Academic Advising Resources

Advising Administrators' and Academic
Advisors' Perceptions of Group Dynamics in the Workplace

2003 Results
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Catherine Joseph and Heidi Carty
University of California - San Diego


BACKGROUND

Phase I of a national web-based survey was administered in summer 2002 to NACADA advising administrators to assess their perceptions on select measures of group dynamics in the workplace.   The survey was intended to identify and adapt a set of best practices that may be used to: enhance communication, staff morale, teamwork and decision-making, diversity, leadership performance, career development and an advising unit's vision and mission.   A total of 360 NACADA administrators responded to the survey and results were later presented at the 2002 National Conference in Utah.

In summer 2003, a follow-up survey was replicated (Phase II) and administered to advising colleagues who serve in non-managerial (non-administrators) positions, to determine similarities and differences that might exist with respect to the seven variables measured in Phase I.   A reported 652 respondents participated in the survey via the web, and results compiled for a Poster Session presentation at the 27 th National Conference in Dallas.

METHODOLOGY

In August of 2003, an e-mail was sent to 5,029 NACADA members who are NOT advising administrators inviting them to respond to the survey.   The survey was available on-line for two weeks.   Overall, 652 Academic Advisors responded to the survey resulting in a response rate of 13%.   NACADA member were not sent a follow-up reminder nor was it known how many of the e-mail addresses were outdated or incorrect which may account for the small response rate.   Responses were tabulated by computing simply frequency distributions using SPSS.   These data were compared to the responses of 360 Academic Advising Administrators collected in the summer of 2002 utilizing the same survey (some of the questions were slightly altered to address an Administrator).

HIGHLIGHTS

Demographics:

  • Similar to Academic Advising Administrators (77%), the majority of Academic Advisors are female (81%).
  • Almost 90% of Academic Advising Administrators possess an advanced degree (Master's, 61%, Doctorate, 28%) compared to 75% of Academic Advisors (AA), (Master's, 69%, Doctorate, 6%).
  • To no surprise a larger proportion of Administrators report being between 51 and 70 years of age (42%), compared to Academic Advisors (25%).   At the same time far more Academic Advisors (23%) report being between 22 and 30 years of age compared to AA Administrators (2%).

Communication Patterns:

  • In regard to communication patterns in the work place, the majority of Administrators and Advisors report being comfortable giving staff/colleagues feedback regarding work (managerial for Administrators and advising issues for Advisors) issues and feel well informed about job-related matters from staff/colleagues.
  • While 70% of Administrators "strongly agree" to "agree" that they are satisfied with how information is communicated in their work place, over one-fifth (21%) "disagree" to "strongly disagree" that they are satisfied with communication patterns in their work place.   At the same time, less than half (48%) of the Academic Advisors report being satisfied with how information is currently communicated in their office; 37% of the Academic Advisors "disagree" to "strongly disagree" that they are satisfied with how information is currently communicated.
  • Far more Administrators (95%) "strongly agreed" to "agree" that they are well informed about job-related issues from staff.   When Academic Advisors were asked if they were well informed about job-related matters from staff, 61% "strongly agreed" to "agreed" and almost one-quarter (22%) "strongly disagreed" to "disagreed".
  • The majority of Administrators (65%) "strongly agreed" to "agree" that they encourage a positive climate for managing conflict resolution within their work place; almost one-quarter (22%) "disagree" to "strongly disagree" that they encourage a positive climate for managing conflict resolutions.   Similarly, when Academic Advisors were asked if their supervisor encourages a positive climate for managing conflict resolution in the workplace, 59% "strongly agreed" to "agreed" and almost one-quarter (22%) "strongly disagreed" to "disagreed".

Staff Morale:

  • Far more Administrators report being satisfied with the level of staff morale in their unit compared to Academic Advisors.   Nearly three quarters (71%) of Administrators "strongly agree" to "agree" that they are satisfied with staff morale in their unit compared to 45% of Academic Advisors.   Just over one-third (36%) of Academic Advisors "disagreed" to "strongly disagreed" that they were satisfied with the level of staff morale in their unit, nearly one fifth (17%) of the Administrators "disagreed" to "strongly disagreed".
  • Far less Academic Advisors believe that job tasks are distributed fairly compared to the Administrators.   Just over half (52%) of the Academic Advisors believe job tasks are distributed fairly, while almost three-quarters (73%) of the Administrators believe job tasks are distributed fairly.
  • The majority of both Administrators and Academic Advisors believe their Supervisor provides sufficient resources, adequate support and provides recognition for a job well done.

Team Work and Decision-Making:

  • In regard to teamwork and decision making behaviors, approximately 80% to 90% of Administrators and Academic Advisors "strongly agree" to "agree" that their unit as a whole is effective in accomplishing tasks, that staff work together in a cooperative manner, and that it's their practice to encourage and actively listen to one-another's input.
  • When asked if it was their practice to implement the unit's ideas when applicable, 98% of the Administrators "strongly agreed" to "agreed" compared to 70% of the Advisors.
  • Far more Administrators (92%) "strongly agree" to "agree" that their work environment allows staff to feel comfortable in brainstorming new and unique solutions to job tasks compared to Academic Advisors (70%); almost one-fifth (19%) of the Academic Advisors "disagree" to "strongly disagree" that they feel comfortable brainstorming in their work environment.

Diversity:

  • Approximately, 85% to 95% of Administrators and Academic Advisors "strongly agree" to "agree" that their work environment is sensitive to diversity and cultural differences and that these differences are respected among staff.   Nine percent of the Academic Advisors "disagree" to "strongly disagree" that cultural differences are respected in their unit compared to less than 1% of Administrators.
  • Approximately, 80% of Administrators and Academic Advisors view diversity training as an important component of management and supervisory responsibilities.

Leadership and Performance Management:

  • When asked if staff are acknowledged and rewarded for finding more efficient ways of doing things, 81% of the Administrators "strongly agreed" to "agreed".   When the Academic Advisors were asked if their Administrators acknowledge and reward staff for finding more efficient ways of doing things, less than half (46%) "strongly agreed" to agreed".
  • Far more Administrators (74%) "strongly agree" to "agree" that their unit has clear performance standards in place for employees compared to Academic Advisors (41%).
  • Less than half of all Administrators (37%) and Advisors (40%) "strongly agree" to "agree" that their unit has adequate staffing to sufficiently manage their workload.

Career Development and Training:

  • In regard to career development and training, far more Administrators (78% and 76%) "strongly agree" to "agree" that employees are given the necessary training to perform their jobs both effectively and efficiently compared to Advisors (47% and 46%).   Less than half of the Advisors indicate that they are given the necessary training to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently.
  • Almost all Administrators (96%) "strongly agree" to "agree" that their staff is encouraged to improve skills by participating in professional development while just under three-quarters of the Advisors (72%) indicated such agreement.
  • Far more Administrators (70%) indicated (strongly agreed to agreed) that their unit has received training on how to advise special populations compared to Advisors (37%).   Just over one-third of the Advisors indicated that their unit had received training for advising special populations.

Vision and Mission:

  • While the majority of both Administrators and Advisors report that the role and mission of their unit are consistently made clear, that their staff or unit is committed to the unit's goals and mission, that their unit is effective in accomplishing goals and that staff are able to adapt quickly to job-related changes, far more Administrators tended to agree compared to the Advisors.
  • One of the most stated reasons for not achieving the unit's mission was a lack of resources.

BEST PRACTICES

Improving Administrator/Advisor Communication in the Workplace

  • Use of E-mail
    • Staff Retreats
    • Regular staff meetings
  • Face-to-face meetings
  • Informal discussions
  • Internal website
  • Group luncheon
  • Instant Messaging
  • Newsletter/ memo
  • Written agendas of meetings

Improve Staff Morale in the Workplace

  • Lunch celebrations/parties
  • Team building retreats/training
  • Praises and acknowledgments for a job well done
  • Open Communication
  • Social outings
  • Awards and Recognition
  • Ability to talk to a supervisor and visa versa
  • Merit raises, days off, cash bonus, and comp-time
  • No micro-management (the ability to design own approach to accomplishing jobs)

  

Promote Teamwork and Enhance Decision-Making in the Workplace

  • Brainstorming Sessions
  • Assign two or more staff members to each assignment
  • Team-building exercises at staff development retreats
  • Retreats to discuss strategies, generate ideas
  • Cross-training to understand all aspects of staff responsibilities
  • Regular communication and respect
  • Recognition of opposing views once a decision is made it is supported by all
  • Ensure that less desirable tasks are worked on as a team
  • All work is shared and evenly distributed
  • Communication workshops

Best Practices to Promote Diversity in the Workplace

  • Diverse staff
  • Workshops/ speakers
  • Diversity training
  • Discussed in meetings within unit
  • Campus committees
  • Diverse Student Body
  • Meeting with diversity organizations
  • Respect for others

Optimal Leadership Performance in the Workplace

  • Awards / recognition
  • Verbal
  • Recognition/ luncheons/ dinners
  • Merit raises
  • Letters
  • E-mail congratulations
  • Performance evaluations
  • Comp-time/ time off

Create Career & Professional Development Opportunities for Advisors

  • Membership in Professional Associations
  • Professional development workshops
  • Attendance at National, Local, and Regional Conferences
  • Utilize on-campus training and workshops
  • In-service training at staff meetings or retreat
  • Encourage continuing education
  • Campus-wide advisor meetings
  • Advisor training sessions and seminars

BARRIERS

Barriers that impede advising mission and goals in the workplace

  • The absence of a defined set of mission and goals.
  • Limited resources, e.g. funding, staffing, space. Etc.
  • Leadership and management styles
  • Timely communication about changes in academic policy and procedures
  • Inadequate advisement training which leads to inconsistencies in job functions
  • Lack of campus visibility, recognition and support from college and campus administration.

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