The following is a recommendation for reforms to the Wichita State University Student Government Association. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
All three campus election parties in the 2011 SGA election have cited organizational reform as a need. The following was a report done in 2008 addressing this very issue. A copy of this report with supporting references can be found in the WSU University Special Collections and Archives located in the basement of Ablah Library or at www.wichita.edu/specialcollections.
HR FINAL PROJECT
SGA Organization Reform- DPR Case Study
In the following I will explore the position of Director of Public Relations or DPR in the Student Government Association at Wichita State University. This paper will contend that training and culture adjustment are the greatest human resource needs related to this position. The concepts shared for the DPR position are applicable to all positions within this organization. Professionalism as fruit of a clear vision and supporting enculturation, artifacts, rituals, orientations, training, development, goals, appraisal etc. is something needed throughout this organization.
I will first explore the impression of previous employees who have held this position. Then there will be a summary of related literature on managing change, training and culture. A solution to this need for training and development will be discussed. Finally, overall organization application of these concepts will be discussed.
In exploring the human resource problem for this position a review of past reports and DPR writing was done. Then a survey was given to previous persons who held the position of Director of Public Relations. Training initially being an area of concern was based on my personal experience with this position. Four previous Directors were contacted by email and asked the following two questions. What type of training do you wish you had been given prior to taking this position? What would you tell someone who was a new Director of Public Relations? These questions were intended to encourage thoughtful reflection. Two of the four individuals contacted responded.
Jay Eck who held the position from 2004-2005 responded that he felt prepared for this position based on his major in marketing (Eck Survey). SGA records show thought that Jay Eck had held the position of Director of Governmental Relations the year prior and shared an office with Tiffany Schmidtberger the then DPR. This would have given him previous insight into the position of DPR and its responsibilities (Eck).
Aaron Bushell who held the position from 2000-2002 had another opinion. He stated that,” It is imperative that transitional training occurs between the old and new DPR.” He felt he had to play catch up during his first year in this position. As for skills he felt were necessary for this job he suggested knowing Robert’s Rules of Order, ad creation and press release writing. He suggested as part of their training a new DPR meet with University Committee Chairs, the Sunflower ad manager, RSC Director and Financial Aid (Bushell Survey).
In 2002 at the conclusion of his position he created a training manual. In this manual he commented that a lack on intense and detailed training resulted in “trial and error learning”. He also felt he had to play catch up to address problems that arose (Bushell Manual, 26). He said the training manual was a result of his finding out things “at the last minute or too late” (Bushell Manual, 3). He encouraged future Directors to create detailed goals with specific methods of accomplishment.
Another previous DPR that was contact is Tiffany Schmidtberger. She held the position of DPR from 2003-2004. She did not respond to the email survey. But she had left a DPR manual in the SGA Archives. She did not feel she initially understood the University committee structure (Schmidtberger, 4). I held this position from 2005-2006. I gave the following summary in the manual I created at the end of my term as DPR. I shared there had initially been a lot to learn. I engage in self training and had interviewed other staff members (Reed, 2). In place of training I relied on self directed research, staff support, communication and creating a vision and goals (Reed, 8).
The strategy I am suggesting to address the problem of training in the DPR position is to implement a comprehensive training problem. This would include communicating organizational culture and values through the application, interview, orientation, training, evaluation and post employment experience.
One of the benefits of SGA is the high rate of turnover. This simplifies managing change. The DPR position has been a new person every year excluding Aaron Bushell. Communicating the problem of a lack of training would not be a problem. There is no evidence of a training program. Involving staff in initial planning for this position would be simple. During the summer would be the best time to do serious organizatin evaluation. Only the three officers and three holdover senators are present during the summer. There is already an existing provision for appointee review in S034 Section 4. Detaching from not having a system would be simple in that there is no system to detach from. Entrenching this new method would be accomplished by amending the statute for this position to include the process detailed below. This change would be classified as strategic being it is part of organizational planning and top down.This new effort would be part of the strategic planning of the organization. The skills, knowledge and abilities required would be assessed. The organization and job needs would be decided prior to choosing potential applicants.
The organization needs someone to promote the organization, process University committees, chair the Rhatigan Scholarship Committee and chair the annual banquet. Job needs include orientation to the organization, office orientation and position history and responsibilities orientation. This would be accomplished with organization orientation and office orientation common to any staff member.
Job specific orientation would begin with a review of S068 and other job related statutes. A review of past DPR manuals and reports would also be a part of orientation. The needs assessment for this position has been partially completed by S068 which is the two page job description. Individual needs would be assessed during the application, interview and orientation process. Through the application and interview process skills, knowledge and abilities would be assessed. Areas for growth would be noted for use later in developing a training program beyond general organization and job orientation.
All three types of training methods would be employed. On the job training would involve an appointment with the Director of Scholarships, Director of University Printing, SAC Vice President of Promotions and Sunflower staff and other potential collegues. These meetings would facilitate familiarity with the processes of campus partners and allow for questions. Office orientation would involve on the job training of office proceedures and policies. Informational training methods would be employed to provide University, organization and job specific orientation. This would involve reviewing a presentation on the organizational and University structure. Reading through related statutes and manuals would also be an informational method of training. Action oriented methods would be employed as well. Past DPR reports and manuals would be seen as case studies in how past Directors addresses reoccurring problems. Informal training of organizational culture would take place through community building events. An open door policy would be instituted to encourage collaboration and support.
Training evaluation would take place through assessing completion of goals related to position specific objectives.Goals would be set at the beginning of each semester in August and January. Evaluations to review goal progress would take place in October, December, March and May. An objective evaluation tool would be used during these sessions. When goals are set in August and January methods and tools to be employed would be discussed. Training as to potential resources and methods would have occurred prior to the initial August goal setting session. The evaluator would offer coaching as to which potential resources and methods previously covered might help with the goals set by the new employee.
During each bimonthly evaluation application of training could be assessed based on goal progress. Goal progress would be evidence of hands on skill demonstration. A 360 degree review in October and March by other staff, the Sunflower Ad manager, Director of University Printing, RSC graphic department, Director of Scholarships and SGA Senate would compliment the primary evaluation. Based on the level of progress demonstrated at each evaluation, areas for growth and further training could be identified. Additional training or a review of previous orientation or training materials would be recommended.
A standardized evaluation form and 360 degree evaluation would help address appraisal errors. Organization goals would have been defined prior to considering the objective for this position. In August and January specific goals for the person holding this position would have been stated. Goals will be put in writing and the DPR will sign that they have read and understood the objectives and related goals for their position.
I would use a cultural tool cited by Denhardt called serving the public to communicate organizational culture. Serving clients and citizens is stressed. High standards of performance, accountability and quality are stressed. Building a sense of community and stressing the human side of interactions is seen as important (Denhardt 615015, 367). This would seem to compliment the apparent mission of SGA, “Students Come First.” The DPR would be expected to state from memory at each evaluation the mission and values of the organization and their accompanying goals.
Overall Organization Reform
The concepts shared for the DPR position are applicable to all positions within this organization. A clearly articulated vision, mission and supporting enculturation, artifacts rituals, training, development, goals, appraisal etc. is something needed throughout this organization. Only by consistently living the mission and values of the organization through a supportive culture, rituals and artifacts will positive and consistent change be achieved. Until the apparent mission of “Students Come First” is seen as gospel inconsistencies will live.
Examples of positive changes could include the following. The organization logo and motto of ‘Students Come First’ would be required as a footer on every application, ad or publication. It is traditional that applicants sign the application stating they have read the accompanying job description. In addition they would acknowledge having read the mission and values statement. All members would be expected to state from memory at each evaluation or meeting the mission and values of the organization and agreed upon individual specific goals for their position to carry out the organization mission.
Artifacts and rituals to support values and goals should be instituted. Examples could include the following. Members would be required to take part in the annual summer retreat. During that time a tabula rosa approach would be used to clearly communicate the values, goals and supporting culture of the organization. A thorough overview of position specific applicable materials similar to the process for the DPR would be completed. New members of the organzation would complete a similar orientation process.
All members of the organization could receive water bottles with a label sharing the logo statement. Organization trivia and Roberts Rules of Order examples could also be used. At the end of each Senate meeting organization members would be given the opportunity to share what they had done during the week to help ensure Students Come First at WSU. They would be encouraged to take part in organization traditions during and outside normal meetings throughout the year. The Halloween costume contest, Secret Santa and Student Fees Snack Marathon are great examples of positive rituals.
The first area I will cover is managing change. Denhardt identifies four types of change. Incremental change involved small modifications with the existing framework. Discontinuous change involved an organization level change in the overall operating environment. Strategic change is top down and part of strategic planning (Denhardt, 615015, 355). Grass roots change in contrast is from the bottom up (Denhardt, 615015, 356).
Change is constant in organizations and is usually met with resistance for several reasons. Organization members may doubt the new method will work and are use to the existing standard. Changing from an understood method can cause emotional and psychological stress. This resistance to change can affect productivity (Denhardt, 353).
As stated above change can cause stress among organizational members. In general three common solutions to this stress are recommended. Management should first communicate the problems with the current system (Denhardt 615015, 353). Organization members should be involved in the diagnosis, planning for a solution and implementation. This will help increase a sense of ownership of the new solution by organization members (Denhardt 615015, 354). Finally, organization members need time to disengage with the old method, adjust and the reengage with the new method (Denhardt 615015, 355). Institutionalizing the change is also encouraged (Denhardt 615013, 203). Denhardt offers the following suggestions to encourage a change oriented culture within an organization. Allow flexibility, prepare for stress, fund innovation, decrease collaborative barriers, increase organizational diversity and encourage a more participatory style of management. (Denhardt, 615015, 379).
Training and Development Overview
I would like to begin by defining training. Wooldridge says training is organized learning. It is an experience designed to enhance an employee's ability to achieve a specific job performance level. The end goal of course is to increase organizational performance (Wooldridge, 205). Training and development is neglected in government (Daley, 216). Training is required to allow employees to fit into an organization and be a valued member (Daley, 216). It is a key tool within human resource management. It helps keep employees up to date. For the organization it can have several benefits. These include addressing needs, sharing historical experience and familiarity from teamwork (Daley, 233).
For training to be effective requires strategic planning. This plan should begin by considering the skills, knowledge and abilities a specific position requires. Training should be based on the needs of the organization, job and individual in question (Daley, 234). For the organization its global, local and training goals should be considered. The cultural environment and ability to affect change should also be a consideration (Mitchell, 200). Training and organizational goals should compliment each other (Daley, 218). Learning must result and be applied to the job in question. Not evaluating training can result in wasted effort. Training is right when there is a performance problem due to inadequate skills. Training though is not the solution when other issues are the real problem. These can include choosing the wrong employee, ignorance of performance expectations or a lack of performance incentives. These issues can be solved by simply ignoring the problem, a job analysis, performance feedback or explicit performance rewards (Daley, 217). A mature training system should both support overall organizational plans and structure and assess individual needs. During training lessening the master servant role can help facilitate productive training (Daley, 218).
Training Needs Assessment
As stated above an important part of training is assessing training needs. But this step is often overlooked. A common tool used in training assessment is employee and management surveys. But these can flush out employee wants but not needs. Management is prone to advise the latest fad (Daley, 221). Despite these problems these surveys can still be useful.
A management needs assessment can give insight into problems unknown to employees (Daley, 220). For employees surveys can identify culture issues that training can help solve. Discontent, moral issues, confusion about organization goals have corresponding solutions. These include training in conflict management, communication, team building and job design (Daley, 219). Besides employee and management surveys many other tools are available to access training needs. These include focus groups, advisory committees, performance appraisals, and work samplings (Daley, 221). Training needs assessment can generally be simplified into three steps. A job analysis is the first step. This involves finding out whether training is needed on the individual, operational area or organizational level. The capacity to learn should also be considered. Next, training objectives should be established. Important questions at this stage are what will be learned; why is this important and how will we know if the objectives have been met. The final stage is selecting a method. The best approach for the situation should be chosen. Approaches can include on the job training, presentation methods, simulations or mentoring. This process should be ongoing and involve feedback (Wooldrige, 206).
As shared above there are various training methods. These can generally be put into three categories. These are on the job, information presentation and action based/simulation methods (Daily, 227). On the job training can take many forms. These can include apprenticeships, coaching, job rotation, committee rotation and internships (Daley, 228). Information presentation methods can also involve several methods. These can include lecture, small group, audio visual presentations and computer aided instruction (Daley, 228). Information presentation is best for simple concepts with discussion to follow (Daley, 231). Action based and simulation methods can be divided into three basic types. The first type is role playing or simulations. This involves stressing behavior modeling. Small groups are best with an instructor floating between groups to guide interaction and keep things moving (Daley 231). Case studies are a second action method. These help apply ideas to the real world and teach modeling behavior (Daley, 232). Laboratory methods are the last means. These can take several forms. These include gaming, team building exercises and leadership development. Informal training is as important as formal training in public organizations. Training is normally a one time event. Employees will continue to have questions and find informal ways to get answers. Much of training is accomplished through self training and peer interaction (Wu, 320).
The debate has gone from is training evaluation possible to what are the best techniques (Mitchell, 199). There are four ways that training can generally be evaluated. These are participant reaction to training, participant actual learning, participant behaviors and organization results (Mitchell, 201). The participant’s reaction to the course can be evaluated. This assessment can offer areas for training improvement. Participant comprehension or learning can be tested. This assumes learning objectives were set prior to training. If these objective were met then training can considered useful. Participant ability to learn should be considered at this point. Measures and objectives are key to show learning took place (Mitchell, 206). Behavior change through job performance can be evaluated. This is done my measuring the completeness of skill application. This requires pre and post training skill assessment. Performance based measures are best. Soft skills like social interaction are more difficult to measure then technical skills (Mitchell, 207). Results are the impact of training on the organization (Mitchell, 206). Learning is measurable. But organization level results from training are harder to measure (Mitchell, 207). Lower level management can articulate that training is needed and what those needs are. But higher management can have a problem stating outcome measures (Mitchell, 202). There are several tools to help determine if training has had an organization level impact. Employees and management can be given open and closed ended questionnaires and surveys. Questionnaire follow ups are important. Questionnaires should be based on established training goals and objectives. Skill use evaluation by peers, other units and subordinates is also important (Mitchell, 210).
Training Evaluation Problems
Despite best intentions training evaluation can confront problems. Some employees may have possessed the skills taught prior to training. Some people who are trained don’t use their training. There can be a variety of things learned from training. Many employees seek out sources beyond formal training. These can include coworker advice, trail and error and earlier training. All these variations can occur despite standardized materials based on instructional design (Mitchell, 200). The tools used to evaluate learning can be a problem. Satisfaction surveys can be beneficial for some things. These include impression of training and methods (Daley, 223).
But using just opinion surveys can cause problems. A gratitude effect, self investment, the physical environment, sponsors or a presenter’s resume can affect results (Daley, 224). Surveys should be given months later. They should ask specific benefit questions and skills learned. Participants should compare this learning experience to other programs. They should be asked if they would take another course using the same method, presenter and location. These questions can help decrease generalities. Other methods should also be considered. These include written exams, hands on skill demonstration, project teams, simulations and computer interactive exercises. A combination of methods can help better gauge actual learning (Daley, 225). Training affects overall are hard to show. To do so requires statistical relationships and results can vary throughout an organization (Mitchell, 207). On the job support, management universal commitment and supervisor interaction is important. Skill application in the real world takes time (Mitchell, 203).
One of the important means of accessing training effectiveness is appraisal. Performance appraisal is the main means of monitoring employee behavior and results. It is a method to verify recruitment techniques and job analysis. It is also a tool to access pay and promotion. It also allows an opportunity for employee feedback and additional training opportunities (Daley, 215). Within the appraisal process there are many potential errors (Daily, 211). The first type of error is called an organizational error. This occurs when organizational goals are unclear. Unrealistic expectations can also be used to measure performance. The evaluator can mistakenly evaluate the individual based on group performance. Errors in the structure of the evaluation can also occur. Goals must have been previously established to set expectations for employee performance. Evaluators can enter an appraisal with preexisting motives.
An appraisal must include all expected tasks. For these reasons evaluators need to also be evaluated (Daley, 211). Related to this is evaluation error. A lack of training evaluators can affect the appraisal process. Errors in actual job responsibilities can also occur. The person assigned to a position may not fit the job. The importance of the job can taint the evaluation as well. Contrast errors or comparing an employee to their peers, employee personality or other personal traits can affect an appraisal (Daley, 212). One-dimensional errors can also occur. Evaluating all employees the same, high or low can also be an error (Daley, 213). Interpersonal relationships can have an affect on the appraisal process. To help avoid these errors upper officials in an organization need to automatically review all appraisals and provide an appeals system. This will help avoid abuse of the appraisal system (Daley, 214). The reason for errors has been traced back to primitive society and a need to make quick decisions. Only vigilance and continuous training of evaluators can help overcome the potential for error in appraisal (Daley, 215). A valid appraisal system should consider the following things. The job analysis should be based on job related work, behaviors and results. There should be clear management communication to employees and supervisors about expectations. Training should be provided as well. The appraisal process should be documented to ensure accuracy and fairness. Objective techniques should be used to avoid subjective and interpersonal comparisons. These objective techniques should be behaviorally anchored with rating scales (Daily, 215).
Organizational Culture Overview
Culture has been called the glue that binds an organization (Detert, 851). NCR corporate managers were said to carry their organizations culture through World War II (VanBuskirk, 805). Culture is considered the basic values and assumptions of a group. Shared meaning is gained from customs, traditions, rituals, symbols and language. Habits of thinking and acting, group norms and espoused values also shape a group’s culture. These cultural standards can be reinforced by leaders through their focus, measurement, and control of these standards. Leader modeling, teaching and coaching can also act to support cultural standards. Reward criteria and behavior in crisis situations can also work to support cultural standards (Class Notes).
There are three layers of organizational culture. These are artifacts, values and understanding of the organization (Marcoulides, 211).
Artifacts are social, physical and environmental things. The physical layout of an organization is evidence of its culture. Technological preferences, language patterns, and day to day operational patterns are also artifacts of an organization’s culture.
Values are a percept on how things should be (Denhardt 615015, 360). Values also direct member behavior and how they are to respond to certain situations (Rainey, 309). Basic Assumptions have been called the acting and believing patterns that should not be questioned (Denhardt 615015, 360). Organizational culture gives meaning to events, processes and sets behavioral guidelines. These rules decrease anxiety caused by unpredictability.
Widespread understanding in an organization increases consistency in behavior, increases organization performance and thus helps organization activities. There are three reasons for these performance benefits. The first is social control. Members will identify any violations. Peer control will increase thus decreasing the need for conventional control methods. The second is goal alignment. This gives direction and saves time and anxiety. The last reason involves motivation. Motivation and performance increases since actions are seen as voluntary (Sorensen, 73)
Organizational culture effects were previously attributed to organizational structure (VanBuskirk, 805). Organizational culture is transmitted in overt ways through hiring, orientiation, performance appraisal and promotion methods. It is subtly communicated through peer communication and conversations on how an organization works. As stated before organizational culture affects the actions of its members. Changing organizational culture should then change member actions (Denhard 615015, 361).
Denhardt cites five successful public organization culture change tools. The first is called a commitment to values. The mission and values of an organization are clear and shared throughout the organization. Professionalism, integrity, service and quality are stressed values. The second is called serving the public. Serving clients and citizens is stressed. High standards of performance, accountability and quality are stressed. Building a sense of community and stressing the human side of interactions is seen as important. Empowerment and shared leadership is the third tool. This involves encouraging participation and involvement at all levels. The goal is to increase quality and productivity. The fourth tool is called pragmatic incrementalism. This method is more free flowing. It involves using multiple means of change to move in a set direction. It is conscious to stress the human side of interactions. The final tool is called dedication to public service. It stresses the importance of service and ethical conduct (Denhardt 615015, 367).
Strong Culture Linked to Performance
A culture is strong if norms and values are widely held and intensely shared throughout the organization (Sorensen, 72). If a culture is shared there is understanding. This understanding binds the organization together. Culture is a means of goal achievement. Culture affects member attitudes and behaviors and thus performance (Marcoulides, 211). A widely shared corporate culture has been shown to have several performance enhancing benefits. It first enhanced coordination and control within the firm.
Improvement of goal alignment between the firm and members is another benefit. These two benefits increase employee effort. Strong cultures out perform weak cultures (Sorensen, 70). Strong corporate cultures increase behavioral consistency across organization members. This sets a normative order and is a source for consistent behavior with an organization. Organizational culture is a social control mechanism (Sorensen, 72). Strong cultures codify their organizational understanding of self and environment. They clarify organizational beliefs and goals for new members. Strong organizations socialize new members fast due to this codification.
This reduces the time new members hold variant beliefs and thus pose a potential threats to organization performance (Sorensen, 75).
Bushell Manual, Director of Public Relations Training Manual By: Aaron Bushell, March 2000, SGA Archive.
Bushell Survey, DPR Email Survey Response, SGA Archive or see copy of this paper and appendices in WSU Special Collections/Archives
Denhardt 615013, “Leadership In Organizations: Chapter 7”, Assigned Readings
Denhardt 615015, “Organizational Change: Chapter 12”, Assigned Readings
Detert,James R., Schroeder, Roger G., Mauriel, John J., “A Framework for Linking Culture and Improvement Initiatives in Organizations”, The Academy of Managerial Review, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Oct. 2000), pp. 850-853.
Eck Survey, See copy of this paper and appendices in WSU Special Collections/Archives.
Marcoulides, George A., Heck, Ronald H., “Organizational Culture and Performance: Proposing and Testing a Model”, Organizational Science, Vol. 4, No. 2. (May 1993), pp. 209-225.
Mitchell, Kenneth D., “Putting Evaluation to Work for Human Resource Development”, Public Productivity and Management Review, Vol 18, No. (Winter, 1994), pp. 199-215.
Rainey, Hal, ”Understanding and Managing Public Organizations: Third Edition”, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA 2003
Reed, Richard, “Student Government Association Director of Public Relations Training Manual”, 2005-2006 SGA Journal, SGA Archives or WSU Special Collections/Archive.
SGA, “SGA Mullet/Smith Administration Roster”, SGA Archive.
Schmidtberger, Tiffany, “Director of Public Relations Training Manual”, 2003-2004 SGA Journal, SGA Archive or WSU Special Collections/Archive.
Sorensen, Jesper b., “The Strength of Corporate Culture and the Reliability of Firm Performance”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 1.(Mar., 2002), pp.70-91.
Van Buskirk, William, McGrath, Dennis, “Organizational Cultures As Holding Environments: A Psychodynamic Look At organizational Symbolism (Special Issue: Integrating Psychodynamic and Organizational Theory)”, Human Relations 52.6 (June 1999), pp. 805(2).
Wooldrige, Blue, ”Increasing the Productivity of Public Sector Training”, Public Productivity Review, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Winter, 1998), pp.205-217.
Wu, Liangfu, Rocheleau, Bruce, ”Formal Versus Informal end User Training in Public and Private Sector Organizations”, Public Performance and Management Review, Vol. 24, No. 4. (Jun., 2001), pp.312-321.