During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the academic workforce is distributed and opportunities for collaborative learning, networking, and sharing of ideas and successes are more limited, leadership support for professional development in higher education is more critical than ever. To come out of the crisis thriving, colleges and universities have to invest in their people.
Research Report | Academic Impressions, May 2020
Historically, institutions have often frozen or cut professional development (PD) budgets during periods of financial distress, limiting their capacity for learning and identifying solutions at the very moment that capacity is most needed. Today, more than ever, institutions need to take the opposite course. Investing in PD—in your people, in their capacity and their growth—also sends a powerful leadership message. This message provides stability amid uncertainty; offers a way to move forward, keep connected and engaged, and take action; and encourages a growth mindset, even and especially in the midst of crisis.
The institutions that will emerge from a time of crisis in a position to thrive will be those whose leaders and staff are empowered and equipped to think opportunistically, creatively, and with a growth mindset. During such a time, existing mindsets and approaches to the work need to be challenged. Creative solutions need to be sought, identified, piloted, and shared. Systemic, enterprise-wide support for professional development—in a structured, intentional way—cultivates a growth mindset in the academic workforce, communicates a powerful and necessary message to the institution’s employees about their leadership’s confidence and investment in their people, and strengthens the institution’s capacity and resilience in the face of change.
Academic Impressions recently surveyed 2,452 higher-ed professionals from 642 post-secondary institutions in the U.S. and Canada. The findings from this third iteration of the survey confirm and augment previous findings (from surveys conducted at the end of calendar years 2015 and 2017) and support a strong case for leaders at institutions of higher education to provide department-wide or enterprise-wide support for the professional development of their faculty and staff.
The findings also suggest that professional development is important to employees and their institutions for reasons other than what traditionally has been believed. The survey data allow for the deconstruction of several longstanding myths about professional development in higher ed.
This report will share eight key findings that, collectively, can have a significant impact on how higher-ed leaders understand and utilize professional development in building the capacity both of their staff and of their departments as a whole. These findings are as follows:
- Staff want PD to improve their effectiveness—not simply to secure a promotion or pay raise.
- For many staff, dialogue with their department heads about PD is more important than funding for PD.
- Dialogue about PD between department heads and staff contributes directly to job satisfaction and staff retention.
- Staff perceive many barriers to asking for PD.
- Proactive outreach from leadership is especially critical to support PD for women and under-represented groups.
- Staff commonly believe that there are “no funds for PD,” even when funds are available.
- Practices such as individualized PD plans and integration of PD into the performance review cycle make a significant difference in job satisfaction.
- Even incremental progress toward systemic support for PD makes a measurable, significant difference.
We encourage you to read this complimentary report on professional development in higher education and share it with the leadership at your institution.
Contributors: Amit Mrig, Academic Impressions; Beth Rotach, Academic Impressions; Daniel Fusch, Academic Impressions; Kevin Kientz, Academic Impressions; Paul Cook, University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus.
About Academic Impressions
At Academic Impressions, we are focused solely on providing leadership, personal development, and skills-based training opportunities to faculty and staff in higher ed. We help individuals, teams, and institutions across the US and Canada build upon their knowledge and expertise to reach new levels and find practical solutions to the challenges they are facing. Learn more about our organization here. You can also sign up to get future reports like this one and daily updates on how higher education is adapting, by subscribing to our complimentary Daily Pulse.
Academic Impressions is the organization with the most experience in online professional development in higher education:
- Nearly 20 years of best-in-class online training.
- Designed and developed more than 1500 online trainings.
- A network of over 500 vetted subject matter experts.
- We have served more than 3000 institutions, including every AAU, R1 and R2 institution.
Partner with Academic Impressions
Partner with us to integrate professional development throughout your division or institution with an annual membership. Our members gain access to hundreds of reports, virtual trainings, and other resources to build skills and gather practical strategies as we all navigate the new normal:
- Hundreds of hours of in-depth webcasts featuring best practices and supplemental resources on issues critical to Academic Affairs, Advancement/ Alumni Relations, Business Office, Diversity & Inclusion, Enrollment Management, Student Affairs, and Leadership.
- Free access in 2020 to dozens of virtual conferences and trainings providing in-depth instruction and valuable networking opportunities (limited seats available).
- Research-based reports exploring critical issues facing the industry.
- Articles and whitepapers with tips, how-to’s, and case studies.
- Tools, templates, and other resources that can help staff improve their effectiveness immediately.
- Proactive mentoring and support.