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Implementation Insights – Shared positions

November 2023 | Courtney Thornton

This month, I caught up with leaders from University Advancement (UA) and University Human Resources (UHR) to learn how they are using shared positions to drive progress on the FY22-24 implementation plan External Link, specifically Initiative 5.9.3 (Implement the OneHR vision) and Objective 7.7 (Enhance NC State’s donor relations and stewardship practices).

UA shares a stewardship-focused position with the College of Natural Resources. UHR shares an employee relations-focused position with the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and an HR generalist position with the Wilson College of Textiles.

Individuals in the shared UA and UHR positions learn and serve in two directions. First, as part of a central office staff, they obtain specialized skills and knowledge that may not exist in the college. Second, as part of a college, they gain valuable insight on their college’s structure, culture, and unique assets and approaches. As CVM Assistant Dean Sheri Renno describes, “The individual in this role integrates into and learns in detail the culture and people of the college while bringing broader consistency to employee relations management through exposure as a UHR employee.” Because they straddle two operational levels, these individuals are well positioned to grow shared understandings and collaborative practices in their central unit and in their college.

Certainly, not all shared positions that exist at NC State are shared between a central office and a college or unit. But these examples are uniquely instructive on one way that leaders can and are driving uniform strategy, culture, and practice on a highly decentralized campus.


While shared positions often result in cost savings that partner units can redirect to other priorities, they offer other significant benefits as well. Here are a few that UA, UHR and their college partners have observed so far.

  • Shared positions can be vehicles for strategy and culture. UA’s stewardship strategy for the university is comprehensive and includes stewardship planning, implementation, and evaluation of projects. Similarly, UHR’s OneHR strategy aims to raise the effectiveness of the HR function across NC State by raising the knowledge of all HR professionals, broadening their wealth of resources, and preparing them for more advanced positions in the HR function. Through their shared positions, UA and UHR are deploying university-wide strategies and best practices in close partnership with colleges and units while also meeting real workload needs at both levels.
    “Shared positions enable our team to centrally drive the overall stewardship strategy across NC State,” explains Heather Tart, Senior Director of Stewardship and the Stewardship Hub. “This allows the university to provide a more consistent and enhanced stewardship experience for our donors while also improving overall efficiencies in processes.”
  • Shared positions can generate collaborative sparks and better problem solving. Wilson College of Textiles Assistant Dean Alicia Lecceardone notes, “A key priority for the Wilson College of Textiles is to ‘Nurture a hyper-collaborative culture rooted in equality of opportunity.’ The fiber of this is creating spaces to empower teams to do their very best work, limiting restrictions or the confines of preconceived notions of who is on what team. Creating shared positions between two disparate groups has the chance to enable hyper-collaborative sparks that can lead to more dynamic solutions to benefit the entire campus community.”
  • Shared positions can be career changers. Shared positions between central offices and colleges and units provide unique career development opportunities that may help grow and retain talent at the university. Renno explains that CVM’s shared position with UHR provides “complex employee relations services at the college and university level while also being integrally involved in college level academic HR operations. This can potentially poise the individual to grow into higher level leadership roles with that combined experience.”

Lessons learned

Central offices, colleges or units considering a shared position may learn from the advice of UA, UHR and their partner colleges.

  • Commit to support the person, first and foremost. Individuals who agree to split work locations and responsibilities need their cooperating supervisors to provide consistent expectations and a cohesive work environment. Cooperating supervisors can help by identifying individual or unit expectations that may prove challenging to meet in a shared model. Renno explained, “[My UHR partner] and I have had consistent communication and discussed the hard questions such as how do we support the person in this position when maybe we have differing approaches or desired outcomes as supervisors?” Unexpected circumstances are inevitable in roles that straddle two organizations. When those situations arise, “Challenge the process, not the people,” Lecceardone advises.
  • Have a clear plan to provide for the day-to-day needs. Individuals in shared positions need the same things as other employees to be successful, including technology, space, materials, and professional development. Cooperating supervisors should decide and communicate early which unit will support each identified need. Such decisions are often captured and communicated in a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
  • Keep the bigger vision in mind from the start. UA and UHR’s shared positions with colleges are the first of several planned and are at their earliest stages. Knowing that each college and unit has its own structure and culture, UA and UHR sought to develop these first positions in ways that could be replicated and deliver sustained value across very different environments. “Each area is structured differently,” says Tart, “and you need to think big picture when determining what services your team will be able to provide moving forward.”
  • Be bold and agile. Shared positions with cooperating supervisors are still more the exception than the rule. They are experiments that require patience and a bold willingness to think and do differently. Renno notes that the commitment to “clearing the way for a good experience for the incumbent and the university…has allowed us to pivot where needed and build on the areas that have been immediately successful within this model.” Lecceardone sums it up as, “Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

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Thanks to the following contributors for this post:

  • Tim Danielson, Associate Vice Chancellor, University Human Resources
  • Amy Feriozzi, Executive Director, Development, Communications and Stewardship, University Advancement
  • Alicia Lecceardone, Assistant Dean for Human Resources, Wilson College of Textiles
  • Sheri Renno, Assistant Dean for Human Resources, College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Heather Tart, Senior Director of Stewardship and the Stewardship Hub, University Advancement