A new academic term and a new year have commenced! With this, students and educators are returning to campus with hopes and aspirations for what the upcoming months will hold. As HR professionals it is important to put our best practices into action and can do so through the lens of performance management. By this I mean that clear expectations for processes used and outcomes to be achieved need to be documented and communicated to students. Many academics will argue that this is accomplished through a course outline or syllabus. This document, which is often seen as contractual agreement between an instructor and students, details work requirements, material covered, and other operational details. This is rather akin to an employment contract used in the workplace.
However, in my thirty years of teaching, I have found (both through experience and through my doctoral research) that the interpersonal relationships formed between instructors and students also provide the foundation for learning and how a class will actually progress. Having appropriate expectations for how instructors and students will interact enhances both parties ongoing engagement and dedication to working together and to ensuring that we all continue to thrive in a post-secondary context.
I am not advocating for a lack of boundaries, as professional discretion and appropriate information sharing must always be used. What I am referring to is creating a sense of connection. Simply put, it is conveying to students what can and cannot be expected within the instructor-student relationship. In essence, this is a type of performance plan agreement.
The following article highlights elements that can be considered: Defining the relationship
To emphasize the points in the above noted article, I let my students know that I care about their learning. While they have responsibility to ensure that they learn and I have responsibility to provide the environment in which this can effectively occur, I convey that HR management is important to me (in fact I share that I’m passionate about it) and that I really want them to learn about my chosen profession. Knowing, within properly stated boundaries and clearly stated expectations for both parties, that I actually care about my profession and care about and am counting on learners to engage with the material, changes the tone of the class. It is palpable.
Opening up this type of discussion with learners take courage and vulnerability, but in turn promises to deliver a more motivating learning environment for students and a more fulfilling work environment for educators. When thinking about being open (and yes vulnerable) I invite you to think about how relationships with fellow educators could also be enhanced if we were willing to put clear interpersonal relationship performance expectations in place and be vulnerable enough to care for one another? Note: This applies to working relationships within organizations as well. What if this type of process was utilized as part of ongoing interactions between people in companies?
So, here’s to the upcoming year. May it hold moments of wonder and evolution for us all as we continue in the life-long journey of self-development and learning from, and with, others.
Melanie Peacock PhD, MBA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP
Those looking for resources to enhance your HR teaching as the new year commences, please check out previous blog posts (right-hand menu on this page) and specifically those meant to assist at the start of a new academic terms as follows: