He's Here to Stay

Expanding opportunities make Creighton's Mark Panning happy to stick around.

Mark Panning wasnt planning for a long career at Creighton University when he moved to Omaha in 1991.

He expected to earn a masters degree in computer science at the nearby University of Nebraska and just happened upon a programmer job opening at Creighton.

Now, 16 years later, Panning has no plans to leave.

According to Vice President and CIO Brian A. Young, turnover during the past 12 months has been only 3.7% for a department of 120 permanent workers. Young credits his departments people-first philosophy for the low rate.

Mark Panning

Mark PanningWe focus on people, leadership skills, where do they want to go and how do we help them get there, he says.

It helps, of course, that Young can offer his employees free tuition for two courses a semester plus the ability to audit as many courses as they want. But he says he supports workers who take classes outside the university, too, and finds resources to make it happen.

Young also encourages his workers to stay up to date with technology and assume more responsibilities to stay challenged in their jobs. He brings in a leadership coach four days a month for anyone on staff to meet with.

Best Places for Retention
1. National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
2. Commonwealth Financial Network
3. Quicken Loans Inc.
4. Creighton University
5. Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
6. University of Miami
7. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
8. The Readers Digest Association Inc.
9. Informatica Corp.
10. Sharp HealthCare
To determine this top 10 list, we considered the following factors: Frequency of employee satisfaction surveys, turnover rate, promotions and corporate communication initiatives.

Its that kind of environment that has kept Panning at Creighton for so long. Its about you the person rather than a number, he says. Were challenged to reach for the stars, so to speak, to think big. If we have an idea, our ideas go all the way up to Brian, and to have your ideas heard, that makes a difference.

Panning has taken advantage of the departments policies and principles to develop new skills, advance his career and make his mark on the university as a whole. He has taken about 10 upper-level computer-related courses at Creighton for free.

He has also worked with the universitys leadership coach to sharpen his skills for serving his business clients. And Panning and others received extensive training when Creighton moved from a mainframe system to a client/server, Oracle-based system in the late 1990s.

Panning started as a first-level programmer in the university relations department but has moved to a second-level programmer job that involves more complex designing. Hes now a team lead/project manager supervising six programmers and overseeing a consulting team. Pannings area of responsibility has expanded with his new position, too, growing from just university relations to include human resources and payroll.

Panning sees more opportunities ahead and says that with building expansions and new directions for the university, its an exciting time, and its great to be part of that.

Hes not just going along for the ride. Panning says his ability to influence whats ahead is another reason why he has stayed. He serves on several committees, which allows him to explore new technologies to help university officials become more efficient in various areas.

I like the fact that Im helping people and Im learning [about new technology] at the same time, he says.

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Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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