Staff Council to study professional development at CU and beyond

Group aims to raise awareness, increase opportunities for growth

University of Colorado Staff Council members will begin to research professional development options provided by the university while also looking at what other institutions around the nation offer as a comparison.

The governance group discussed the plan at its monthly meeting Nov. 13 at CU system offices at 1800 Grant St. The group previously has expressed concerns about the availability of development opportunities for staff members and the ways those options are presented, which, in many cases, vary depending upon campus, department and even supervisor.

While university faculty members might have pools of money or grants that may be used for professional development, staff members – in many cases – must pay for additional training on their own, even if the education relates to their current job.

“How can we change the climate, shift the culture from ‘doing your job’ to promoting growth within the system?” asked Deserae Friske, council chair. “Maybe it’s not just core development, but certificate programs or organizations or guilds that promote knowledge. What if the education is not job-specific but still brings value to your job?” She said both the university and staff would gain from increased development opportunities, even if skills weren’t specific to a currently held position.

The university currently offers a number of professional development courses, many of them online, as well as guides and other training methods through its Employee Learning and Development program.

Council members discussed whether the opportunities available were adequate, whether staff members were taking advantage of them, and whether money could be made available for additional training. Council also discussed the issue of selective training: For instance, staff members on a management track might be given training but the opportunities might not be available for a person who wants to develop leadership skills but isn’t interested in a management job.

Because much of what council members know about university development comes via personal experience or constituent anecdotes, the group will research what the university offers and how it compares to other institutions.

Council will take several steps in the next few months to find answers. First, Janet Lowe, director of Employee Learning and Development, will be invited to a meeting to discuss programs offered to employees. Over the next several weeks, council members will contact universities around the country to determine what those institutions offer and how those programs compare to ones offered by CU. Once facts have been gathered, council members will decide whether to pursue a policy revision or other methods of promoting staff development.

E. Jill Pollock, vice president for employee and information services, said the university is developing a system that would link job descriptions to a catalog of courses and other learning tools so that staff would be able to determine what skills are needed for certain positions or career paths. The catalog is part of an ongoing upgrade to PeopleSoft, the human resources management system used by the university. She also said she is considering ways to make personal development part of the total compensation package for university employees. One idea might be to provide a fixed dollar amount to each person for development activities or to reward those who participate in certain activities.