An Ounce of Prevention In Support of Staff Training
By PETER KUSHIBAB
Remember the 1990s? “Seinfeld” kept television viewers entertained. Michael Jordan reinvented the game of basket- ball. MTV reshaped rock and roll. Near the middle of the decade, in November 1996, it was reported that several oil company executives had been secretly tape-recorded making racist remarks about their African American employees. The executives were heard isparaging the company’s diversity training program.
Even at the most senior levels, it is not uncommon for
employees to complain about their organization’s staff development programs. At a college or university, supervisors are
sometimes reluctant to allow staff members to leave their
posts, even for an hour or two. Staff members may dread sacrificing part of their day in the name of professional growth,
knowing that the work they would otherwise be completing
will be waiting for them after the instructional session.
There are a number of reasons why comprehensive
employee training is particularly important for senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) and their staff members. First,
instructing workers in best practices and institutional policies
can prevent misjudgments and missteps that might result in
lawsuits against higher education institutions. Employees
who know the right way to perform their tasks are effective
models of practicing preventive law.
Additionally, the mere fact that a school previously implemented staff training programs is invaluable even after a lawsuit is filed. The good faith that such programs demonstrate
can minimize an institution’s liability or reduce the size of an
award or settlement it ultimately may have to pay.
An extensive staff development program can satisfy government compliance officers as well. Many federal agencies,
such as the various civil rights offices, often suggest employee
instruction on an array of subjects. A training program can
never hurt, especially if the institution is in the position of
defending against a government audit.
Ideally, staff development goes well beyond rudimentary
aspects of employment, such as understanding the new student information system or determining how to use new office
telephones. A training program for student affairs professionals could include the following components: