A Handbook for Staffing Practices in Student Affairs

"Staff development represents an intentional effort by supervisors and administrative leaders of student affairs to improve staff members' effectiveness, leading to improved organization effectiveness."

Winston & Creamer, 1997

Topics on this Page

Rationale for Policy

Policy Statement

Using Staffing Model

Diversity in Separation





Rationale for Policy on Staff Development

Staff development can be viewed as the activities and programs (formal or informal and on or off campus) that help staff members learn about responsibilities, develop required skills and competencies necessary to accomplish institutional and divisional goals and purposes, and grow personally and professionally to prepare themselves for advancement in the institution or beyond the campus.

Because job descriptions, individual goals and even the mission of the institution, division or department may change, staff development plans will be reviewed on a regular basis. Changes to the staff development plan shall be made as needed. Both the supervisor and the staff member must agree upon changes.

Staff development policy should be directed toward the following objectives:

  • Clarify expectations for the continued professional education of each staff member
  • Specify the options available for staff improvement
  • Make clear the connection between continuous professional development and institutional rewards
  • Ensure adequate funding for staff development activities
  • Purposefully determine staff development activities based upon a careful assessment of staff member needs
  • Employ accepted methods of teaching and learning in staff development activities


Policy Statement

All members of the student affairs division will participate in an ongoing process of staff development. Because the particular mission of each unit is different, supervisors will develop a plan for staff development that encompasses the missions of the Institution, the Division of Student Affairs, and the department.

Divisions of student affairs should adopt a policy that all staff members have an individual staff development plan. Staff development plans should be developed collaboratively between the staff member and supervisor and reviewed on a regular basis.

At minimum, staff members should participate in at least one professional organization related to the field of student affairs. Because of the importance of this, each unit should have a line item in the department's budget to help defray the costs associated with attending professional conferences and other professional development activities. In addition, each unit is strongly encouraged to coordinate professional development activities that are open to the entire division.

Because of the diverse population in which today's colleges and universities serve, all staff members of student affairs divisions should participate in a program of diversity education. It is recommended that the chief student affairs officer of the institution have such a program housed at the division level. It is also recommended that each unit within the division plan and implement diversity education and training programs.


Using The Staffing Model in Staff Development

The integrated staffing model suggests a close relationship between staff development and performance appraisal. Like performance appraisal, staff development practices are contingent upon the context of the institution Effective staff development should be congruent with:

  • Mission and goals of the institution.
  • Mission and goals of the division of student affairs.
  • Mission and goals of the department.
  • Appropriate professional association's statement of professional practice.
  • Job description for the position that the staff member occupies.
  • Goals of the individual staff member.

Effective and comprehensive staff development practices must attend to staff and organization improvement, derive from a developmental plan, include attention to both process and product, be anchored in day-to-day work, be multifaceted and ever changing, and recognize maturation and growth in staff.

Dual Purposes: Staff and Organization Development

Staff development practices have a dual focus in that they must attend to individual staff and to organization development. For staff development to be successful, both goals must be achieved -- that is, they must be mutually supportive. This commitment requires creativity and flexibility in plans for staff development.

Developmental Plan

Staff development must be intentional, active, and potent. A plan for individual growth should reflect current personal and professional status regarding attributes needed to perform assigned duties, short- and long-term goals, and alternative methods for achieving those goals. There should also be a plan for organization improvement. Both individual and organizational needs are included in this plan.

Process and Product

The goal of staff development is improvement in staff and organizational effectiveness. This is a process that affects interpretations of job requirements, relationships with colleagues, and perspectives on the methods of education.

Staff development occurs in a social context and emphasizes teamwork, built on a foundation of collaboration. Staff development is a process that demonstrates the commonness of purpose of all staff and the crucial nature of individual knowledge and skills to perform assigned duties in relation to the achievement of these larger goals.

Anchored in Day-to-Day Work

As a process, staff development is ongoing and anchored in day-to-day work making it visible in all personnel functions of the division. All other staffing functions are related to staff development. This is especially true in supervision and performance appraisal.

Multifaceted, Ever Changing

Staff development is multifaceted, targeted to many different people in different roles and thus, it must be ever changing. Staff development activities should require thoughtful interaction and reflection couched in a context of requirement of the job. This is more likely to result in desired effects on behavior.

Recognizes Maturation and Growth

Staff development must be cognizant of the variations in the maturity and growth of individuals and the organization. While some staff members may have served the profession for many years, others may be only beginning their professional careers.

The functional roles of staff members may also change and may require retooling for the new responsibilities. Such circumstances may require tailoring staff development opportunities if they are to be effective. These development opportunities must reflect multiple individual and organizational conditions. Holmes (1998) developed a human performance systems model for student affairs, which has the following components:

Recruitment, Selection, and Retention - All activities, which are associated with identifying potential professional staff candidates, identifying the candidates who are the best fit for both the job and the institution, and providing systems, and activities geared toward ensuring that staff members stay in the organization.

Performance Coaching - Student affairs administrators and staff members should develop performance plans and engage in a continuous process of leading and motivating staff members. Effective coaching allows supervisors and staff members to build stronger relationships and to work collaboratively to attain performance goals.

Performance Assessment - Performance appraisal processes are necessary to establish and maintain the conditions required for effective performance management. When properly facilitated, performance assessment confirms employee understanding of roles, evaluates the extent to which performance goals are being met, identifies problems and barriers in the work environment, provides positive and constructive feedback, encourages regular job-related conversations between supervisors and staff members, and provides the information needed for the performance reward process.

Performance Reward - It is important that compensation by aligned with organizational goals, and facilitates staff development. The performance reward process consists of the allocation of employeesalary and benefits. When effectively implemented, the reward system provides specific consequences for actual performance and feedback concerning the merit of accomplishments.

Employee Development - Employee development includes all activities that directly or indirectly influence the ability of the student affairs professional to do her or his current or future job. This requires identifying the competencies needed by staff members to perform one's job and ensuring that development activities are geared toward enhancing those competencies. This can take the form of professional conferences, on-the-job training, new employee orientation, on-site workshops and programs.

Career Planning and Development - Career planning consists of the systematic approaches used to ensure that each staff member's interests, values, and skills find confluence with the department's workforce requirements and needs. Career development can consist of tuition reimbursement, career-planning workshops, staff orientation programs, career coaching, job enrichment, and release time to take graduate classes.

Career Transition - Without fail, some staff members will leave the organization, either voluntarily or involuntarily. In either case, it is important that supervisors make this transition as smooth as possible. Staff members who leave an institution should have the skills and knowledge necessary to make a seamless transition into her or his next position.

Organizational Development - The primary focus of organizational development in student affairs is on a planned implementation of organizational changes that benefit students, staff members, and the institution as a whole. These changes are geared toward improving relationships and processes among individuals and groups so that work processes can be facilitated more effectively and efficiently.

Diversity Empowerment

Diversity can be described as a mosaic of people who bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and beliefs as assets to the groups and organizations with which they interact. Diversity empowerment provides the philosophical foundation for the human performance system model. It is an intentional, proactive, approach to creating an environment in which members accept, respect, celebrate, and effectively use the diversity within an organization as a source of added value.

With this in mind, the environment should fully support the benefits of diversity within communities and organizations, include members of diverse social groups as full participants, reflect the contributions and interests of these diverse constituencies, and act to eradicate all forms of social injustice.

Dixon (2001) offers an Equity-Sensitive Perspectives (ESP) (Figure 1) model of leading, educating, and managing. ESP is a synergistic change model, focusing on people, processes, and programs in the context of institutional change (p 72). According to Dixon, in order to best promote equity, student affairs professionals attend to each concept in the model for all significant activities and programs.

Figure 1 - Equity-Sensitive Perspectives Model

One particular problem that Dixon discusses is the sense of exclusion experienced by groups not included in gender and race-based programming. Attention to the ESP principles during the planning and implementation stages of programming can minimize such problems. Staff development activities should recognize and attend to the categories offered in the ESP model. Application of the ESP model (Table 1) highlights the role of the student affairs professional in focusing attention on key items relating to people, process, and program.

Table 1 - Application of ESP Model

People =









Positive Results

Process =

Organizational arrangements


Short & long plans


Program =




Individual & organizational behaviors





Thomas (1991) developed training initiatives that he labeled "valuing differences" for the management of business that are increasingly hiring employees, and doing business with companies with diverse backgrounds. Thomas suggests that programs should focus on ways that men and women, or people of different races, reflect differences in values, attitudes, behavior styles, ways of thinking, and cultural background. The objectives of such a program are

  • Fostering awareness and acceptance of individual differences.
  • Fostering greater understanding of the nature and dynamics of individual differences.
  • Helping participants understand their own feelings and attitudes about people who may be different.
  • Exploring how differences might be tapped as assets in the workplace.
  • Enhancing work relations between people who are different.

In writing about the delivery of human services cross-culturally Diller (1999) discusses cultural competence . Cultural competence is defined as the ability to effectively provide services cross-culturally.

Diller identifies several cultural competency skill areas that are necessary for effective cross-cultural delivery of services. Though Diller addresses cultural competence in a human services agency context, they have been adopted here to fit the interaction of student affairs staff members and supervisors.

Awareness and Acceptance of Differences - The first step in developing cultural competence involves gaining an awareness of the ways in which cultures differ and realizing that these differences may affect relationships. Cultural differences can exist in values, styles of communication, the perception of time, etc. Acknowledging these differences are as important as the similarities that exist between people.

Self-Awareness - In order appreciate the impact of culture on the lives of others, it is important to get in touch with one's own culture. How one defines family, identifies desirable life goals, views problems, etc. are influenced by one's own culture.

Dynamics of Difference - Related to self-awareness is the realization that sooner or later, there is likelihood that there will be some miscommunication based on cultural differences. An awareness of the dynamics of difference involves knowing what can go wrong in cross-cultural communication and knowing how to set it right.

According to Diller, cultural communication has two forms. The first relates to past experiences that one has had with members of the other's group or the nature of current political relations between groups. Second is that that the dynamics of differences involve different cultural styles. For example, if direct eye contact is a sign of respect in the supervisor's culture, but a staff member is from a culture in which direct eye contact should be avoided, the supervisor may come away from a meeting between the two with a negative feeling about the staff member.

Knowledge of the Staff Members Culture - It is critical for supervisors to familiarize themselves with the staff member's culture so that behavior may be understood within its own cultural context. Given the variety of populations, it is not expected of supervisors to be conversant in all cultures and subcultures. It is expected though that supervisors and other staff members are willing to learn about other cultures.


Diversity Issues in Staff Development

This section will provide some general information regarding staff development of minorities.  For the purpose of this document, ethnicity will be considered part of the overall “diversity section.”  Because there were some areas where research was more readily available (Religion, Gender, and LGBT), specific information and tips for these populations will follow.  This document does not claim to be exhaustive but is an overview of things to consider.

Overall Diversity and Staff Development

Staff development is often referred to by various terms such as in service education, continuing professional education, and assumes many forms (Winston & Creamer, 1997).  Staff development should also be a priority of a student affairs division and the institution.  Training and development activities and programs should include all staff working within the Student Affairs division in order to meet the needs for quality service and professional and personal growth (Scott, 2000).

Appropriate staff development programs will ultimately ensure that continued education occurs in order for staff to remain knowledgeable in the field of student affairs.  It will also provide a basic understanding of the language, history, traditions, symbols, and culture of the organization as well as provide a basic understanding of theory and practice (Bryan & Schwartz, 1998).

Using other resources to promote staff development initiatives such as: academic courses, job rotation, mentoring, and self directed training can also be a beneficial method of implementing staff development activities (Dalton, 1989). 

Diversity factors to consider in staff development include:

  • Addressing the diverse nature of student affairs work
  • Addressing the changing technology and demographics which create a significant impact on staff retention
  • Increasing one's awareness of diversity and multiculturalism
  • Developing a broad range of skills and knowledge to address challenges and the complexity of student affairs (Scott, 2000).

Implementing a mentoring program can be very beneficial by helping to address issues of diversity; assist diverse populations with integrating more fully into the organization; and by providing educational opportunities.  Megginson and Clutterbuck (1995) define mentoring as off line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.  They also conclude that it is not usually considered an official responsibility, but a relationship developed for purposes of aiding less experienced staff members to learn the ropes. 

Providing mentoring opportunities for diverse populations and staff members will help to:

  • Create a positive organizational climate
  • Opens channels of communication
  • Convey important organizational and individual values
  • Assist staff with feeling more comfortable, knowledgeable, and confident in their ability to complete their tasks
  • Provide staff with easy access to knowledgeable colleagues
  • Provide opportunities to discuss various issues especially those which pertain to diversity
It is important that staff consider the following when implementing a mentoring program in order to ensure its success.  These issues include:
  • Being aware that not all staff members are fit to serve as mentors.
  • Marketing the mentoring program.
  • Providing training, education, and guidelines for the mentoring process.
  • Considering a time limit for the mentor relationship to occur.
  • Continuously evaluating the mentoring process to ensure it is continuing to meet the needs of those involved (Schuh, J. & Carlisle, W, 1991 and Blackhurst, A., 2000)

Other staff development initiatives which would promote and address issues pertaining to diversity include sponsoring culturally and ethnic based activities such as socials, lectures, and workshops can provide awareness, education, and collaboration on various issues (Winston & Creamer, 1997).

Religion and Staff Development

The following tips are designed to provide supervisors and other staff members with ideas and potential resource for addressing religion in staff development practices:

  • There are several commercially developed instruments that can be used to assess level of understanding a staff possesses.  These can be helpful in determining what the development needs of staff and in planning development activities.
  • Supervisors should be creative in exposing staff members to different issues of religion.  This can be important in working with a broad spectrum of students and staff members. 
  • Supervisors should be careful not to infringe upon employees rights on the subject of religion.  A careful balance must be drawn between exposure, education, and engaging employees in discussions and activities that can be beneficial.

Gender Issues in Staff Development

To adequately address gender issues in staff development, supervisors should:

  • Establish programs that educate managers on sexism and how to deal with these problems in the workplace.
  • Provide programs that teach men and women to work together as colleagues . 
  • Provide workshops on dissolving the myths of women in business. 
  • Most instances of sexual harassment occur as a result of ignorance.  Train staff on the law, the consequences at that institution, and the ways in which to avoid it. 

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is defined as, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  1. submission to such conduct is explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment
  2. a person’s submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual, or
  3. the conduct unreasonably interferes with a person’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment” (Karsten, 1994, p. 58). 

Harassment depends on the receiver’s perceptions, not on the harasser’s intent.  If a person finds sexually oriented behavior unwelcome or offensive, it is harassment (Karsten, 1994, p. 58). 

Targets of Sexual Harassment

  • 2/3 are women .
  • The most typical scenario involves a man over 35 and a women younger than him.
  • Harassment is more common in sex-segregated organizations and occupations.  Segregation exists when more than 70% of jobholders in a firm or profession are of one sex (Karsten, 1994, p. 61).
  • Women of color are more likely to be sexually harassed than white women (Karsten, 1994, p. 58).

Protection against employer liability

Addressing sexual harassment in staff development can provide protection against liability. At a minimum, supervisors should ensure that:

  • Policy prohibiting sexual harassment written in an understandable language and distributed to all employees.
  • The policy is communicated to staff .
  • Training sessions cover the nature of the problem, provide suggestions for dealing with it as an individual, and explain the internal channels for reporting cases .
  • Complaints are investigated and followed-up with discipline when appropriate.


LGBT Issues and Staff Development

It is important to note that gay people want many of the resources and rights that are provided to heterosexuals such as a safe work environment, equitable benefits, and public support.  Therefore organizations can develop initiatives to educate and support the gay work population:

Safe and equitable work environment - initiatives to provide a safe work environment for gays can be implemented by creating a nondiscrimination policy that includes and stresses the importance of sexual orientation and diversity education; ensuring that equitable benefits are provided to partners of gay employees; and providing organizational support which will send the message that the organization is committed to its employees. 

This does not imply the organization endorses the behavior or beliefs, but that it acknowledges the right of all employees to be themselves and believe in whatever they choose (Winfeld & Spielman, 1993).

Sexual Orientation Education - creating and implementing sexual orientation education is a necessity if the issues of homophobia and gay rights are to be addressed appropriately.  An institution or organization must first understand the difference between workplace education and training when the focus is sexual orientation.  The difference being that education provides knowledge and training provides improving skills. 

An effective workplace education program should focus on sexual orientation and attempt to educate people about concepts of sexual orientation, the validity of same-sex based families, or the justification for the equitable treatment of gays in the workplace (Winfeld & Spielman 1995). When implementing sexual orientation education, the following steps should be taken:

  • Utilization of a needs assessment tool to determine the climate of the organization.
  • Implementation of an educational program that can fit the changing requirements of the environment.
  • Follow-up and reinforcement of the diversity mission.
  • HIV/AIDS education should also be included in the workplace in order to provide further education and dispel stereotypes and myths (Winfeld & Spielman, 1995).

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Office - Creating a LGBT office is one of the most successful ways to provide support to the gay population.  The University of Michigan was the first college campus to establish an LGBT office in 1971.  Numerous other institutions created these offices also but most were founded during the 1990's.  According to Nuss (1996), institutions have a responsibility for the development of all their students inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.  Therefore, establishing a staffed LGBT campus resource center will aid in the development of the whole person (Sanlo, 2000).

Sexual Orientation Speakers Bureau - Sexual Orientation Speakers Bureau are service groups that provide panels of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender speakers to lead discussions about LGBT issues.  The speakers usually are volunteers and can include an array of individuals such as students, faculty, staff, alumni, or supporters of the gay community.  The goal of this group is to raise consciousness about LGBT issues on campus, dispel stereotypes and misinformation, and encourage a supportive attitude toward human diversity.  Speakers’ bureau presenters should also be prepared for the coming out of individuals in the audience and dealing with overt hostility by attendees (Luckstead, 1998).


Staff Development Resources on the Web


The official website for the American Society for Training and Development. Information on this site includes book lists, video lists, a free training and development newsletter, and a monthly information line with great training tips.


This site offers resources on mentoring, coaching, and school improvement (mostly for K-12, but can be modified). Topics also covered include staff development, assessment, improvements in productivity, and employee retention. A staff development advice page is also available.


Another New Zealand company whose site allows you to download free training videos, access free training activities, see a recommended book list, and join a monthly newsletter club on staff training issues.



Updated 2008