Staff management is a skill that takes time and attention to develop. If you are a new chair, this may be the first time you have been responsible for day-to-day management of staff. And it can be pretty intimidating! You must attend to the business side of things, monitoring budgets, allocating travel funds, processing appointments, etc. But you must also take care with the people side of things and work on relationship building. Whether you are a babe-in-the-woods or a seasoned veteran, the suggestions below can help you maximize the performance of your staff.
Attend to routine budget tasks
Meet with your staff at least once a month and verify they have attended to the bulleted items below. Ask questions! Actually look at the budget reports yourself. Set priorities and timelines for resolving budget issues.
- Review payroll records after each payroll. There are three payrolls each month: one for salaried employees and two for hourly-paid employees. Make certain your department has paid the appropriate people. Remember, 93% to 97% of your departmental budget is in payroll expenses.
- Reconcile travel and operating budgets.
- Move funds between account codes to cover deficits.
Set performance expectations based on organizational needs and priorities
- Develop detailed job descriptions for each staff position and document protocols for critical functions. Update annually! You don't have to do this yourself. Staff can do this better than you can. They should submit the documentation to you for review and approval.
- Cross-train staff on critical functions. Not everybody has to know how to do everything, but there should be a backup person for every function that would prevent your department from operating properly if a staff member is unavailable. Be sure that faculty and staff know who has the lead on what responsibilities.
- Meet regularly with staff to plan for upcoming projects and events and to discuss any challenges that have come up since the previous meeting. To clarify expectations, get agreement on short term and longer-term deadlines.
- Hold a special staff meeting at least once a year, preferably away from the office where distractions and interruptions may occur, to discuss long-range plans for sustaining and improving operations over the academic year.
Monitor progress and give feedback
- Create a safe environment for frank conversation during staff meetings. Staff meetings provide a great opportunity for the office team to review operations and give/receive feedback collectively. What is said in staff meeting stays in staff meeting!
- Make note of action items identified during staff meetings and assign responsibility for each task and set a timeframe (even when it is just a "soft" estimate).
- Deal with individual performance problems privately and promptly. Be clear, have specific examples, and be ready to discuss strategies to overcome the problems.
- Focus on the problem not on the person when delivering negative feedback.
- Bad example: "Why don't you ever get anything done on time?"
- Good example: "Faculty are concerned that travel claims aren't being processed as promptly as have been in the past. What can we do to get back on track?"
- Remember to take into consideration the entire year, not just the most recent incident, when preparing annual performance appraisals, provide positive feedback with specific examples of accomplishments and address areas for improvement, also providing specific examples. When there are areas for improvement, be sure to inquire as to the source of the performance problem, e.g., time, competing demands, training, etc.
Build and maintain relationships
- Set a tone for civility and respect in the workplace. Employees will see how you handle interpersonal communications and will follow your lead. Be clear about your expectations regarding how student, staff, and faculty communications are handled.
- Make your office a safe place for employees to talk when they have work-related concerns.
- Familiarize yourself with the University's policies leave policies. Staff with serious medical problems which necessitate frequent or lengthy absences should always be directed to HR Benefits for assistance. This protects the employee and the institution.
- Encourage staff to work out interpersonal problems themselves, but be prepared to step in if you sense they are unable to have a civil conversation. Sometimes difficult conversations are best facilitated by a neutral party.