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Looking for the right stuff: Meet OP’s new talent specialist

What is talent acquisition all about? Just ask UCOP’s new manager of talent management, Kelly Howard, who joined local HR four months ago to help keep fresh talent coming into the Office of the President.

“My goal is to create a smooth process for attracting the smartest and the brightest people to UC,” Howard says, “and make sure they stay excited so they want to keep working here.”

Talent management for OP was previously handled at UCSF. About 18 months ago, HR Executive Director John Fox started moving the HR infrastructure back in-house to make services more accessible and better tailored to UCOP’s unique needs.

Howard’s new position was part of that transition. Her role will be to create a range of tools to support hiring managers, including a new self-service system for initiating new hires and an “onboarding” system for setting up new employees so they can hit the ground running from day one.

But it’s not just about managers, Howard says. She will also be beefing up retention efforts — such as performance management and career development programs — to support staff and encourage them to grow professionally.

“OP is a very complex environment,” Howard says. “New employees need to be acclimated into the culture, and their managers need to continually provide support to keep their staff engaged.”

Of her 12 years in talent management, Howard spent seven at UC Berkeley creating a long-term staffing strategy, recruiting high-level executives, and hiring 130 development professionals for Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s $3 billion fundraising campaign.

“We don’t recruit the way we used to,” Howard says. “’Post-and-pray’ just doesn’t work anymore. You need a strategic vision for finding the right individuals.” This is especially true for recruiting younger employees, she says, who depend heavily on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn for job searches.

Some of the tools she uses to proactively scout out the right stuff include community outreach, social and face-to-face networking, and scouting from a wide range of populations to meet UC’s diversity goals.

In the process she not only cultivates relationships with hiring managers to better understand the types of people they need; she also tries to get inside the heads of her recruits to “speak their language” and figure out whether they will be the right fit for the job.

Howard has also worked for global management consulting firm Accenture, as well as the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Oakland Unified School District and Pacific Bell. But she seems to have found her niche in what she calls the “bright and talented” world of UC.

“The University of California was my first experience working in the world of higher education, and this is where I want to stay.”

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