Resource Function

Higher Education

“Crossland’s passion for meaningful and productive engagement enabled Bridgewater to align organizational talent with the University’s mission and vision. This has resulted in higher productivity and a more harmonious environment, as well as providing pathways of success for employees. This was an investment that reaped significant results for BSU.”

Dana Mohler-Faria

Former President

Bridgewater State University

The challenge

Many people view human resources (HR) as the person or department that takes care of procedures and compliance—things such as compensation and benefits, employee assistance, and labor relations. But that’s only part of the story. In order to add significant value to an organization, HR must enable the execution of strategy through building organizational capability. This is a role that cannot be automated or off-shored. It comes from an intimate knowledge of an organization’s strategy, its existing capabilities, and future talent needs.

In close partnership with his Cabinet, the Bridgewater State University (BSU) president had just completed a strategic plan and immediately recognized the importance of deepening the role of the university’s HR function. While HR played an integral role in caring for people’s engagement, compensation, and benefit needs, the vice president of HR realized that the new strategy demanded both new talent and new requirements for leaders who were managing people. BSU did not have a consistent approach to talent management—that is, ensuring that the right people with the right capabilities were in the right positions, in the right areas of the organization, at the right time and place. Leaders also did not have mechanisms in place to more broadly understand the skills and capabilities of its staff, and to calibrate talent from a university-wide perspective. Finally, the HR function itself needed to be redesigned to align with the strategy—from recruitment to development, retention to performance management.

What we did

Crossland partnered with the VP of HR and the university’s cabinet to co-design an approach to talent management that would align its function and diverse population with its strategic direction. The first step was to understand how the HR function was organized, and how its work got accomplished. Crossland enabled a cross-university engagement strategy to determine what changes were required, and to ensure HR was intentionally designed to fulfill BSU’s new strategy.  BSU’s key (current and future) roles and capabilities were defined; its talent philosophy and priorities were analyzed and agreed upon; tools and methods were evolved to assess and develop talent; and an approach to building the talent management capacity of BSU leaders was implemented.

The result

Overall, BSU’s HR function was redesigned, elevated, and seen as more of a strategic business partner by leaders at all levels across the university. A university-wide talent management philosophy and end-to-end approach was adopted and implemented, which opened up many new growth experiences for staff. New jobs were formed and others were revised to support the emerging requirements of the strategy. The cabinet embraced its role in calibrating talent together, which enabled cross-university “people sharing,” and new opportunities for development. Within one year of completing this work, all milestones of BSU’s strategic plan were accomplished, and a significant portion of the talent gaps were filled. Most importantly, the vice president of HR and her team were better equipped to support future BSU HR needs because they had a proven method to align functions and people to an evolving strategy.

The great advantage of HR is that, ultimately, all strategy is executed by people—people who need to be engaged, developed, and inspired to fulfill the strategic vision. This is the real role of HR, and even though some people remain skeptical of its bottom-line importance, its relevance cannot be underestimated.

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