Determining what positions you need on your team.

So far, I haven’t visited a campus where resources were flush — where there were plenty of dollars for every position needed for a marketing or communications team. If you lead a team, you likely dream of adding to it. Yet, if given the opportunity to add one position in the coming fiscal year, how would you determine what you need?

Benchmark with comparable organizations.

  • Using their websites, review the staffing and organizational charts of units at peer schools.
  • Review the roles and staffing of similar units on your own campus. (If you haven’t already, consider meeting with peers within other departments, schools or colleges.)
  • Review the CASE website for recommended staffing — they often collect data to support best practices. They may also have a bank of job descriptions.
  • Post a question to a professional association listserv. Sometimes, a slightly unexpected question will get the best responses; something like: If you could only add only one position to your team in this fiscal year, what would it be?

Talk with your current team.

  • Facilitate a discussion among your staff. Get their thoughts; they are after all, on the ground!
  • Perhaps the SWOT methodology used for strategic planning could guide your discussion. In advance, ask team members to write down what they think are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your unit.

Consider inefficiencies.

  • Think about the work processes that are inefficient. What key areas of work are you currently spreading across several positions? (Writing is an example. If all are writing bits and pieces, not only is that not efficient, but it may mean that the content you are producing is not as cohesive and on-brand as it should be.
  • What administrative and low-value tasks are being performed by professional staff? Remember, everything you do is something you don’t do.

Determine the missing skills.

  • Are there skills your team lacks? A focus on skills might help determine what new roles are needed.
  • Consult relevant boards or advisory committees for insight and opinions about what skills are missing within the current team.

Conduct an assessment.

  • Is there a member of your board who would be willing to come onsite and conduct an audit of your operation? This individual could spend a few hours talking with you and your team (individually and in groups) and then share some top-level findings and recommendations.
  • Or, ask a colleague at a peer institution to conduct an assessment.
  • If you end up doing a self-assessment, focus on outcomes, not activity. For example, the number of events hosted in a fiscal year is not as relevant as identifying the number of gifts that came as a direct result of donor attendance at an event. Measuring outcomes allows you to redirect your current staff time towards high-impact activities.
  • Once you have a sense of your highest outcome areas, consider adding staff to build on that success.

Revisit and confirm your priorities.

  • Go back to the plan: what is your primary mission? how do you contribute to the critical needs of the institution?
  • Make a priority order list of what you need to be doing. Then compare that priority to the percentage of staff time you currently devote to it. (Sometimes we find that our highest priorities are receiving less attention.)
  • Maybe you don’t need a new role; maybe you need another of one you already have.

More on improving your team:

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