The University Record, May 24, 1993

New philosophy statement advances staff development

The University affirms its commitment to supporting ongoing staff development for all staff members in a new Staff Development Philosophy statement.

Provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. and Vice President Farris W. Womack sent a copy of the statement and a letter to all deans, directors and department heads last week.

Whitaker and Womack noted that the statement is the culmination of a partnership that included the deans, Personnel Office, and the President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues, particularly its Task Force on Staff Development chaired by Laurita Thomas, assistant personnel director for employment throughout the University.

The philosophy is based, Whitaker and Womack said, on the “belief that effective staff development grows from an active collaboration between management and staff members. People work best when they have continued opportunities to improve their skills and grow.”

Such a philosophy is needed, particularly as the University undertakes efforts to streamline and improve work processes.

“In order to attract and develop highly qualified, experienced and dedicated staff, we must offer increased recognition and support, including additional training opportunities,” they said in the letter.

Womack and Whitaker said through this philosophy statement the University encourages staff members to develop their skills as fully as possible. Supervisors are expected to understand and support the aspirations of staff to improve their skills and performance in their current assignments or prepare for increased responsibility within the unit or elsewhere.

“All staff members should have equal access to development opportunities under this philosophy. We encourage each of you to incorporate the approach to staff development described in the philosophy statement into your ongoing management practices,” Whitaker and Womack wrote.

James R. Thiry, assistant vice president for personnel, said in the two years the administration has been developing the philosophy statement, a variety of views on the need for staff development surfaced. They ranged from the notion that employees should learn new skills on their own time to an insistence by management that employees be involved in staff development to prove their dedication to the University.

The Staff Development Philosophy is the first philosophy statement the University has adopted regarding employment relationships, Thiry said.

The notion of promoting staff development is not revolutionary, he noted. Thiry said some units incorporate staff development as part of their regular operations. However, there are also pockets within the University where supervisors have consistently said “no” to employee requests for staff development opportunities.

Adoption of the philosophy statement is an effort to establish a set of values among managers supporting their obligation to think about the potential and capacity of the employees they supervise, Thiry added.

Thomas said, “Although women led the way with a philosophy proposal, it will positively impact the opportunities for all staff.”

Staff development “represents an investment in our most important resource, our people,” said Thomas, who added creativity can be exercised to accomplish the philosophy statement without significant incremental costs.

One key part of staff development, tuition reimbursement, is being reviewed by a committee. Thiry said he hopes changes will be in place prior to fall term. Currently University tuition reimbursement refunds are limited to 75 percent of tuition or $600 per term, whichever amount is less of the registration and tuition paid by the staff member. The maximum refund payment is $1,200 annually.