Life as a Student Affairs Professional is certainly never a dull moment and it also seems like we never have enough staff to complete all the goals that we establish each year. Staying proactive has become increasing difficult because we either can’t find or can’t afford that staff we need to survive the year.
Attracting Quality Candidates: Things to Consider
In certain instances colleges and universities have not only lowered their job specifications to attract more candidates, they have also changed the way they interview and offer positions. Institutions have lowered requirements from masters preferred to bachelors preferred and have developed opportunities for bachelors level Hall Directors to complete their masters either at their institution or at an area school that has a masters degree. This has enabled some schools to keep quality candidates for a longer period of time without being concerned about constant changeover. Institutions are also able to offer on-campus interviews at conferences, or offer positions at conferences in hopes of speeding up the hiring process.
In any time of staffing shortages perhaps we have to truly think about the future of student affairs and be proactive with the students that we have on our campuses that are interested in being student staff. Cultivating these student leaders may be somewhat long range, but could be our student affairs leaders of the future. This would include working more closely with student organizations, residence hall associations, residence life staff etc.
Managing Staffing Shortages: Some Ideas
We start a painting every year and before you know it the end of the year is upon us and without enough paint or the right colors we make everything turn out OK. Perhaps we need to start looking at how we do business and assess the jobs we are doing and how we are educating students. What programs can be cut out? What programs do students really learn from? Do we ensure quality in the programs that we provide and how do we create a work environment that is healthy, productive, and empowering?
Some ways to manage during these times is by being open to change. We must become familiar with other staffing models and use benchmarking to assess the strengths and weakness of what similar institutions might be doing to handle their programs during this difficult time. We all know how difficult change can be, but most times it is a matter of will than magic acts. In the book “Improving Staffing Practices in Student Affairs” the authors suggest that an organizational structure moving toward a participatory and interactive system would be best to create an environment were quality can be obtained and collaborative efforts can bring about change. It appears that we need to work very hard to keep the employees we do have and make sure that they have a quality of life where they feel valued and part of the decision process.
One way to make employees feel part of the process is to empower our staff members so they we have ownership over activities in which they can grow. This is a time where we have to truly trust our people if we are going to avoid being overworked and stressed out. Because if we, as supervisors, are not healthy how can we make sure that those who tow the line with us every day are making it. Learn what your staff members’ strengths and desires are. Perhaps you have someone who can fill that missing link without going through a hiring process; perhaps you have someone on staff that already has the expertise and experiences that could perform the task.
The students of today are smart customers and feel like they are entitled to the world and I would also say the same for many of our employees. We must remember that the commitment of student affairs professionals is to the service to our students and the development of the “whole” person. We shouldn’t forget that our employees want to be “whole” people too.
Improving Staffing Practices in Student Affairs
By Roger B. Winston, Jr. and Don G. Creamer
By Richard S. Wellins, William C. Bynam, and Jeanne M. Wilson
Submitted by Edwin B. Mayes, Assistant Dean of Students, Wittenberg University