Five Ways to On-board New Staff: HECMA’s 5 for Friday

The first identified Student Affairs Case Manager was at the University of Miami in 2000. The first case management Roundtable took place in 2008 at Virginia Tech. HECMA was officially established in 2012 and at present has a membership of more than 350 individuals. (Case management and higher education: Building upon your institution’s capacity, NASPA 2015) To say that the field of Higher Education Case Management is growing is an understatement.

As positions are created and added it is important to provide thorough and appropriate training and orientation. Whether you are a case manager in a newly created position or the person hiring additional staff members, we think the below steps are essential to “on-boarding” new staff.

  1. Meet campus partners:Coordinating efforts across campus is an integral part of a case manager’s job. In an effective system, one should not be contacting campus partners to coordinate services “in an emergency.” Creating and fostering relationships should happen in advance and be ongoing.

    When on-boarding a new staff member, create (or develop for yourself) a list of essential campus partners and set up individual meetings with each person/office. This provides new staff the opportunity to meet campus partners as well as learn their way around campus.

  2. Set aside time for research and review:Familiarity with resources and processes is another key element for a successful case manager.It’s easy to succumb to information overload when in a new position.Set aside specific time with specific topics for research and review for new staff members.A great place to start is the “recommended resources” section of the HECMA website.The HECMA Library (available to HECMA members only) has even more resources.
  3. Provide case studies/reviews and/or shadow meetings:Learning in a vacuum can be boring and lack context.Engage your new staff in case studies and/or permit him/her to shadow meetings.Even if your staff is not new to case management, he /she is probably new to your institution and/or office.Help them learn how your system works and cases are processed.An additional benefit to this is that you may learn something in the process.A new set of eyes offers a new perspective.

    If you are in a brand new office/position and there is not previous precedent set, utilize case studies with your campus partners and/or BIT to learn. This is a great way to further relationships and develop the BIT.

  4. Have a project to “own”: We all have that stack of “to dos” to get to once things slow down. Empower your new staff to help with that. What better way to learn your system, meet campus partners and become fully integrated? As a supervisor, you’ll need to provide the appropriate guidance and tools but then let the new employee fly.Examples of projects could be:
    1. Website updates
    2. Format and process updates to alert software system
    3. Creation of/edit a rubric
    4. Updates to presentations

    If you are in a brand new office this is probably the easiest task as there may be no processes, systems, forms, etc. even developed yet. Try not to become overwhelmed with creating it all now. Work with your team and supervisor to prioritize projects and then work from there. Utilize the HECMA library to find examples and guidance.

  5. Integration into campus/departmental community:This is fairly standard for a new employee at any organization. The value of organizational and departmental orientation should not be undervalued. Some of the most important relationships with organizational partners can be made via orientation and training. These gatherings are usually quite diverse in their make-up and provide a brief exposure to a variety of topics.

In 2013, HECMA established a definition for case managers in higher education; “Higher Education Case Managers serve their University and individual students by coordinating prevention, intervention, and support efforts across campus and community systems to assist at risk students and students facing crises, life traumas, and other barriers that impede success.” (HECMA 2013) If you and/or your staff are not fully oriented to your larger campus systems, how can you support students effectively?

Does your larger office or division host informational meetings and/or social gatherings? If so, plan to attend and encourage your staff to do the same. Are there committee opportunities within your organization that need members? These are great opportunities to work on various projects and engage with offices and individuals on campus you might not normally.

Most campuses also have an HR office that offers training and development beyond new employee orientation. Take advantage of those (often free or low cost) professional development opportunities.

Before engaging in campus committees and/or other activities, I recommend developing a sound professional development plan and schedule expectations. Although it’s important to be involved that should not occur at the expense of core job functions or “just because.” Figure out what time permits and your goals require first.

Even if we have not hired or trained new staff, we have all been new employees at one point or another. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments on other important components of “on-boarding” new staff. What did you find helpful (or unhelpful)? Let’s do what HECMA does so well, and engage in conversation and learn from one another.

Therese Y. Smith
Membership Director, HECMA
Director, Community of Concern Team
University of Kentucky