Regularly scheduled office conferences should be held. Many authorities recommend weekly county staff meetings. With a program specialist, this may be difficult. However, it is suggested that an office have two office conferences per month. Early in the year, dates for office conferences should be blocked out on every staff persons' calendar and should be honored. A casual conference during coffee breaks will not give the results of a more formal meeting. You will need to decide as a staff how you will handle office calls and walk-ins during your conference.
The following items are usually covered in office conferences.
- Calendars: The better informed all staff are of all programs, the better they are able to help promote them, be unified in what they tell others and to help each other. Reviewing calendars should not be the sole purpose for office conferences, nor should they dominate the time.
- Secretarial Work Load: Find out who has major projects, priority items, etc. Newsletters take time to type, print and mail. Try to reach consensus on whose work will be done in what priority. This also gives staff a reminder on the lead time needed for major projects. Find out about additional "outside of county" workload that is being done for field specialists and multi-county programs.
- Media: Regular radio and/or TV time and/or newspaper space may be available to the county extension programs. Decide in advance who is doing what. Using the media is an excellent way to boost county programs as well as being more organized with the media outlets you have.
- Develop a guideline for reporting results of extension activities.
- Items for the monthly extension council meeting: Discuss written reports and who will be giving oral reports and the topics. Ask if there are agenda items for council.
- Program Plans: For the period being discussed--visual aids needed, assistance needed. This is an excellent time to bounce ideas off one another for recruiting, program content, etc.
On a periodic basis, the office conference should include:
- A total county office situational analysis and (annually), needs assessment.
- At least one meeting where you share program development plans, directions, goals, and methods discussion.
- Discussion of Civil Rights, ADA issues, and preventing sexual harassment --take it seriously and so will others.
- Encourage careful planning with new or potentially risky programs.
- Mutually celebrate successes and recognize others' program success whenever possible.
- Discuss the budgetary process and time sequence with all staff. Solicit their ideas and be sensitive to their needs.
- Conferences can be used as a problem solving arena.
Other suggestions for successful office conferences:
- Be interested in, not dominate, their programs.
- Take the lead in facilitating communication with others.
- Share office conference discussions with the regional director.
- Invite regional director and program specialists, particularly those housed in your county office, to participate.
- Recognize successes and be supportive when colleagues are working through problems.
- Plan annual leaves and encourage people to take them.
- Rotate facilitation of office conferences among staff.
In the role of supervisor, county staff will expect you to:
- Recognize them as an important part of the county extension operation.
- Ensure they have a clear understanding of job expectations.
- Be consistent with all county employees--you must know the rules!
- Develop, with staff assistance, a procedure for handling work.
- After each county staff conference, meet with the office assistant to plan the work load.
- Conduct an annual performance review with each county staff employee.
- Be a positive example.
- Work diligently to create supportive and stimulating atmosphere.