During the fall 2012 semester, Debra Rubart, Anne Noon-Scaggs, Cindy Moser, and Amy Grim worked together to conceptualize and create an onboarding program for new administrative staff. The purpose of the program was to effectively transition new administrative staff to Lehigh’s work environment and to learn university wide administrative processes. The program would take new hires “beyond orientation” and was in line with Lehigh’s Strategic Plan of investing in faculty and staff.
In February 2013, a proposal was submitted to Jackie Matthews, Associate Vice President for Human Resources. With the support of Human Resources, Judy Zavalydriga, Director of Employee Relations and Work Learning Programs, joined the committee and the work began on the planning and implementation of a comprehensive program, along with a training component for captains. In July 2013, Margie Barry joined the committee.
The program took on an aviation theme. In the fall of 2013, a seasoned staff member (captain) from each of the academic colleges was inivted to participate in a test run of the program. Captains attended training and were paired with a newly hired staff member (co-pilot). A total of two test runs were completed resulting in minor enhancements to the program and to the training component. In January 2014, SOAR was introduced and eligible staff members were invited to participate. The program is peer-to-peer (staff assisting and supporting staff), so training of 18 new captains in the spring of 2014 was facilitated by the committee members - fellow administrative staff.
Key points of the program are as follows:
- qualified captains solicited in fall and attend a training program
- supervisor support obtained for both captains and co-pilots
- captains and co-pilots paired and “take flight” for 45 days
- admission into the program is a rolling process and co-pilots can opt-out if desired
- both parties contacted 7 days into the program to “check-in” with their progress
- at the end of the 45 day flight, an evaluation is completed by both the captains and the co-pilots
- information from the final evaluation is analyzed to make improvements and modifications as needed
It is the goal of the committee that through SOAR, lasting relationships can be developed, staff can “excel to great heights” to be successful in their positions, can be engaged, and can be connected to Lehigh in a positive and productive way.
SOAR co-pilots and captains participated in the 2014 United Way Day of Caring at Feed the Children in Bethlehem. Packages of food were essembled, enough to feed 800 families in the Lehigh Valley.
The first celebration luncheon for SOAR was held in April 2014, the week of Administrative Professional Appreciation Week. Co-pilots who completed the program (earned their wings) and captains who participated were recognized.