In life, there are “to-do” lists, bucket lists, holiday gift lists, and the ever-popular “honey-do” list, to note a few well-known examples. As the working environment of a manager sometimes becomes hectic and even chaotic, making lists can bring order to the madness. This is especially helpful when setting standards for employee hiring and appraising development and performance. Each job should have a specific list of requirements.
In the parks and recreation field, two components influence staff-qualification standards: professional and agency needs, in combination with university and college notions about what it means to be “educated.” As a result, at least four general standards-based lists guide staffing decisions:
At the national level, several well-known organizations publish standards that may apply both to parks and recreation professionals and to educational institutions, while disciplinary standards apply more broadly to those who study leisure, and may be international in scope. At the same time, the certification of individual professionals or whole agencies (as well as the accreditation of education providers) sets the stage for staffing. What matters most for local agencies are their employees’ particular skill-sets.
An example of an effective agency list has been developed in San Mateo County (California). The “list” contains 62 items (shown below), arrayed as a matrix (excerpted in Figure 1), which is “used as a tool for supervisors in determining what skills to introduce to their subordinates, as well as for an individual to understand where to focus his or her developmental opportunities,” according to Randy Schwartz, the Community Services Director in San Bruno County, in his article, “Skill Development Schedule for the Recreation Professional, As Determined by the Parks & Recreation Directors of San Mateo County.”
Reflecting the influence of the four general sources of standards, the matrix comprises three elements:
1. A comprehensive list of skills for each position commonly found in agencies
2. The relative importance of each skill identified for each position
3. Providers from which each skill generally can be obtained.
Honing Your Skills
Typical agency staff levels range from recreation leader to director, while each of the skills deemed relevant to a given position is classified among “mandatory,” “desirable” and “to be developed.” Schwartz adds, “Skills listed as mandatory are those viewed as essential for anyone working at that level. Those listed as desirable are suggested to those interested in excelling in their jobs. Skills to develop are suggested to individuals considering moving to the next level.” To facilitate acquiring necessary skills, the San Mateo County directors identified five sources:
1. In-house training
2. Professional associations
3. Private-sector seminars
4. Director’s workshops
5. College courses.
During an interview with an agency director in San Mateo County, items on the list were used to compare the characteristics of a college student who recently had completed an internship at that agency. The director’s hope was that during the internship, the student’s skill-set would advance from the recreation leader (first level) to the specialist (second level).
Of the 22 skills listed, the director observed that the intern had improved on 11 (50 percent). In comparison, the intern believed that growth had occurred on 16 of the items. Among the items both the director and the intern found challenging were communication skills, computer skills, marketing and promotion and attendance at professional trainings. These results indicated a fair amount of agreement between director and intern, and served as the basis for creating a plan for further professional development.
Schwartz describes the purposes for which the list can be used:
· “In succession planning discussions
· By young professionals to understand where to focus their developmental opportunities
· In staff retreats to outline positions within the organization and growth opportunities.
· To determine curriculum for training conferences and meetings
· By colleges planning bachelor’s and master’s degree curriculum for recreation majors
· By individuals analyzing skill sets as they hope to switch careers
· For career development planning during employee evaluations
· In developing personnel evaluation tools
· In goal-setting sessions.”
Schwartz adds that the list is “intended as a general tool to be used as a starting place for training plans and evaluation discussions. The directors recognize that the list is not fully inclusive, nor are the survey points meant as absolutes for all agencies.” In addition, the number of position titles and descriptions likely will vary among organizations.
Some managers may want to add “develop my own staff skill development schedule” to their existing “to-do” lists, toward the goal of eliminating some staffing-related items already encompassed by the list. Now that’s a list everyone can agree on.
For a copy of the list, contact me at email@example.com.
Schwartz, Randy. “Skill Development Schedule for the Recreation Professional, As Determined by the Parks & Recreation Directors of San Mateo County.” San Bruno, Calif.: City of San Bruno, 2009.
Kim S. Uhlik is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism Management at San JoseStateUniversity. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.