Michelle Jones-Johnson is WPI’s new vice president for talent development and chief diversity officer. Her role in the Office of Human Resources oversees all HR activities. This innovative approach to talent development will have Jones-Johnson collaborating with many groups on campus from faculty and staff to students and organizations, and is a direct result of a recent climate survey crafted to help create WPI’s first strategic diversity plan. Recently the Journal asked Jones-Johnson a few quick questions to get a sense of her goals and aspirations for the coming year.
Throughout your 23-year career, what are the biggest changes you have witnessed within the field of HR?
The greatest changes have been in the changing role of HR and the focus on managing talent within an organization.
HR professionals are not just interested in the transactional aspects of the work but are keenly aware of the opportunity to have a more impactful and strategic role on the broader organization both in terms of its people and in supporting the organization in meeting its business objectives.
What is the message reflected in the change in your position —from VP of HR to VP for Talent Development and Chief Diversity Officer?
The role represents more than a title change. It reflects a shift in institutional priorities that align with our strategic initiatives that are enabled through a robust talent management approach grounded in diversity, not just in terms of representation, but inclusive of different perspectives and contributions.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in creating a more supportive, inclusive campus here at WPI?
I view life through a lens of opportunity and possibility, each which represent a level of transformation and change that may feel daunting to some or unfamiliar to others. I am excited about working collaboratively with the WPI community to create a strategic roadmap to further build our culture and strengthen inclusion throughout all aspects of our community.
In an academic setting, what are your key initiatives to support employee and leadership recruitment and retention?
I plan to focus on attracting, developing, and retaining talent that distinguishes WPI in the competitive marketplace. WPI is competing for talent both inside and outside of the higher education marketplace. We have to create a strong employee value proposition and craft an enticing employer brand that speaks to the excellence we desire in talent and the diversity we value.
What’s your own strategy for maintaining a fun work/home/healthy balance?
I gave up striving for balance and focus more on choosing to find joy and gratitude in all that I do. I laugh a LOT! I spend time with people who fuel my need for connection, love, and inspiration. I prioritize date night with my husband. I gave up trying to be perfect. I close the door to messy rooms and instead opt to go out and have fun with my family.