AAUP Webinar: Managing Staff Morale


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These slides accompanied the January 26, 2011, AAUP webinar. Presenters Richard Brown (Georgetown), MaryKatherine Callaway (LSU), and Sheila Levine (California) shared insights into he challenge of managing staff morale in the context of wide shifts in university press publishing.

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  • Fellow Moderators: Jane Bunker, Director of Northwestern University Press Nicole Mitchell, Director of the University of Georgia Press
  • MK: “can speak with discussing fears and expectations. We had a rough patch at the Press, and I can offer some examples here. I also have some thoughts about keeping up personal morale, as I mentioned in our planning talk.” Richard: I think it is critical that we talk with our colleagues about what is happening at our universities, that we are open and candid about the climate at the press, and try to get all of that out on the table as a large group and, if possible, individually. When the word came down from Georgetown last year that faculty and staff would not receive a salary adjustment I spoke with all of my colleagues about that. Of course everyone was disappointed and some people vented. But we needed to confront that issue head-on. For Jane: given the challenges of being a figurehead in these tough conditions, how have you managed your own concerns? Backup Questions Understandably, most publishing professionals today are anxious not only about the welfare of their companies but also about their own job security. How do you recommend addressing this, and what have you found successful? Sheila: Univ California coming off a furlough. What role have you had to take in relaying these circumstances to your employees? Has this impacted the Press’s relationship to the University in any substantive way? Some managers have chosen to hire consultants to help them navigation these periods of drastic change. Is this something you have any experience with, and what, to your knowledge, would be the benefits of bringing someone like this in?
  • Have you had to significantly restructure your workforce in the past 2 years? If so, how did you go about keeping your staff informed throughout the process? Richard: “I would like to mention the significance of transparency: transparency regarding financials (we have a monthly all-staff meeting to discuss our operating statement and department expenses), transparency regarding acquisitions and marketing initiatives, transparency regarding relations with the university, etc.” Richard: “Re: clarifying accountability, I would also like to mention our process of quarterly evaluations, and how we modify individual goals when needed. There should not be any surprises at the end of the year.” Sheila: “When Lynne Withey was director, she held quarterly mtgs with staff to update on sales, finances, news from the university, etc. She also organized bag lunches to talk about a specific topic, sometimes she led, sometimes others did as a way of informing staff about new initiatives, sometimes we just talked about what we do on our jobs.” Good segue to slide 6 – Teambuilding Backup Questions Given that many presses have a Human Resources department or at least an HR staffmember, have you considered channeling your messaging through them? What issues do you feel are best communicated by department heads and senior mgmt vs. a human resources dept? Have you found that employees have expressed interest in being regularly updated on the financial health of your press, as well as on the state of the industry at large? If so, how have you addressed this?
  • Sheila: “We have a Staff Advisory Committee that raises money through an annual hurt book sale (a real community event held out on the sidewalk in front of our building), organizes our presswide parties (Christmas, picnic, baseball game, etc), awards scholarships for professional development, and they meet with the director as a way to improve communication.” Richard: “Re retreats/group activities, I think it is critical to get off site and eat. Seriously. Have staff lunches, celebrate the end of the fiscal year (regardless of financial results), take group trips to museums, etc. Recognizes birthdays. With food.” Richard: “Re professional development, that should be a priority in the operating budget, not an afterthought. I can talk about that.” Richard: “A month ago I asked my colleagues what contributed to high morale and what discouraged them, and asked them to respond via email or anonymously on paper. This was a great exercise and it gave me lots of good insights into what really matters to my colleagues.” Backup Questions Do you encourage your department heads to take the lead in organizing activities within their teams, or do you find that company-wide events tend to boost morale more strongly? How do you manage one-on-one mentoring opportunities in the workplace? Are staff mostly encouraged to seek this from their direct managers, or are there other outlets for career development? What role, if any, does HR play in fostering a positive work environment?
  • MK: “That’s one thing university presses can offer (and I think do well) that some organizations don’t.” Richard: “I can mention our Texaco plan, which involves working an extra hour during weekdays and then having every other Friday off.” Jane willing to jump in. Backup Questions Are there any initiatives for workplace flexibility that you’ve tried that haven’t worked out as well as you hoped? Which initiatives have had the strongest impact on staff morale? Are these options extended to all employees, or do department heads select specific options to offer to their teams? Have you found that creating flexible options has helped you retain employees you might have otherwise lost?
  • Backup Questions Given that every press has had to tighten its belt, how have you managed the challenge of regulating employee compensation? Are you working in tandem with Human Resources, or are these decisions made at the board level? Are there additional benefits you’ve considered creating in order to cushion salary freezes or adjustments?
  • AAUP Webinar: Managing Staff Morale

    1. 1. Managing Staff Morale in Times of Economic Uncertainty AAUP PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
    2. 4. SPEAKERS <ul><li>Richard Brown has been Director of Georgetown University Press since 2001. He began his work in publishing as an editor at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and then worked in religion publishing at Pilgrim Press and was the director of Westminster John Knox Press. He is currently President of AAUP. </li></ul><ul><li>MaryKatherine Callaway is Director of the Louisiana State University Press, a position she has held since 2003.  Before moving to Baton Rouge, she worked for the Johns Hopkins University Press in Baltimore and London and at the University of Georgia Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Sheila Levine is Associate Director and Publisher of the University of California Press, where she began working in the 1970s. For many years she acquired books in history and Asian studies, and now focuses on UCP’s food list, which she started more than ten years ago. </li></ul>
    3. 5. Talking Points <ul><li>Compensation </li></ul><ul><li>Workplace Flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>Teambuilding </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Managing Change </li></ul>
    4. 6. Managing Change <ul><li>Discuss Employee Fears/Expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Implementation Challenges at Public vs. Private University Presses </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping Up Personal Morale </li></ul>
    5. 7. Communication <ul><li>Consistent Messaging </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain a Higher Emphasis </li></ul><ul><li>Clarify Accountability </li></ul>
    6. 8. Teambuilding <ul><li>Retreats/Group Activities </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring Opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Professional Development </li></ul><ul><li>Partnering with Human Resources </li></ul>
    7. 9. Workplace Flexibility Creating New Options to Accommodate Employee Needs Flextime Home Office Summer Hours Comp Time Telecommuting
    8. 10. Compensation <ul><li>Salary Freeze </li></ul><ul><li>Incremental Adjustments </li></ul><ul><li>Supplementary Benefits </li></ul>
    9. 11. Questions? If you prefer to contact our speakers directly, you may do so at: reb7@georgetown.edu [email_address] [email_address]