and universities should desire to get the most out of the people who work in and give life
to their institutions. Some jobs are more
critical than others. People should be
assigned tasks from critical areas on campus while ensuring that all functions of the
organization are performed.
Traditional organization theory describes
organizations as made up of functions that comprise the core of institutions
and those that provide support to the core. The
core of the organization is like the core of a persons bodywhere the head and
trunk of the body contain the vital and life-sustaining organs. The arms, hands, legs, and feet are tremendous
complements to the core, but can be sacrificed if needed to ensure the survival of the
From the perspective of the human body,
the arms, hands, legs, and feet are used to support the functioning of the core. Without any arms and legs, people would have
extreme difficulty caring for themselvesfinding food, eating, building shelter, and
putting on protective clothing. With the loss
of only one appendage, however, people could still manage to provide for themselves with
minimal difficulty. While the core is the
most critical part of the body, it is dependent upon the appendages to provide the
resources needed to survive and thrive.
The concepts of core and non-core
functions are similar to the organization theory concepts of line and staff positions. When you picture an organizational chart with the
positions in an organization drawn out, you see pictures of boxes or circles connected
with vertical and horizontal lines. Organizational
charts show the line and staff positions in the organizations. Line positions are those that directly participate
in the primary mission and purpose of the organization.
Staff positions are those that provide support to the core positions. Within staff units, there are also line and staff
positionssome staff positions do the direct work of the unit and others in the unit
support those working in the line.
In colleges and universities, the core
functions are those related to the academic mission of the institution. Universities exist to educate students; that is
their primary mission. All of the positions
that are directly involved in teaching and instruction make up the core of our
institutions. Professors, academic department
heads, deans, academic vice presidents, and college presidents are the core and line
positions in colleges and universities. All
other positions provide support to the core and the line positions. Library, residence life, development, maintenance,
information management, admissions, and alumni offices all provide support to the teaching
When colleges and universities have to
cut positions, it is rare that they begin by eliminating line positions. Rather, the positions that are first cut are
those furthest from the core. Staff positions
that provide the least critical services in support of the core are those that can be
Among staff positions, there are some
that provide more critical support to the core than others.
Staff positions that provide services to those in the line of the organization are
more imperative than those that are farther removed from the line. In higher education, development and recruiting
are the staff functions that exist most closely to the core and provide the resources that
the core needs most to survive. Development
officers find and secure the financial resources needed to support programs, scholarships,
and faculty compensation and development. And
without effective recruiting personnel, classrooms might not have students to engage in
the educational process.
Following the development and recruiting
functions, facilities, financial aid, and student development are probably the next most
critical support functions. Facilities must
exist to promote effective teaching and learning. Classrooms,
research facilities, and offices are needed to bring about student-teacher interaction. Additionally, resident students need adequate
living quarters. Financial aid services are
needed to help students find ways to pay for their education. Student development functions attend to the
personal and social needs of students.
Within almost any large-scale
organization, there will be workers who do not have enough productive work to keep them
busy. C. Northcote Parkinson described the
tendencies for organizations to become big and wasteful (click here to read an article about these tendencies). For organizations to remain lean and effective,
they must periodically assess the allocation and quality of work and make corrective
adjustments. As argued in the previously
cited article, non-profit organizations probably have a greater tendency to become and
remain inefficient because they lack competitive pressures to remain lean.
At times, college and universities might
find it necessary to eliminate positions in order to become or remain lean and efficient. When new leadership takes control or when new
administrative philosophies and programs are enacted, it might be tempting to release
workers or discontinue programs. When
services and programs are wasteful and unnecessary, such elimination might be called for. Similarly, if the organization employs workers who
are unable or unwilling to perform their jobs and contribute to the institution, the best
course of action might be elimination.
In some cases, it might be desirable to
condense or combine jobs without releasing employees.
Instead of releasing employees who dont have enough quality work to fill
their workdays, colleges and universities should consider enlarging their responsibilities
to critical staff functions. Underworked
staff members from all areas of campus could round out their work assignments by providing
support functions to critical staff offices.
Most small, independent schools fight for
charitable and foundation dollars against enormous development departments from bigger
schools with many times the number of development officers and staff. Small schools also compete for students against
competitor institutions who have considerably more recruiting staff and resources. Instead of hiring more development and recruiting
staff, schools should explore the possibilities of using existing staff members to fill
basic support duties for critical staff functions.
Staff members of all types could lend
their expertise to their institution's critical staff units. Administrative assistants from across campus, who
are already experts at letter writing and mailings, could help put together mailings for
development and recruiting offices. Other
staff members could be trained to make personal phone calls or send personalized e-mails
and notes to prospective students and their parents.
Staff members could become points of contact with area high schools, community
colleges, churches, and other organizations with prospective students.
Staff members could also be trained to
help with development activities. Sending
letters and notes of thanks, helping plan and organize alumni and development functions,
researching grant and fundraising opportunities, and keeping track of records could all be
added to staff responsibilities. They could
work with local and area businesses and use their own personal and professional contacts
for the good of the institution.
With proper communication, the new
responsibilities could be motivating to staff members.
When they realize the importance of their new work to the organization, they should
become more committed to their jobs. For
employees tucked away in remote and seemingly obscure areas of campus, the involvement in
critical campus functions could enhance their involvement and motivation. Increasing the number of skills required to
perform a job has been found motivating for workers according to the Job
Characteristics Model. Enlarging the jobs
of staff employees into areas with added skills and responsibilities could prove
motivating for workers and greatly beneficial to their institutions.
The time investments in the new
responsibilities would not have to be extraordinaryperhaps no more than several
hours a week. Across a semester, a single
staff worker could call and write many prospective students and parents working only
several hours each week. If dozens of campus
staff workers would engage in such support duties for their institutions, tremendous
benefits could be seenall without any additional salaries and benefits. These same concepts can be applied to other vital
core staff unitsincluding facilities and student development.
It seems that many institutions are
becoming more and more desperate for vital resources.
They have to develop creative ways to gain advantages over their competitors. One creative way to build up their development
and recruiting efforts is to use productivity from all areas of campus. Workers and departments from less vital areas of
campus can contribute to their institutions core areas. Since many staff employees do not possess the
academic training and preparation to directly support the academic core, they can lend
their expertise and efforts to the vital staff functions of their schools. By shifting employee work from less critical areas
to more critical areas through job enlargement, colleges and universities can more
efficiently make us of their human resources and become more effective in their functions.