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Action Report 3

Action Project


Highland Community College




Jeff Davidson






  • Planned project kickoff date: 01-01-2005
  • Target completion date: 01-01-2005
  • Actual completion date: —

A. Give this Action Project a short title in 10 words or fewer:

Employment Enhancement and Development

B. Describe this Action Project’s goal in 100 words or fewer:

The primary goal of this project is to provide systematic and broad based support for employees in their efforts to grow personally and professionally.

C. Identify the single AQIP Category which the Action Project will most affect or impact:

Primary Category: Valuing People

D. Describe briefly your institution’s reasons for taking on this Action Project now — why the project and its goals are high among your current priorities:

Many employees have expressed a desire to grow personally and professionally in the belief that such growth will help them do their jobs better. The college has supported these kinds of development activities in the past but never in a systematic manner. As a result, support for personal and professional development has been uneven and inconsistent across divisions. If we are truly to implement a quality-centered culture, we need to demonstrate the important role every employee plays in this process, and encourage all employees to serve that role. We believe that training which assists our employees in their personal and professional growth will demonstrate that commitment. In addition, this training can provide the basis for future projects by helping employees understand the relationship between their job functions and the operations of the institution as a whole, particularly in a quality-centered culture.

E. List the organizational areas – -institutional departments, programs, divisions, or units — most affected by or involved in this Action Project:

The AQIP steering committee, responding to the wishes of the college community, has insisted that this project reach all employees of the college: faculty, staff and administration as well as all full-time and part-time employees. While the significant challenge of this project will be living up to that standard, successful completion of the project should, by definition, affect all areas of the college.

F. Name and describe briefly the key organizational process(es) that you expect this Action Project to change or improve:

Again, because of the wide-ranging and systematic focus of this project, this project has the potential to affect all areas of the college and one measure of success can be the degree to which the program penetrates all levels and divisions of the college.

G. Explain the rationale for the length of time planned for this Action Project (from kickoff to target completion):

We will form a broadly representative committee to oversee each action project. In addition to the specific task given to each committee, these committees will also be required to develop a program or system to regularly update the entire college community on the progress of the project. These committees will also need to be open to input from throughout the college community and will actively need to seek that input. Finally, the AQIP steering committee will regularly distribute an AQIP newsletter as a tool for continuous “marketing” of the AQIP function on campus.

H. Describe how you plan to monitor how successfully your efforts on this Action Project are progressing:

We hope to encourage employee development even as we are putting the system in place. It will be very important that we track employee participation and reasons for participation (and lack of participation) so we can address those issues as we develop the final program. In addition, the steering committee for this project will need to meet regularly and make continuous progress toward the goal. Becuase of that, the minutes and agendas of that committee can also serve as a process measure.

I. Describe the overall “outcome” measures or indicators that will tell you whether this Action Project has been a success or failure in achieving its goals:

The most obvious outcome measure for this project would be the existence of a systematic program for employee development. However, the program is truly successful only if employees at all levels take advantage of the opportunity. Therefore, additional outcome measures can include the number of employees who take advantage of development opportunities, the degree to which supervisors encourage participation in development activities (measured by such items as number of opportunities identified and reported to appropriate staff members, willingness to respond to scheduling issues, etc.).

J. Other information (e.g., publicity, sponsor or champion, etc.):

Focus on studying development needs and current efforts to respond to those needs to identify and develop the appropriate program structureFocus on developing institutional cultural changes necessary for successful implementation of the programImplementation of program, assessment of success, and development of remediation strategies for problems identified in the assessment

K. Project Leader and contact person:

Contact Name: Jill Janssen, Acting Vice President Administrative Ser
Phone: 815-599-3432   Ext.

Annual Update: 2005-09-09

A. Describe the past year’s accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.

To gain representative input, the Team conducted focus groups of eight employee groups. The Team asked each group a uniform set of questions relating to Employee Enhancement and Development. In total, we conducted 11 focus meetings, which included 95 employees, HCC employees by 10% to 51% of each employee group. In addition we surveyed all budget managers on their budget and supervisory practices related to Employee Enhancement. Focus group input was analyzed and ten common themes identified. With these the Team developed a model for Employee Enhancement and Development. The model consists of the four mutually related emphasis areas of personal, departmental, college-wide, and interdepartmental appreciation development issues. The model graphically links these areas using circles because learning is a constant process in which the results of one Enhancement activity will influence many aspects of an employee’s position within the College or their personal life. Examples from these four emphasis areas span from wellness and bird identification to instructional methods and technology applications to required safety and diversity training to showcasing individual departments. The Team has developed a series of specific recommendations for implementing the model. The recommendations were outlined as “good, better, best” scenarios representing various budgeting alternatives.

Review (09-20-05):

First, this is a great Action Project, and HCC needs to be commended for being highly evolved enough to identify it and attempt it. Also, the review is off to a great start by supplying measurable specifics. I also like that the Action Project addresses several AQIP Categories and Principles in addition to the primary category of Valuing People, and it seems to promote a culture of continuous quality improvement beyond this one Action Project. I especially like that the college is attempting to address the total-person identity of its employees. Retention issues for length of employment regularly specify two reasons why employees don’t last: “the job was no fun”, and “they didn’t care about me”. It sounds like HCC may have a project to be presented as the Higher Learning Commission’s Annual Meeting. I also like the ongoing, constant-process tone imbedded in this summary, and the apparent attempts that HCC has made to be consistent, equitable, and free of bias in helping employees achieve the personal development component of this Action Project. This is mostly apparent in the employee-tracking portion of the review. My encouragement and caveat is that HCC keep measuring participation by department because I suspect that department and division heads will vary widely in their philosophical and non-verbal support of the initiative. I also like the comparative scenarios of “good, better, best” for representing budgeting alternatives. The system provides feedback without micromanaging or nitpicking.

B. Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.

We believed to be of value this project had to be meaningful to all College employees, therefore, we sought input from as many employees as possible. Focus groups were conducted, as mentioned above, reaching from 10%-52% of each employment group. When the Team met to disseminate the focus group responses, individuals from each focus group again attended to clarify and confirm each group’s position. In order to include as many part-time instructors as possible, the focus group questions were mailed to 100% of that group. We received responses from 10% of the group (13 part-time instructors). A questionnaire was sent to 100% of budget managers with 25% response rate. Finally, the Vice President of Administrative Services was interviewed regarding budget implications. Our Team consists of 7 employees, spanning a variety of employment groups.

Review (09-20-05):

HCC’s approach to this Action Project is very inclusive, which is good generally, but it’s especially important in a project like this because employees who feel excluded by this initiative will quickly develop resentment. It promotes AQIP Princlples such as Involvement, People, Collaboration, and Foresight. I’m curious to know the results of the interview with the VPAS to be sure the project has buy-in from the top. I’m also curious to know why you didn’t have 100% resonse from everyone, since the project is designed to help employees all around. In one way, it’s a hypothetical speculation, but in another way, it may be something to ask yourselves for future planning. It’s also one of those questions where the answer may sting a little. My recommendation in this section is that, with a team of only 7 employees, the project can quickly develop a we/they tone, which is the first step in cliquishness and feelings of competition and alienation. In fact, my initial reaction is to the use of the word “team” in the first place…it’d be better to identify yourselves as 7 representatives, or something like that. Semantics aside, there’s an orientation to this Action Project that can be immensely successful if it’s infused college-wide. Also, it’s good that the 7 employees span a variety of employment groups, but I’d recommend a variety of levels of authority as well (You may already be doing this, but the review didn’t specify, so I thought I’d mention it). Lastly, since most colleges use adjuncts to teach about a third of our courses, I’m delighted that you contacted 100% of the adjunct group to include them in this Action Project, and I’m wondering of any of the 13 who responded may be interested in being an eighth member to represent a part-time perspective.

C. Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.

Need to complete our written project report and present our recommendations to the AQIP Steering Committee. Recommendations include:

  1. Annually survey employees, departments, and college leadership on employee enhancement needs and wishes,
  2. Develop a central database containing each employee’s ongoing enhancement activities and annual training requests (by employee or supervisor),
  3. Develop an annual master college training calendar based on database information and annual college goals and priorities,
  4. Advertise and recruit for each enhancement or training opportunity,
  5. Evaluate employee satisfaction with training activities,
  6. Measure overall effectiveness of implemented training by surveying supervisors. College leadership must determine if additional human resources staffing is feasible or if recommendations will need to be implemented with the existing small staff, perhaps assisted by technical help from academic computing services and/or community relations departments.

Review (09-20-05):

Great specifics. These areas of follow-up are clearly organized. A recommendation you may want to consider is using department heads, division heads, and existing IT staff to further your activities rather than hiring a staff of your own. The more you infuse this Action Project into the college infrastructure, the more you can get widespread buy-in. The technique also has the benefit of addressing AQIP Categories like Leading and Communicating, and Supporting Institutional Operations.

D. Describe any “effective practice(s)” that resulted from your work on this Action Project.

It proved effective to include one or two individuals from each focus group at our summarization meeting in which all focus group responses were compiled. This ensured we had interpreted focus group answers correctly and we also were able to recruit several new members to our Team.

Review (09-20-05):

In future reviews, try to include more outcomes as examples of effective practices, and match them to themes that cross several AQIP Categories and Principles. Doing this helps promote an institutional culture of quality improvement that goes beyond just this one Action Project. I think also that, in addition to what the focus groups have to say, an Action Project that is as far-reaching as this one will probably generate quite a list of achievements, like healthier living and decreased insurance costs, extended retention of full-time and part-time employees, enhanced recruiting, and a survey that communicates increases in college-wide morale (there are abundant statistics showing that employees work harder and stay longer at schools that are fun and rewarding). Additionally, since the options for activities participants can select seems to be open-ended, those topics alone could be quite interesting for in-house presentations.

E. What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?

The major challenge to implementing the vision the project team has for improving our employee enhancement and development process is the funding to hire an additional human resources staff person to coordinate these efforts. Much of the implementation can be done without the additional person but the required work will be an additional add-on to large existing workloads. We are concerned for the quality and completeness of the resulting implementation in this case.

Review (09-20-05):

Is there a possibility that you can reasonably expect those who use this program to share in some of its workload tasks? The nature of the initiative seems so beneficial to participants that they may be willing to take-on clerical and administrative functions just to help keep the program afloat. This action has the additional benefit of addressing added AQIP categories, like Leading and Communicating, Supporting Institutional Objectives, and Building Collaborative Relationships. It may also some of the AQIP Principles, like Leadership, Collaboration, and Information. Cross-cutting several of the Categories and Principles is exactly how an Action Project like this can address institutional quality improvement, not just the objectives on one single Action Project.

F. If you would like to discuss the possibility of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s) here and tell us who to contact and when?

Not at this time.

Review (09-20-05):

Highland Community College is making reasonable progress toward completion of this project and development of an institution-wide continuous quality-improvement culture.