Building Up Business Education in the Badger State

Jill Yarberry-Laybourn Human Resources, Issue 15 - Jan/Feb 2015 Leave a Comment

Assistant Dean of HR Jason Jankoski is acquiring top talent to teach tomorrow’s business leaders, and directing his University of Wisconsin School of Business team to do the same

The University Of Wisconsin School Of Business continues to “build upon a long tradition of innovation and excellence.” That mission is being carried out by Jason Jankoski. As Assistant Dean of Human Resources (HR), he is utilizing his educational experiences and expertise to lead the department and to help develop HR objectives and strategies.

For many, leading an important business function at a university that prides itself on developing students who are “best prepared to transform the world of business” might feel a bit intimidating. Not for Jankoski. He has been up for the challenge, and he has not been left wanting.


The Art of Talent Acquisition

One of Jankoski’s most beloved job responsibilities is talent acquisition. In fact, it is in part one of the reasons he changed his major from Accounting to Human Resources.

“Accounting solutions tend to be more defined, and there is often a right and a wrong answer,” Jankoski said. “The art of attracting candidates to a position and selecting the very best candidate for the position tends to be more varied and less predictable, which really intrigued me.”

It also has been a rewarding aspect of his HR role. “Especially,” he said, “when you can match someone up with a job that meets their skill requirements and our skill requirements. That can be very exciting.”

Another piece of talent acquisition that intrigues Jankoski is compensation. While public universities often aren’t able to compensate business professionals at the same rate as their private sector employers, Jankoski and the University of Wisconsin Business School present “an opportunity to make a difference, and offer a work-life balance that may or may not be available in some corporate settings.”

The Art of Strategy

Strategic planning is another key aspect of Jankoski’s role. His direct supervisor, who is an HR Professor by trade, helps.

Speaking of his supervisor, Jankoski noted, “He often challenges me to think about HR as a strategic partner.”

Inspired as such, Jankoski tries to spend a significant part of his day thinking about where HR is going and ensuring that his team is heading in that direction. “It is easy, as with any profession, to get bogged down by the day-to-day tasks,” he acknowledged. “If we are not thinking about how we can improve and make our processes better, if we don’t actually take time to do that, we won’t reach our strategic goals.”

Some of the strategic goals of HR, in conjunction with the School of Business’ vision, are making sure that all of the individuals in the school understand what the university’s goals are and what contributions they are making toward those goals. Another strategic goal is to provide comprehensive training opportunities and encourage individuals to take advantage of the professional development resources available to them. HR is not only strategically planning, but also leading.

“We try to partner with campus to really be collaborative with our goals,” Jankoski said. “We try to lead some of these initiatives so we are helping campus and not working against it.”


A Deep Pool

One of the most fulfilling aspects of working at the School of Business is access to a large pool of educators with whom Jankoski and his team can exchange ideas and debate theory.

“I try to meet with our professors on a fairly regular basis,” Jankowski said, “and discuss the HR theories they are talking about in class and how we are living out those theories in our office.” He finds it is interesting to see if the theories and the research align.

Jankoski also has the benefit of impacting students and their futures. He works with a pool of talented students, of whom he can choose an intern to spend a year with him in the HR office.

“We try and integrate them into the culture of HR and convey some of the excitement and energy,” he said. “You can teach theory in the classroom, but the day-to-day experiences can only come with practical application.”

The Tenements of Leadership

The School of Business teaches the theories and practices behind sound leadership. And while Jankoski learned a great deal regarding leadership in college, a few of the most important aspects came to him via experience.

“You have to remember that theory is based on ideas,” he said. “What actually works in reality and doesn’t work in HR, you have to actually experience it.”

One experience that taught Jankoski about leadership was one he lived through in Eagle Scouts. “I remember the scoutmaster took me aside and said, ‘The other boys really do respect you, and I see you as the natural choice. But, you have to accept that role to be successful.’” Jankoski eventually accepted his fate, and found that he greatly enjoyed it.

As a leader, “You do have more of an impact and you do help direct how the organization is going, and I liked that,” Jankoski said. “I also liked working with individuals and delegating responsibilities to help others grow. Throughout my career, that has been the role and the way I have taken on leadership.”

Herding Elephants

Jankoski also learned from his scoutmaster that leading doesn’t always have to be done from in front of the herd. “I didn’t really feel comfortable leading out front,” Jankoski admitted. His scout leader told him the story of an African tribe that learned to effectively lead elephants.

“He indicated that elephants do not move if they do not want to move, but if you are running alongside the elephants, oftentimes the elephants will follow the direction you are moving.”

This story fueled Jankoski’s strong desire to lead by example. However and whatever he expects of his team, he expects of himself.

“If we are short staffed,” he said, “we are all going to take on some additional work.”

Transforming HR

Jankoski’s ability to manage, lead, strategize and innovate has earned him the right to help redesign HR. The redesign will help the university develop its own personnel structure that will focus on the uniqueness of it being a public research institution. The university has been operating on two different HR systems: an academic system and a stateside system.

“The two systems have some similarities, but they also have some significant differences,” Jankoski said. “The current structure has some natural inefficiencies.”

That is where Jankoski and other members of the HR community have worked together. “Our campus is working diligently to formulate the policies and procedures, the end goal of which is to hire and recruit the best talent we can.”

Supported by Jankoski’s leadership, the HR Department at the University of Wisconsin Business School is leading the herd—sometimes out front, sometimes alongside.  And meeting their goals is filling a pretty tall order. To transform the world of business is a lofty but clearly obtainable goal for Jankoski and his team.


Jill Yarberry-Laybourn is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

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