An interview with S. Jamila Buckner, GGU Alumna (MA, Human Resources ‘91) and Head of Human Resources at Golden Gate University
Like many GGU students, S. Jamila Buckner returned to school to get a master’s degree after some time practicing her chosen profession. We asked Buckner about what the most important issues in human resources are at the moment. She said that two issues – diversity and interdepartmental communication and its links to employee engagement – are especially important today. Both issues, she says, if properly implemented, can lead to innovation by reducing seen and unseen barriers.
Bringing the Whole Person to the Job
The title of Diversity Manager, as a separate job, can exist but I have not made it a separate role at Golden Gate University. Diversity is a tricky issue because it is not separate – it is interwoven into hiring, work processes, teams, communication, and policy. In a very large organization, there is a good reason to consider looking at Diversity Manager as a separate job title. At a smaller organization, you can have an HR leader taking the initiative.
One traditional measure of diversity is cultural diversity and/or gender. Diversity can be about views on faith, politics, work experiences, how a person was raised, economics, or a variety of other aspects. We may not regularly talk about these varied dimensions, but they make any individual valued in the workplace. Diversity touches every single person in the organization. Diversity means that you have something you bring to the table that someone else may not. Hopefully, people are bringing the “whole person to the job.” Bringing the whole person to the job means that we take all of our different experiences and/or attributes and bring them to the table – to create new ideas or solutions to challenging problems. Organizations can then practice the concept of inclusion. Inclusion, while closely related, is a separate concept from diversity. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) defines inclusion as ‘the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.’ When there is an inclusive work environment you find that people are engaged in their work.
Transparency Builds Employee Engagement
Transparency among departments is critical to successful organizations and an HR concern. Business units can develop norms that can create organizational silos. The answer to silos and stasis is to have multiple channels of communication to strive for transparency at all levels. That’s also a way to spark innovation if one person in a department comes up with something that may not be related to their immediate sphere but is related to the larger organization, it gets translated into something useful somewhere else. This is related to looking at how leadership communicates and encourages feedback.
Transparency also bolsters employee engagement. Employee engagement has many facets and reflects how much employees feel valued within their jobs. The higher the engagement the higher they are in tune with what is going on in their department. Highly engaged employees have a sense of ownership of their roles and look for ways to improve processes. They are more productive and stay in organizations longer.
Most Important Skills for HR Professionals by Buckner
1. Thinking strategically
2. Recruiting effectively
3. Employee Development
4. Understanding “Total Rewards” which means benefits (not cash alone)
5. Employment Engagement
6. Diversity Management
7. Building organizational culture
More About S. Jamila Buckner
Buckner was attracted to the graduate program in Human Resources at Golden Gate University because of the real-world experience of the faculty, the flexibility in scheduling classes, and how the program addressed her long-term aspirations. After receiving her degree she was promoted while working for the Federal Government. The degree program also assisted her a few years later in moving out of the government sector and into the private sector. She joined Golden Gate University as a senior staff member as the Head of Human Resources in 2017. She is an experienced business leader with more than 25 years of Human Resources and Talent Management expertise. She has worked in higher education, large scale telecommunications, financial services, apparel manufacturing, professional services companies, and public entities. Her expertise is in Senior HR Management, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Organizational Design, and Organizational Development. She has two children and she enjoys spending time volunteering with her community service and philanthropic organizations.
Learn more about the Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management program.