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Professional Development Activities for Staff

September 10th, 2010

When I visited with the Iowa State University Council of Extension Professionals I learned that I need to do a better job of communicating with the staff about professional development activities. This posting will share what professional development planning has been done and what is in the future for Extension council members, Extension professionals, program specialists, county paid staff, and new staff orientation. If you have questions or comments please share that feedback.

With the elimination of the County Extension Education Director position, the Extension council members were quickly thrown into their role at a different level and many of the members expressed the need for help with financial and supervision responsibilities as priorities. Therefore, a small group of staff began work on putting together on-line resources to address these needs. Today, on the Human Resources website, there are several power point resources posted for use by the council members, Regional Extension Education Directors, or any other staff member wanting this kind of information. As we learned of additional needs for the council members we have added other resources to this site. For example, there are resources on council member roles, parliamentary procedure, and customer service. As additional needs are determined, we will continue to add to this site. These resources can be located at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/hr/Training/councilacademy.htm.  We have also provided the council members with a monthly newsletter that is created for members of not-for-profit boards. This newsletter covers a variety of issues and topics that the council members are dealing with in their role as an elected official on a council.

The next priority for the organization was to address the professional needs of extension professionals, especially the program specialists. Again a small group of staff are working on this need. The group began its work by reviewing the skills needed by Extension staff to be able to effectively perform their role as an Extension professional. The work group then decided that professional development must be a priority for the organization and supervisors need to incorporate this function into the performance appraisal process. The work group decided that a variety of opportunities should be provided; some on-line and some face-to-face. The first activities will be three workshops at the Extension Annual Conference in October; one on transformation education, one on facilitation, and one on trust within the work environment. Following this event, the work group is planning an electronic method for staff to share their professional development experiences. In addition, we will be looking at creating some on-line experiences and resources for staff. Another idea is to maybe create another face-to-face experience in the spring. The State University Council of Extension Professionals expressed an interest in assisting with this opportunity as well. Throughout the work of this group, the focus is on enhancing the skills of a professional Extension educator.

Another small work group has started to identify needs and opportunities for the county paid Extension staff. This group is also looking at ways to provide on-line experiences for staff. Soon there will be some power point and suggested resources on the Extension Human Resources website. A member of this work group is also working on the October 6 Office Professional Conference. And while our work group is not responsible for the conference, the needs the conference plans to address are many of the same needs of our work group. Therefore, we will coordinate our efforts with the conference committee as well.

The last focus of the professional development effort for Extension is for new staff orientation. While there is not a specific work group meeting to develop these resources, I have been utilizing the skills and direction of a number of individuals, including the program directors, to identify what will be included. The new staff orientation will be heavily focused around web resources.

An additional opportunity being provided by the Extension Finance unit is a workshop experience that is being delivered face-to-face in the regions. Within the next several months a team of staff will be providing current information that the counties need and have been asking for in the finance arena.

And, of course, I need to remind you that this blog is another attempt to provide professional development information. I have chosen to focus on the human elements of things like conflict, personality difficulties, dealing with change, facilitation, and a variety of other topics. If you have an interest in a topic and would like to have me address that interest, please feel free to contact me.

As you can see there is much activity around professional development. As we move through the Extension transition to a new structure and new organization, I want to make certain we are addressing the needs and concerns of the staff and the council members. I also need to be reminded periodically to make certain I am communicating this activity with the staff. Please help me by sharing your thoughts and ideas and holding me accountable for the communication.

Until next time, check out the resources, consider what you need for professional growth, and share with me your ideas.

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