National Disability Employment Awareness Month

This is a guest post written by HR Accommodations Specialist, Cherelyn Dunlap.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a month-long event held annually to raise awareness around disability employment issues and celebrate the many contributions of workers with disabilities. The theme for NDEAM 2020 is “Increasing Access and Opportunity”.

This year marks the 75th observance of NDEAM, and also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The ADA provides protections against discrimination of people with disabilities in numerous areas including employment, education, health care, recreation, transportation, and housing.

MSU is a leader in cultivating a diverse and inclusive campus environment, and our efforts to meet the needs of persons with disabilities was heightened this year due to the national COVID-19 pandemic. Extra measures were taken to provide guidance and a streamlined process for employees to obtain technology, accessibility and work arrangements that allowed them to manage the impacts of their disabilities. We continue to remove barriers and create possibilities for individuals with differing abilities.

We all play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce where every person is recognized for their abilities – every day of every month. Although many impacts are not physically visible, it doesn’t mean they do not exist. In the midst of these unprecedented times and beyond, let us all strive to be more flexible, more understanding, more inclusive, and more supportive of those with different abilities.  

For more information on National Disability Employment Awareness Month please visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s website at www.dol.gov/NDEAM.

Decision Making Through Constant Change

This is a guest post written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization and Professional Development

Remember the good old days, pre-COVID, when we talked about the stress of rapid change? Sure, we talked about VUCA, but only now do we truly understand what Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous means for ourselves and our organization. The last six months have been a never-ending test of our stamina, courage, and ability to pivot quickly, and many of our tried and true methods of approaching work and leadership have been challenged. As stated in the McKinsey & Company article Decision Making in Uncertain Times, “The typical approach of many companies, big and small, will be far too slow to keep up in such turbulence. Postponing decisions to wait for more information might make sense during business as usual. But when the environment is uncertain—and defined by urgency and imperfect information—waiting to decide is a decision in itself” (Alexander et al., 2020).

To move forward in this environment, here are some principles to keep in mind:

  1. Take a breath. To make good decisions, you need oxygen going to your brain. You might feel a sense of urgency, or even panic, but it is worthwhile to take some deep breaths and reflect on the situation at hand before brainstorming solutions or making decisions (Alexander et al., 2020).
  2. Collect information. Do you have any data? Past precedence? Do a quick literature scan on best practices to get ideas. Consider impacts to stakeholders and get their perspectives. You likely won’t have a great deal of time to explore every possible option but do your homework to the best of your ability, given the urgency of the need.
  3. Involve others. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through this pandemic, it’s that none of us can do it all alone. Talk to your peers to see who else is facing this challenge so that you can share ideas or partner on a solution. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. Tap the wisdom of your team or other groups on campus or even other institutions (Alexander et al., 2020).
  4. Mitigate bias. The NeuroLeadership Institute offers some key types of bias to be aware of as you make decisions (2019):
    • Similarity bias. Simply put, we prefer what is like us over what is different. An example is hiring people who they perceive to be like them. Make an active effort to get input and feedback from those who are different, or you’ll likely be short-sighted.
    • Expedience bias. We choose the quickest alternative. Make sure you are not going just on one data point without considering options.
    • Experience bias. We see our perception as truth. How would a new employee view this? Someone from another generation? Seek feedback and don’t assume your view is the only one.
    • Distance bias. We prefer what’s closer over what’s farther away and, as a result, can miss some unique solutions.
    • Safety bias. We protect against loss more than we seek to gain. When it comes to COVID-19, we need to take every safety precaution. In non-health related issues, taking calculated risks helps to propel us forward and innovate.
  5. Consider alternatives. Look not only at how your decisions will impact the current situation, but where they might fit in after the pandemic. Weigh out potential risks and benefits for both the short and long game. Weigh options through the lens of broader organizational priorities and realities, considering values, impact on students, budget, staff engagement and more.
  6. Make the decision. After expediently doing all the above, you must decide and then make that decision clear to others. Remember, you will make the best decision you can with the time and information you have at that moment.
  7. Execute and evaluate. Some leaders forget that the real work begins after the decision is made. Be clear on who will execute the decision, timelines and parameters. Check in to see how things are going, if informing variables have changed or if support is needed. Empower your leaders as much as possible to make the day to day decisions to get the job done.
  8. Reflect. After implementation, take a few moments to consider how the decision went and what you and others can learn.

I’m sure we’ll all have much to reflect on once we move past this incredible time in history. Until then, the challenges keep coming, and we’ll continue to take them on. Don’t forget to lean on each other. You are not alone in feeling the weight of the work and decisions that face you. Talking with trusted colleagues can lighten the load. As this Inside Higher Ed article says, “Unlike many external critics, they understand that one ‘good’ often conflicts with another, and that choices are inevitably made among flawed options in imperfect conditions with limited information. You do the best you can, and you live with it” (Dean Dad, 2012). Good luck and good health to you all.

Sources:

Alexander, A., De Smet, A., and Weiss, L., (March 24, 2020) Decision Making in Uncertain Times, Retrieved October 13, 2020 from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/decision-making-in-uncertain-times

Benjamin, D. Komlos, D., (July 20, 2020) The Pandemic is Teachings to Embrace Uncertainty and Build it into Decision Making. Retrieved October 13, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/benjaminkomlos/2020/07/20/the-pandemic-is-teaching-us-to-embrace-uncertainty-and-build-it-into-decision-making/#710a1d1a6faa

NeuroLeadership Institute (April 9, 2019) The 5 Biggest Biases that Affect Decision Making. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from  https://neuroleadership.com/your-brain-at-work/seeds-model-biases-affect-decision-making/

Cole, B. M. (April 14, 2020) Seven Simple Steps for Good Decision Making During a Crisis. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancamillercole/2020/04/14/follow-these-7-steps-for-good-decision-making-in-a-crisis/#5dd83f933fe4

Dean Dad (March, 2012) Ask the Administrator: If I Become a Dean, Will my Faculty Colleagues Shun Me? Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/ask-administrator-if-i-become-dean-will-my-faculty

Join MSU’s Virtual Benefits Fair This Week!

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we will not be having an in-person Benefits Fair this year. Instead, we’re offering a Virtual Benefits Fair, which will consist of an online source for curated content from our benefits vendors (such as videos, brochures and more), along with special dates/times for virtual live chat options with HR staff and/or our benefit vendors. We encourage you to use these resources to help get answers to your questions or learn more about all the benefit options available to you as an MSU employee.

Dates and Times

The Virtual Benefits Fair will take place from October 12–16, with MSU HR staff and benefits vendors available to answer questions live via chat on Thursday, October 15 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday, October 16 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (some vendor hours may vary for live chat).

How to Join

Click on this link to the Virtual Benefits Fair webpage to join the fair.
Please register with your name and email if you wish to interact with HR staff and benefit vendors during scheduled live chat sessions. You can then use the username and password you register with to login to the fair. View this Guide to Participating in the 2020 MSU Benefits Open Enrollment Fair for more information.

Participating Benefits Vendors

The following MSU benefits vendors and MSU units will be participating in the Virtual Benefits Fair:

Health/Dental

  • Aetna Dental
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield/Blue Care Network
  • CVS/Caremark
  • Delta Dental
  • Humana
  • Livongo (Diabetes Management)
  • Teladoc (Telemedicine)/Teladoc Medical Experts (Formerly Best Doctors)

Life and AD&D

  • Prudential

Flexible Spending Accounts

  • HealthEquity/WageWorks

MSU Benefits Plus

  • ARAG (Legal Group)
  • Liberty Mutual (Auto & Home)
  • MetLife (Critical Illness, Auto & Home)
  • Nationwide (Pet)
  • Transamerica (Long-term Care)
  • VSP (Vision)

MSU Units

  • MSU Health Team
  • MSU Human Resources
  • MSU IT Services
  • MSU Organization and Professional Development
  • MSU Pharmacy
  • MSU WorkLife Office

Retirement

  • Fidelity
  • TIAA

Coping with Chronic Uncertainty

Written by Jon Novello LMSW, ACSW, a Counselor with MSU’s Employee Assistance Program

Uncertainty. Along with pods, social distancing, and “you’re on mute,” uncertainty has become one of the buzzwords of this global pandemic. That’s for a good reason. We are living in a state of chronic and ongoing uncertainty. The reality of COVID-19 and our ongoing, evolving response to it continues to impact the everyday lives of every human on the planet. Many of us feel out of control in a world where our future is unclear and unpredictable.  

And we really don’t like to feel out of control. We find uncertainty hard to cope with even in the best of times. According to Dr. Christine Carter, a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center and author of The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction, humans “crave information about the future in the same way we crave food, sex, and other primary rewards. Our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat, and they try to protect us by diminishing our ability to focus on anything other than creating certainty.”  

Think about that: our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat. When faced with a situation where we can’t know what will happen next or how things will turn out, we feel threatened, afraid of the unknown future. To deal with this fear, we begin to seek out more certainty to convince ourselves that things will be ok. We look for answers, information, reassurance from some external force that can tell us that things will work out so that we can feel better. 

That’s what many of us are looking for right now: an answer to make us feel better about the pandemic. An example of this is how frustrated many people feel about the science of COVID-19. To satisfy our feelings of insecurity in so much uncertainty, we want science to be clear and definitive — to tell us how long this will last, what we need to do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and when exactly a vaccine will be available so that things can “go back to normal.” But science is ever- evolving, and new information gained sometimes means that we have to adjust our understanding of reality. If we look for definitive answers when we are still researching the problem, we may end up feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.  

As Dr. Carter points out, “sometimes — maybe always — it’s more effective not to attempt to create certainty.” Seeking more certainty when we are surrounded by so much unknown leads us to constantly try to control that which we can’t control, which results in more anxiety, not less. Instead, what tends to help us get through moments like this is learning to live with ambiguity. 

To that end, here are six strategies to help you navigate a world that is so uncertain. 

  1. Make your health a priority. Invest in your wellbeing right now. It’s easy to focus our attention and care on other people, especially those of us who are caregivers and fixers. But, that attention to others still costs us, in energy and resources. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, then we run out of juice at some point, and that can lead to more intense feelings of anxiety and depression. 

    Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep (or at least rest). Eat well to nourish your body. Spend time with your friends in creative ways. Play, read, listen, dance, sing, run, hug, love. These things fill us up and rejuvenate us, but they are easy to neglect.
     
  2. Exhibit compassion, patience, and grace. Many people are struggling right now, and that emotional toll can sometimes play out in how they interact with you. You may notice that some of your coworkers have shorter fuses than they might typically have. An employee at a local business you like may not be as attentive to you while providing you service. This is normal during a time like this.

    It is important to try to interact with others from a position of empathy and curiosity. If someone is having a hard time, rather than complain about them, try to wonder what might be going on in their lives that is making it hard for them to be pleasant. That doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate bad behavior. There are times when we need to set clear limits with others. But we can do that from a position of compassion and grace. 
      
  3. Explore the concept of acceptance. This can be tricky. This doesn’t mean to simply resign yourself to the bad stuff. Rather, acceptance allows us to look at the world as it is, rather than as we wish it would be. When we focus on what we’d rather see, we observe the world from a state of resistance, where our attention stays solely on what’s wrong and why it shouldn’t be this way. It might be easy for me to spend hours dwelling on why people aren’t wearing masks properly in downtown East Lansing. While I might be able to come up with countless reasons that prove that my thoughts are correct, this doesn’t do anything to change those people’s behavior, nor does it stop the spread of COVID-19. Rather, it keeps me in a position of anger and hopelessness, which affects only me. 

    Acceptance, on the other hand, allows me to approach the problem from a place of openness, curiosity, and creativity. Given that people are not wearing masks, and given that I am concerned about the spread of this disease, what can I do about it at this moment? Acceptance points our attention in a specific direction, toward what is possible, rather than what is not working.
     
  4. Notice what you can control, and work to accept what you can’t. Here’s something that we know to be true: we tend to do worse psychologically when we focus our attention on things that we can’t control; and we tend to do better when our attention is focused on things we can control. That seems like an easy concept to understand, but it’s hard to do sometimes. Dwelling on those things that are out of our control can be so compelling. But it can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Plus, the reality is that we have no control over most of the world around us. 

    When we focus on what we can control, it allows us to feel more in control. I can’t control who wears masks and who doesn’t, but I can control what I choose to do when I walk downtown. I can’t control whether someone is snippy with me at work, but I can control how I respond to that person. I can’t control whether people share the same political view as me, but I can control how I show up and whether I vote. I can’t directly control whether oppression or injustice is happening, but I can control how I stand up to it. We can control how much we are doing to take care of our minds, spirits, and bodies.
     
  5. Be more present. “The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty; it’s presence.” When we try to create more certainty, we try to control the future. We are trying to make things work out in the way that we’d prefer. But, again, we typically have so little control of most things that it can lead to feelings of anxiety and frustration. Rather than trying to seek more certainty, we could instead focus on the present, which is the only place where we have control. 

    Remember that we do better when we feel in control. When your brain slips into imagining a scary and unknown future, bring your attention to your breath. From there, check in with yourself, asking what you need right now to feel ok. What is happening right now? What is possible right now? What do I need right now?
     
  6. If you need help with any of this, get help. If you are struggling and wondering if you need assistance, reach out and ask for help. There are plenty of resources available to you. As an MSU employee, you have access to six sessions of free, confidential counseling through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). For people that need more than six visits, the EAP will be able to provide you with referrals to local therapists that are in- network with your insurance plan. In addition, there are many other resources available through MSU, and in the larger community. Feel free to look over this guide for more information about what resources are available to you. 

If you would like to learn more about EAP services or would like to get in touch with a member of the team, please call 517.355.4506, send an email to eap@msu.edu or visit eap.msu.edu.

Sources

Carter, C. (2020). The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

MSU Resources to Help you in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Written by MSU Health Care

Do you know about the services available at MSU to help in the fight against breast cancer? During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with the resources available right at MSU. MSU Health Care offers access to specialists, imaging, treatment centers, surgery, therapy and rehabilitation, to help at every stage of the fight.

MSU Health Care providers include an experienced team of board-certified radiologists, oncologists, surgeons who specialize in breast diseases, and providers for high-risk breast conditions and genetic testing. Through these providers, you and your family also have access to personalized treatment based on the latest clinical and research data available, research through the Big 10 Cancer Research Consortium, and exceptional surgical reconstruction options.

In addition, the MSU Health Care Women’s Imaging Center, located on MSU’s campus is Mid-Michigan’s leading provider of high-quality diagnostic imaging services including:

  • Digital Mammography
  • Breast Ultrasound
  • Breast MRI
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Breast Biopsies
  • OB/GYN Ultrasound

While prevention is the first step in the fight against breast cancer, once a diagnosis has been reached, the next steps are making sure you have access to the best resources possible. The MSU Health Care Cancer Center provides everything from chemotherapy education, to clinical trials, to breast tumor boards. Specializing in cancer therapeutics, the MSU Health Care Cancer Center medical oncologists work closely with other health professionals such as surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and pathologists to design personalized treatment plans based on the most recent clinical and research data available.

MSU Health Care Surgery is another resource for you, with the area’s only fellowship–trained surgeons specialized in breast diseases. Providers utilize state-of-the-art skills and techniques to provide a wide range of services such as genetic counseling and testing, breast cancer high risk assessment, and breast surgery.

And with any care plan, comprehensive rehabilitation is an important part of your follow-up care. MSU Health Care Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Services offers everything from post mastectomy and lumpectomy rehab to exercises, bandaging, and proper skin care.

Wherever you or your loved one find yourself in the fight against breast cancer, whether prevention, in the middle of your care plan or rehab, your partners at MSU Health Care are here to support you at every stage. Call 844-678-7883 to schedule your mammogram or connect with any of the MSU Health Care services.

Who will work together in the fight against breast cancer? SPARTANS WILL.

Workforce Planning during the Pandemic and Beyond

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development

While it was true before the pandemic, it is now abundantly clear that we need to examine the way we do work, the structures that support it, and the skills needed to be successful. It is not uncommon for structures and processes to stay the same for many years, even though the work has expanded or changed. This generally results in high performers picking up additional work, ineffective workflows, and dropped balls due to inadequate expectations or skills. It also contributes to burn out and low morale as some are overworked, others appear to contribute very little, and new employees are often disappointed as the work they are doing does not match their promised job descriptions. This situation calls on leaders to ask the questions: What has changed in the last several years? What does the work entail today? Do our current roles and structure support that work now and into the future?

Here are some points to keep in mind as you evaluate your organization:

  • Start with mission, vision and strategic plans as the foundation for your work. Examining the priorities for your area of work, your department or college, and the university at large helps to ensure alignment and that you are building something sustainable.
  • Consider changes that have occurred. Has the department or college grown or the work shifted? Is there new technology being utilized and/or new data collection? Is there a new leader in place with new expectations? Do you have a role in new university or college initiatives that would impact workloads or work needed? Have positions and practices changed to meet that need or does it just keep getting cobbled on to the existing structure?
  • Review current work. What work is being done today, by whom, and what are the pain points?  Have position descriptions been updated to reflect actual responsibilities? Are responsibilities grouped in a way that makes sense? Do some people have incredible workloads while others carry very little? Does the work being done align with the stated priorities? What work can be done remotely and what requires employees to be onsite? Are there glaring inefficiencies and risks with the current structure and assignment of duties? Include your people in the effort, as they will likely be a wealth of information about what is working well and where the gaps are. Engaging a cross-functional team for the analysis can help to ensure that you are getting a systemic view with reduced bias.
  • Consider upcoming changes. Identify any anticipated variables that could change the work that is needed in the future. Where are opportunities to innovate? Will new technology be adapted in the next couple of years? Is there a new executive coming in who may have new priorities that you need to be prepared for? Has a new, large research grant been awarded that will need to be maintained and accounted for? How will these changes impact the day-to-day work?
  • Analyze possible changes to workflow, structure and positions. Work with MSU HR to review what positions and structures make sense going forward, rather than just filling open positions. Design your structure, not only for efficiency, but for resilience and responsiveness. For example, one college identified that they increased their number of events by 300% in the past few years. No one was clearly identified to manage that new work and so several staff just picked up pieces of it, which took them away from their other priorities. When a position opened, they decided to repurpose the role to a new Event Planner position that would meet their needs. The people who had previously been doing parts of the work could then serve as back up for that role.
  • Evaluate skill gaps that will be barriers to moving forward. Organizations “also face a learning curve as managers figure out how to lead their teams virtually as they build social capital and how to maintain cohesion without the benefit of informal coffee, lunch, or corridor chats. As companies contemplate returning to the workplace, a new set of skills is also likely to emerge for the transition“ (McKinsey, 2020). You can utilize this list of questions as you develop learning plans for each of your staff. Remember, you make these workforce plans based on the work that needs to be done, not on what tasks people prefer to complete. It’s great when those two things align, but ultimately the work needs to get done. Create a plan to help individuals and teams strengthen their behavioral and technical skill sets, establish clear expectations, and hold people accountable. Building new skills not only helps the unit but the individual strengthens their career prospects as well.
  • Communicate often. Make sure you are keeping people updated as changes are made, explaining why they were needed and the gains you hope to achieve. Check in frequently to see how individuals and teams are doing with the changes, looking for any tweaks that would be helpful or additional support needed.
  • Adjust any practices, processes or policies that will be impacted by the new structure. Workflows may be different after staffing changes. Not only should that be clarified within your area, but with other stakeholders or customers who may need that information. Will forms be submitted to someone new, is there a process change that others will need to abide by? Does it affect any project plans? While doing that analysis it is also a great time to document and improve processes as you go. Look at this systemically to avoid items falling through the cracks.

As flexible work arrangements, remote learning and tight budgets continue to impact how work is done, it is up to leaders to create plans to address those needs in ways that are thoughtful, adaptive, and allow employees to be responsive to changing situations. “Gartner research shows many employees want to be responsive, and believe they know how to be, but a huge amount of work ‘friction’ stands in the way.”  They define “friction” as misaligned work design, overwhelmed teams, trapped resources and rigid processes.  Gartner found that “two-thirds of employees are hacking their work to get around these obstacles, and that’s costing organizations time, money and energy” (Wiles, 2020). Together with your team, you can set a path so that all can be more effective and adaptive going forward.

Sources:

McKinsey & Co. (2020, May 7). To Emerge Stronger from the Covid-19 Crisis, Companies Should Start Reskilling Their Workforces Now. Retrieved September 30, 2020 from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/to-emerge-stronger-from-the-covid-19-crisis-companies-should-start-reskilling-their-workforces-now.

Wiles, J. (2020, September 23). Design Work to Help Employees be Responsive. Retrieved September 30, 2020 from https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/design-work-to-help-employees-be-responsive/.

2021 Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award Call for Nominations!

Remarkable, dedicated and hardworking are just some of the words used to describe the Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award Recipients. The Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award is presented annually to six university support staff members, hand-selected by the Selection Committee from nominations received by the recipients’ colleagues.

The award is named in honor of Jack Breslin, who served Michigan State University as a student leader, honored athlete, top administrator and steadfast advocate. His strong and innovative leadership played a pivotal role in MSU’s growth and development as the nation’s premier land grant institution.

One of the 2020 award winners, Shannon Davis, had this to say about receiving the award:

“I am humbled and incredibly honored to receive this award. I absolutely love what I do and am lucky to have found my calling in Human Resources and training.  It is extremely rewarding to lead the Human Resources operations in the College of Social Science. It is my goal to minimize the complexity and maximize the efficiency of the HR process so faculty and staff may focus on what is important – shaping the hearts and minds of our students and maintaining high productivity in world changing research. To be recognized for what I do and my small part of this effort is truly the highlight of my career.”

Nominations are now open for the 2021 award. Criteria for selection of recipients include overall excellence in job performance, supportive attitude and contributions to the unit or university that lead to improved efficiency or effectiveness, and valuable service to the university.  Review the nomination form for further details. The nomination form and accompanying materials are due October 3o, 2020. Contact MSU Human Resources with any questions at 517-353-4434.

Strategic Thinking in Turbulent Times

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSWProgram Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development 

Strategic thinking has always been an important leadership skill, but as we make our way through the pandemic, it is a must. “A danger for many organizations is that in the rush to get back to business, managers will reinforce yesterday’s way of doing business when the world around them has changed. The challenge therefore for managers is to develop a clear view of what they need to change, why, and when” (Healey, May 2020). The temptation when stress and uncertainty are high is to grasp on to what you know. If instead you can embrace the unknown and expand your thinking, you’ll be further ahead.  

Fortunately, our brains are designed to help us with this. In normal times our brains work on default mode, with our routines and ways of doing work flowing without much conscious thought on our part. In times of upheaval, it is a different story. When your brain can’t make sense of the environment “it scours our surroundings, trying to connect the dots between ideas that were right in front of us all along, but that we just never noticed before” (Tasler, May 2020). It is precisely in these disorienting periods of fear, frustration, and loneliness that we can see everything with new eyes, lending itself to new opportunities.  

From Crisis to Strategy 

“Turning attention to the short term is no doubt essential to survival as we work our way through this crisis. However, at some point soon leaders need to turn their attention to the future state. Leaders need to actively start to assess the external environmental forces at work today that will shape their industry structural ecosystem tomorrow” (Hodes, May 2020). 

Here are some big picture questions to consider ensuring you have the right business model and capabilities for the post-pandemic era:  

  • How will higher education change? 
  • Will new funding sources be needed? 
  • Will customers and stakeholders require new or different ways to connect? 
  • What level of working remotely will be the new normal? 
  • How much faster will some segments of the university grow while others struggle? 
  • What do we as an organization do particularly well, and how can we deploy that capability to serve unmet needs?   
  • What existing or new technologies will be critical? 

As you ask yourself these questions, be sure to invite your colleagues into the conversation. Getting diverse viewpoints, experiences and perspectives strengthens the opportunity for creativity and ingenuity. The strategic choices we make today will be incredibly important as we emerge from this crisis so “take time to look across the internal boundaries of your organization and talk to colleagues who are in close contact with customers, suppliers, and emerging technologies. Now is the time to widen your information channels” (Healy, May 2020). 

Here are some additional tips to consider as you move forward: 

1) Upskilling may be needed. For a workforce to be agile, they need to possess the right skills and be empowered to utilize them. Strategic employee development is more important than ever, and that includes not only classes, but experiential opportunities that let employees spread their wings, test their skills, and make decisions. As a formal leader, you need to make sure that those granted decision-making authority have business acumen and understand the organization enough to make wise decisions, and have the needed leadership skills to bring ideas forward effectively. 

2) Reassess business priorities, given the new world. Look at your goals from last year. What worked well? What is no longer applicable? What have we learned? What will continue to be important going forward? What new priorities do we have given the situation and its impact? 

3) Don’t stay stuck on what was. Learn from the past and put energy into your vision of a different future.(Nevins, August 2020). 

  • What opportunities might exist in the industry? 
  • Based on what we know now, why have past strategies worked—not worked?  And can we re-frame how we think about the future based on those insights? 
  • What strategies have not been tried?  Why not? 
  • What do we as an organization do particularly well, and how can we deploy that capability to serve unmet needs?  (Especially if that skill or capability is hard for others to copy.) 

4) Think differently. Instead of thinking logically, practice thinking analogically, drawing lessons from one setting, and applying them to another. Going with the tried and true methods may not get you where we need to go now. Increased collaboration and thoughtful risk-taking may be in order.  

There is no doubt that this is a time of incredible challenge, while also one of tremendous opportunity. In order to be able to think strategically to effectively meet these challenges, it is imperative to assure that you are taking good care of yourself. These are not normal times, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and off-center. Keep doing the things that you know can help you to be at your best: getting enough sleep and exercise, eating healthy food, connecting with friends and loved ones, all can help us to access the stamina and creativity needed as we move forward. None of us will be perfect, but together we can meet the needs of today while building an exciting future for MSU. 

Sources: 

Healy, M. (2020, May 28). Strategic Thinking in a Crisis. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from  

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alliancembs/2020/05/28/strategic-thinking-in-a-crisis/#17ce3a4e6be5

Hodes, B. (2020, May 8). Strategic Thinking for a Post-pandemic Era. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from  

https://cmiteamwork.com/blog/guest-blog-strategic-thinking-for-a-post-pandemic-era/

Nevins, M. (2020, August 12). It’s Time to Re-Set Your Strategic Thinking Post-Covid. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hillennevins/2020/08/12/its-time-to-re-set-your-strategic-thinking-post-covid/#23f3263f3801 

Project Management Institute. (2020, August 31). Change Makers Step Up During the Pandemic. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from 

https://www.reuters.com/sponsored/article/change-makers-step-up

Tasler, N. (2020, May 5). Is the Pandemic Making You Smarter? Retrieved September 16, 2020 from 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/strategic-thinking/202005/is-the-pandemic-making-you-smarter

Reminder: enroll in, change or cancel voluntary vision, legal and critical illness insurance during Open Enrollment

The MSU Benefits Open Enrollment period in October is an opportunity for you to review your benefit options and make any changes necessary for the upcoming plan year. While you may be aware you need to review your health and dental benefits, some voluntary benefits also only allow you to enroll in, change or cancel during Open Enrollment. These include VSP vision insurance, ARAG legal insurance, and MetLife critical illness insurance.

If you’re interested in enrolling in these benefits, need to make changes (like adding a dependent or switching to a different plan) or cancel your enrollment for the 2021 plan year, you must do so in October. If you’re currently enrolled in one of these voluntary benefit options and you do not make any changes, your enrollment will continue in 2021 with the exact same coverage.

How to Learn More, Enroll in, Change or Cancel Voluntary Benefits

Find a brief description of these voluntary benefits below. You can enroll in, change or cancel these optional benefits via the voluntary benefits portal at MSUBenefitsPlus.com. For additional information on these voluntary benefits, please review the appropriate Open Enrollment guide: Support Staff Open Enrollment Guide or Faculty/Academic Staff Open Enrollment Guide.

VSP Vision Insurance: Vision insurance can help with the cost of glasses and contact lenses for you and your family. VSP offers two plan options: the standard coverage plan or a premium coverage plan with an additional enhanced eyewear option of your choice. You can view a plan summary sheet with basic information about the two plan coverage options and rates in the voluntary benefits portal.

MetLife Critical Illness Insurance: Critical illness insurance gives you extra cash in the event you or covered family members experience a covered illness (view the plan summary on the HR website for a list of covered illnesses). This money can be used to offset unexpected medical expenses or for any other use you wish. You can view a plan summary sheet with basic information about the plan coverage and rates in the voluntary benefits portal.

ARAG Legal Insurance: Legal insurance gives you access to legal assistance in a wide variety of situations when you need it without worrying about the costs. The legal plan offers expanded and/or enhanced benefits, such as insurance claims, divorce, home equity loans, refinancing and elder law. ARAG® legal insurance excludes most pre-existing legal issues and business-related matters. You can view a plan summary sheet with basic information about the two plan coverage options and rates in the voluntary benefits portal.

Questions? You can learn more about, enroll in, change or cancel voluntary benefits in the voluntary benefits portal at MSUBenefitsPlus.com. Learn about all your benefits options on the Open Enrollment HR website page. Additionally, the HR Solutions Center is available for questions at SolutionsCenter@hr.msu.edu or 517-353-4434.