HR Pillars and Priorities

We're focused on creating an ideal workplace for our employees - and here's how we're doing it.

Our Vision

The best staff and faculty in the world choose Cornell.

Our Mission

To collectively support an environment of inclusive excellence in scholarship where students, staff and faculty of Cornell learn, work and live as a community.

Our HR Community Structure

The HR Community includes members from both the centralized Division of the Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, and the Human Resources departments dedicated to the colleges and units. This dual organizational structure provides our HR Community with a vast breadth 0f information about our workforce, and enables us to share knowledge and expertise to make decisions and implement initiatives that are in the best interest of our large, varied, population.

Our Pillars, Priorities, and Projects

Our Human Resources work is anchored by four pillars – Belonging, Effectiveness, Stewardship, and Talent – which we recognize as central to an ideal workplace for our employees. These pillars in turn, serve as the cornerstone for our annual priorities and projects.


Increase the genuine sense of belonging of employees and retirees to Cornell

We are committed to embedding "One Cornell" in our workforce culture, and creating a workplace that allows all of us to be our best, most authentic, self. 

"Belonging" priorities and projects

  • Enhance the employee experience during onboarding and orientation

    • Welcoming and Orienting Employees to Cornell: A Supervisors Guide : a customizable tool to walk supervisors through the most common needs of a new employee during their first 120 days.
    • Welcome Center Website: a timeline-based guide to resources for new employees, integrated with Workday onboarding dashboard.
    • New Hire Decision/Enrollment Guide: a step-by-step introduction to benefits options, decision-making support, and enrollment instructions.
    • Streamlining of new hire messages: a reduction in frequency and length of communications to help new hires feel less overwhelmed.
    • Personalized Onboarding Dashboard in Workday (sample): Centralized hub for new hire actions and onboarding, customized to employee status and integrated with content housed in the Welcome website.  (View onboarding dashboard by clicking the cog icon (configure applications) in upper right of Workday landing dashboard; add "Onboarding" as an optional worklet.)
    • In discovery: An employee app 


  • Build a culture of belonging that supports our diverse workforce and champions inclusion for all members of our community

    • Developed a 5-year strategic plan for increasing staff diversity and inclusion.
    • Created the Disability is Diversity campaign to educate about the disability experience, build a community of disability allies, develop a culture in which individuals are empowered to speak out, and move our campus forward toward greater accessibility for all.
    • Doubled the overall response rate by faculty, academics, staff and union employees for the spring 2018 voluntary disability self-Identification survey. Results will provide a better picture of the diversity of our workforce and help to ensure that individuals with disabilities are supported and represented throughout the University.
    • Established a centralized disability accommodations fund for faculty, staff and guest speakers/scholars invited to campus as of July 2018.
    • Relaunched the Accessible Red Runner service to provide certain work and employment-related campus transportation effective as of July 2018.
    • Revamped the Inclusive Excellence Academy to provide workshops that focus on the actions participants can immediately implement in their unit or department that positively affect diversity, inclusion, and a genuine sense of belonging, including a podcast and biannual summit.
    • In development: Creating targeted recruitment plans for positions in key job families to increase diversity within the workforce.
    • In discovery: Conducting an inclusivity assessment to determine and improve the inclusivity of HR functional areas.
    • In discovery: Strengthening the structure and enhancing development opportunities offered through the colleague network groups.
  • Support employees in all aspects of their wellbeing

  • Promote opportunities for employees and retirees to engage

    • Implemented a “hiring experience” section on the Acclimation Survey; results have improved our understanding of the importance of more communication during hiring and impact of already knowing someone in an employee's sense of belonging.
    • Created a networking and support group for relocated new hires.
    • Developed a retiree exit survey; results have highlighted gender differences in employees' feelings of financial “preparedness” for retirement.
    • Piloted a series of new “belongingness” survey items with Alumni Affairs and Development.
    • Launched an improved staff exit survey

Enhance effectiveness of systems, technology, policies, procedures, and communications

We are committed to continuous improvement and thinking big in order to shrink roadblocks and make life easier for our employees. 

"Effectiveness" priorities and projects

  • Advance policies improvements and efficiencies
    • Improved priority policies to simplify and clarify content, and reduce administrative burden. Updated policies include:
      • guidelines for pay practices during Inclement Weather; and
      • several areas under Time Away from Work i.e., standardized the method for compensating holiday pay, simplified the formula for stopping and starting accruals while on paid leave, incorporated NYS Paid Family Leave law and aligned other aspects of Family and Medical Leaves for Staff with the federal FMLA
    • In development: identification and prioritization of additional policies
  • Make it easy for employees to find and share information through improved communication strategies and vehicles
    • Implemented website improvements to including a streamlined menu structure for easier navigation.
    • Completed audit of web pages and documents for compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA; several significant updates have been implemented, with more continuing.
    • Rebranded Working@Cornell Facebook presence to appeal to employees throughout the lifecycle at Cornell.
    • In development: strategic social media plan to engage current and prospective employees.
  • Leverage technology solutions, and expand Workday offerings

Serve as responsible stewards of the university’s resources

We are committed to exercising fiduciary responsibility in our service-centered environment.

"Stewardship" priorities and projects

  • Review benefit programs and services for increased effectiveness and efficiencies
    • Completed a redesign of Cornell/vendor information for both Open Enrollment and Option Transfer for 2018, including new comprehensive guides that provided employees with decision worksheets and step-by-step instructions for completing their enrollments.
    • Completed a review of health and other benefit plans for the usage of gender terminology and to compare coverage and support for LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff. Findings were presented to the Employee Assembly.
    • Designed and implemented Cornell’s policy under the New York Paid Family Leave Act (NYPFL) providing a higher-level of compensated leave for staff to bond for a newborn or newly adopted child, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
    • Completed negotiation and renewal of Cornell/Aetna health plans for 2018, with a focus on plan enhancement (where possible) and mitigating cost increases to both staff and Cornell. Despite continued growth in medical and Rx claims, negotiated to maintain current level of plan design (no reductions) and to need to pass on only a modest increase in staff contributions
    • Implemented a new benefits service model that offers employees enhanced counseling on health and retirement, as well as additional access to resources.
    • In development: re-constitution of a group of approximately 15 vendors, service providers and Cornell groups to review and assist Cornell staff and Ithaca area community with health-related issues. The group will be tasked with determining 3-5 high health needs areas per year to focus a concerted effort on education, prevention, treatment, and providing local and national resources.
    • In development: overall review and re-structuring/re-design of health plan information related to benefits.

Foster individual and organizational advancement through talent recruitment, development, and recognition strategies

We are committed to the career and overall satisfaction of our workforce, through opportunities for growth, recognition, and engagement. 

"Talent" priorities and projects

  • Promote continual development and growth as a way for employees to unleash their full potential
  • Support employees in finding meaning and fulfillment in their work by connecting responsibilities and actions to the university mission and goals
    • In development: expansion of the Workday profile to help an employee better understand how their individual skills, knowledge, and job responsibilities impact the university as a whole.
    • In development: college/unit mission statements that better align working at Cornell with the university mission.
  • Embed recognition and reward into our university culture so employees feel valued for their contributions
    • Launched  a real time peer-to-peer recognition system that allows employees to thank colleagues across campus, and empowers managers to reward individual achievements throughout the year.
    • Revamped a robust  and inclusive employee award program that shares excitement for the achievements of staff who go above and beyond to create a culture of belonging at Cornell.
  • Revitalize our dual career and engagement services to address challenges of changing family structures and priorities
    • Enhanced coordination with the Offices of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development and Diversity.
    • Provide enhanced communications and monthly updates to the college and unit leadership; Vice Presidents, Deans, Chairs and HR Directors regarding the spouse/partner’s job search and networking activities.
      • A comprehensive, monthly summary regarding program participants is shared with Dual Career Program leadership.
    • Tailoring the Engagement Program to meet the needs and interests of each new hire in the program.
    • In development:  A campus working group will be formed to formalize a best practice service approach for the dualcareer spouse/partner.
    • In development: Joint Dual Career/Engagement Program Reception