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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Employee Forum delegates, new chair prep for year ahead

At their annual summer retreat, Employee Forum delegates and new chair Shayna Hill got updates from University administrators, a refresher on parliamentary procedure, practice in communication skills and some humorous “travel” advice about group decision making.

The July 12 retreat was the first meeting led by Hill, who succeeded Charles Streeter. Hill, who served as the forum’s treasurer last year, is materials manager at the School of Dentistry.

“I am passionate about engagement. I am at my best when I am engaged and feel a part of something larger than myself,” she told the delegates. “The Employee Forum is certainly that, larger than myself.”

One of her goals is to ensure that the delegates’ extra work is recognized by their managers. “Does it always have to be something that is taking away from your real job?” she asked. “This is your real job. This is creating community. It’s creating positive change.”

The retreat’s featured presentation was “The Abilene Paradox,” a workshop on how groups make decisions led by Linc Butler, associate vice chancellor for human resources. The term comes from management expert Jerry B. Harvey, based on an anecdote about his family took a trip to Abilene, Texas, although each secretly didn’t want to go.

While “going to Abilene” was a funny family story, the same principles applied in work situations can have serious negative consequences and group members may blame each other for the bad decision. “It may look like conflict on the outside, but it’s really a matter of mismanaged agreement,” Butler said.

Delegates got a quick refresher on parliamentary procedure from Trey Allen, an assistant professor of law and government, who teaches the subject to government officials and board members at the School of Government.

A recurring concern expressed during the retreat was the need to improve communications between the forum and its constituents. Hill introduced an exercise designed to develop communication and team-building skills. In it, one person in a pair would describe a picture by describing the shapes in it and the other would draw it.

The comparison of the pictures at the end of each session produced some high-fives and cheers, but also groans and exclamations of disbelief. Talking to their constituents would be a cinch after this, especially for those not good at drawing.

The delegates received administration updates on two initiatives: a new, incentive-based budget model and Carolina Service centralized services model.

In fiscal year 2016, the University began an initiative to examine the effectiveness of UNC’s current incremental-based budgeting process. The new incentive-based budget model under consideration differs from the current model in several key ways, said Matt Fajack, vice chancellor for finance and administration. Generally, the current incremental model operates on allocation of funds in a top-down way by the state and the University, based on the previous year’s allocations, with little correlation to how much revenue is generated by each unit.

The new model would link revenue distribution closely with revenue generation, encouraging both long-term planning and budgeting that adapts quickly to changing conditions in the individual units.

For Carolina Service, parts of human resources, finance and research administration will share resources under one management structure, while information technology and communications functions will centralize their services, but will not be part of the shared service center. (For more information about Carolina Service, please see the story on page 10.)

“What you’re going to hear about Carolina Service in this update and what you’re going to continue to read about as we push out to campus communications about it is all trying to achieve the goal of being efficient and nimble,” said Felicia Washington, vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement. “We’ve got to make sure we’re being really good stewards of the money that we get.”