IPF student takes a leading role in creating website for new MSU employees

Large sign on Spartan Stadium with the Spartan helmet framed by a blue sky and wispy clouds

Danielle Fowler

April 6, 2021

In answer to MSU’s need for a more standardized process for new hires, the MSU Unit Onboarding and Offboarding Initiative, with the help of IPF employees, has created a one-stop-shop for new employees and those who are transitioning to a different position or leaving MSU.

Employees from IPF helped develop the process. Over the course of the two-year project, subcommittees systematically gathered information from various colleges and units across campus. Supervisors, HR personnel, and union representatives were asked, “What resources do you wish you had to welcome new employees?” New employees were asked, “What do you think you should have known or done when you began your position?”

"As big as MSU is, it’s overwhelming for new employees,” said Michelle Rutkowski, an IPF HR administrator. "They were getting overwhelmed with information within that first one day, one week, one month.”

A young white woman with long brown hair in a white collared shirt and black blazer smiles at the camera
Taylor Unrath, IPF student employee

The research resulted in a list of over 500 tasks that faculty, staff, and supervisors designated as important for bringing a new employee onboard. The tasks encompassed the diverse types of positions at MSU: researchers, mechanics, administrative assistants, and more. From there, Rutkowski tasked Taylor Unrath, IPF HR student employee and a senior in the College of Social Science, to help organize the information into a website. The goal was to provide an accessible, comprehensive repository for new and transitioning employee tasks and resources.

Though Unrath had never used or created a SharePoint site, Rutkowski recognized her potential and gave her full control of the site’s development.

“It’s telling a story, and Taylor was the illustrator,” said Rutkowski. “When you look at that website and you look at the design, I would say that it is 97 percent Taylor. She had a great eye for finding what makes a page look too busy or too boring, and what makes it look inviting and what could be overwhelming.”

It took about two months for Unrath, in collaboration with Jake Lathrop from central HR, to finalize the website’s structure, content and design. There was a focus on making it user friendly and approachable, especially for those not familiar with MSU. The most important thing about successfully bringing a new employee to MSU, said Rutkowski, is the feeling.

Screenshot of the Employee Transitions website with the words your job your story what will you write today

The Employee Transitions site, available to all MSU employees, is hosted on Sharepoint.

“These are resources that will welcome you, these are resources that will help you in your first month,” she said. Unrath reviewed the language carefully and avoided anything that was “cold and clinical,” like “onboarding.” Instead, she opted for plain language phrases like “preparing for your first day.”

Working with Unrath “was a tremendous experience as Taylor was incredibly professional, knowledgeable and responsive,” said Jake Lathrop, HR consultant. “Our goal was to ease the stress and anxiety of starting or leaving a job. Her work in creating visually pleasing content in a new system for us was impeccable.”

The website is telling a story, and Taylor was the illustrator.
Michelle Rutkowski, IPF HR administrator

The team ensured that the final product was useful to the entire MSU community, including colleges and units. Unrath noted that because IPF is such a large unit, issues that impact MSU at a high level also directly affect IPF.

“We can fix things on a smaller scale and scale it up,” she said. “IPF has a reputation as problem solvers, from custodians to architects. When something’s a problem, the university often kicks it to us and we figure it out.”

Those with an MSU login can explore the Employee Transitions website here.