Growing Your Own
From the September 2001 AAHE Bulletin
The Hudson County Community College Board of Trustees decided in 1993 to change the college’s mission statement and become a comprehensive urban community college. The president and the dean of planning and institutional research agreed that if the college was to be successful in implementing the new mission and in coping with the organizational and cultural changes that the implementation would require, a meaningful development program was necessary.
Previous staff development efforts had been limited to benefits workshops offered by the human resources office and several programs offered by the office of the vice president for academic affairs, including tuition reimbursement, a mid-career faculty fellowship program with Princeton University, sabbaticals, travel to selected conferences, and a few guest speakers.
In place of these isolated activities, the new, college-wide program was designed to reflect the college’s new mission and to provide for all employee groups (including adjunct faculty).
The president and the dean also agreed that in addition to this dramatic mission-based transformation, more normal or routine changes required a strong development program. These more-routine factors included changes in technology, knowledge obsolescence, the need to socialize new and old employees, the need for professional and career stimulation, changes in competitors and students, changes in employee benefits and responsibilities, and stakeholder demands for greater accountability.
The dean established a 15-member cross section advisory council to receive input from all sectors of the college community. While most council members serve for two years, the director of grants (chair of a small grants subcommittee) and the director of human resources are permanent members. The participation of the director of human resources provides opportunities for the coordination of activities between the council and that office.
Advisory council members turned to the manual Growing Your Own Staff Development Program (National Council for Staff, Program, and Organizational Development, 1993) by H.M. Burnstad, C. Hoss, and M. McHargue for initial guidance. The manual points out the connection between institutional mission and staff, program, and organizational development; the importance of the inclusion of administrators, faculty, and support staff within the term staff; and the variety of possible activities to be offered. HCCC’s ongoing program continues to be influenced by those ideas.
The general goal of the development program is to support and initiate programs and activities that serve the college’s new mission statement. These can be placed within four broad categories:
Community Building. These include activities and opportunities that either support a sense of community among employees or help to integrate employees at HCCC into the larger higher education community, such as a convocation with a nationally known educator as the keynote speaker; membership in national organizations; faculty orientation programs; and an internal monthly newsletter.
Professional Growth. These include activities and programs that have a direct relationship to the role performance of employees, such as educational opportunities; small grants of up to $1,500; internal workshops, seminars, and four college services days per year; support of travel to external workshops and conferences; and support of a library faculty and staff development collection.
Personal Growth. These include activities and programs that have a direct impact on the growth of employees as individuals. These may also have an impact on their role as employees at HCCC, such as benefits workshops, health information newsletter and programs, and legal rights and sexual harassment workshops. The human resources staff has taken the lead in these activities.
Recognition and Appreciation. These include activities and programs that enable the college community to formally acknowledge the extraordinary contributions of HCCC colleagues, such as professional educator of the year; annual National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Awards; recognition in college newsletters and at Board of Trustees meetings; and recognition in a Service and Scholarship Recognition booklet. One of the most successful recognition programs, according to participant surveys, is an annual luncheon and development program for support staff to celebrate Administrative Professionals Day.
Given the mission of each institution and the availability of resources, decisions concerning the priority among these categories must be made.
Each college must answer the what, where, who, and how questions. In addition, these questions must be revisited as the institutional environment, mission, goals, objectives, and resources change.
What? There is consensus that a development program should enhance attitudes, skills, knowledge, and performance of employees. That is easy. However, every program must face the “person vs. role” issue. Should the development program support a Weight Watchers group? Should an adjunct instructor of sociology receive a stipend for attending an in-house workshop on food preparation offered by a member of the culinary arts department? Does the program enhance the person as a person or as a player in a particular role? To what degree are resources available for both? In our case, many of the personal development activities are initiated by the human resources office. We have decided to devote our relatively scarce development resources mainly to role-related activities (i.e., professional growth, community building, and awards and recognition).
Where? If the program is to serve all employee categories, it must be seen as a neutral office. To the degree possible, it should be perceived as independent of the major divisions within the organization. In the HCCC case, it is not placed in academic affairs, student affairs, or administration and finance, but rather with other “neutral” offices, such as planning, program assessment, grants, and institutional research. At HCCC, it is located in the office of the dean of planning and institutional research.
Who? Who is to be served by the development program? At HCCC, there is a comprehensive program that includes all development activities and serves all employee categories. To reflect the latter, the original title of the advisory council was the Staff Development Committee. “Staff” was meant to be inclusive. However, faculty representatives suggested that a number of their colleagues did not feel that this term included them. Therefore, they recommended that the title be changed to the Faculty and Staff Development Council. This may appear to be a minor point. However, if members of an employee group feel that they have not been included, the program will not achieve its potential.
In addition to the issue of perceived inclusion, meaningful programs for support staff, adjunct faculty, and contracted personnel present serious challenges for a comprehensive development program.
How? Growing Your Own Staff Development Program provides wise advice on this issue. “Several campus colleagues should advise you and your program. . . . The committee members will contribute good ideas of their own and help you solicit other ones. They will also provide you with more credibility and increase the sense of 'ownership’ by your campus colleagues.”
Although it is not necessary to have each employee group represented in a proportional manner on the council, all employee groups should be represented. In terms of the appointment process, we rely on the dean and the council chair to use their direct knowledge or their contacts to identify the best candidates for the council. The president is then asked to forward a letter of invitation to each candidate. The letter from the president reinforces the importance of the work of the council. The president’s strong, public support (verbal and resources) for the development program’s administrator, the council, and the program is essential for successful program implementation.
In addition to these four questions, each institution must confront the issue of faculty and staff participation. Options range from a reliance upon internalized professional and career norms and values concerning development to formal requirements written into individual development plans and collective bargaining agreements. Monetary incentive plans are quite successful. For instance, at HCCC adjunct faculty are paid a $25 stipend for each in-house faculty workshop they attend. In addition, faculty and staff cite their participation in support of promotion and tenure decisions.
Successes and Lessons
In 1998, the National Council for Staff, Program, and Organizational Development selected HCCC as one of three institutions nationally to receive its Institutional Merit Award for Excellence in Programming.
A lesson from the HCCC experience is that development activities have a greater opportunity of being supported by the college’s administration and accepted by the faculty and staff when such activities reflect the college’s mission and mission statement. Given the nature of most mission statements, it is likely that the give-and-take concerning appropriate development activities will require a translation of general mission statements into more specific and ordered goals and objectives. As internal and external conditions such as funding change, development activities will also change. However, the mission statement should always provide the institutional justification for decisions concerning such activities.
In the absence of an institutional structure through which proposed activities can be reviewed and implemented, they will have no impact. A broad-based council, or a functional alternative, providing for meaningful internal consultation is a necessary condition for successful implementation. In the HCCC model we found that it was helpful to have a cabinet-level administrator (dean of planning and institutional research) to mediate between the council and the central administration. This structure enables the dean to consult with other administrators to ensure coordination across divisional lines. The cabinet-level representation also enables the dean to make the case for budgetary support.
The most important lesson that we have learned or had reinforced is that faculty and staff development professionals must remember that their programs and services are means to ends and not ends in themselves. The activities offered must be supportive of the institution’s mission and of the goals of employees.
Mark Oromaner is dean of planning and institutional research at Hudson County Community College, New Jersey. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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