The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

5 Tips to Help You Plan a Professional Development Day for Your Faculty and Staff

An employee engagement survey conducted at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) showed that individuals felt most recognized when their managers gave them opportunities to grow as professionals — whether it was having the chance to attend a conference, attend a meeting with senior-level leaders or receive on-the-job training.

In response to survey feedback, a team of four, including Candace Baer, vice president of human resources, and Cassandra Goryl, former learning and development specialist, organized an interactive half day of professional development sessions designed specifically for faculty and staff at their institution. The learning sessions helped employees gain skills and knowledge related to their jobs and provided a chance for departments to showcase their work.

The event consisted of 15 session topics with three overarching themes: administration, academia, and student affairs and resources. More than 160 employees attended Development Day at RISD. In a recent CUPA-HR webinar, Baer and Goryl shared five tips on how to plan a successful professional development event at your institution.

Tip #1: Engage Senior Leaders
These leaders can help spread the word about the event and even influence colleagues to present a topic they feel passionate about or attend a session simply for the sake of learning. Be sure to share reasons why the event will be a worthwhile investment of time and resources and why their investment is essential for a successful outcome.

Tip #2: Plan Sessions That Are Engaging and Serve the Mission of Your Institution
Attending sessions focused on an attendee’s areas of interest will help the individual discover job-related best practices from experts in their field. Alternatively, if they want to seek new information, participating in sessions outside of their professional scope will help both faculty and staff gain a better understanding of the challenges that the other faces on a regular basis. This helps bridge the gap between administration and academia.

Tip #3: Organization Is Key
Refer to your project timeline often. Use it as your guide and to show others the progress that has been made. A weekly, one-hour meeting with volunteers to discuss event logistics and ideas will also be beneficial for event planners and volunteers. This ensures that those involved feel valued and engaged.

Tip #4: Build Excitement, Create Buy-In and Generate Positive Buzz
Utilizing internal resources can lessen the cost of the event and highlight the unique services that the institution provides. For example, using student volunteers ensures appropriate staffing for the event. Likewise, their volunteer experience can be listed on their resumes. Support from upper-level administration also has its advantages. Consider sending to all faculty and staff a mass save-the-date and/or reminder email from the president or other well-known administrator.

Tip #5: Make Use of the Unique and Oftentimes Free Resources Around You
RISD made use of its in-house catering team to provide meals for attendees and presenters. This served as a way for participants to discuss what they learned over lunch while also allowing the catering team to exhibit their artful creations and potentially drive more traffic to campus dining locations where their cuisine is featured.

An interactive professional development day helps foster an engaged campus community, provides a mechanism for recognition among departments and highlights the unique work of the institution. Use these tips to implement a professional development event that meets the needs of faculty and staff at your institution.

To learn more about RISD’s Development Day and how you can implement a similar event at your institution, view the archived webinar “Fostering Community Through Professional Development.”