November 1, 2010

2010 Program Conference

I just wanted to share, in case anyone is interested, some basic evaluation results of our 2010 Program Conference. I personally had a great time and loved the location and space. I hope you all did too and maybe even left having learned a few new tricks to use in your job.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from the eval.

  • Educational sessions (break-outs) were the most valuable part of the conference to 36% of respondents, the highest ranked part of the conference. This marks an interesting change from last year, when Center-organized time was the highest ranked event (39% marked it as most valuable in 2009, compared to 20% this year). 
  • The Hilton and the Bloomington location were rated as excellent. (For this reason we are considering having it there again next year!)
  • The Poster Session was considered good networking time by 61% of respondents, and a very useful and informative session by 40% of respondents. Fifty-eight percent of respondents learned about Extension projects they did not previously have knowledge of. The Poster Session used to be more universally-loved on the eval, so I wonder if this means it is time to shake things up a bit.
  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents indicated they participated in some aspect of Technopalooza (Technology Fair, held all day Tuesday). Of these respondents, 80% thought it was an effective way to teach technology topics at Program Conference. Forty-eight percent of all survey respondents thought a Technopalooza type of event should be included in the conference next year.
  • General feedback indicated that participants liked the variety offered at the conference this year and the fact that networking was explicitly encouraged.
Thank you to all of you who took the time to fill out the online evaluation. The planning committee pours over the results every year, so your feedback is taken very seriously!

I hope you had a worthwhile experience at Program Conference this year! I sure enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces!

July 28, 2010

Extension 2.0 and Beyond!

I am working on an exciting new curriculum entitled "Extension 2.0 and Beyond!" It is based on the popular online enrichment course Extension 2.0 with eight all new units. The course will be available to all Extension employees.

The units will cover:

  • Online Surveys
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Successful Uses of Social Media Tools
  • iTunes U and other a/v tools
  • Hands-on: Communicating via Technology
  • eNewsletters
Hopefully some of those units sound interesting to you. Maybe you already have opinions on some of those tools and their usefulness to you and your program, but join us all the same, because you will have a chance to "dive deep" as they say and see many examples, uses, and real-life how-to's.

Do you have any ideas for the course? These units are not set in stone and I am, as always, very excited to hear any feedback on the course and its content! We are shooting for a early 2011 launch. Also, in these tight budgetary times, I am a bit stumped as to a good incentive for completing the course. In the last Extension 2.0, most participants said they did not do it for the free MP3 player, but I think it is human nature to be more likely to finish something if there is an incentive, even if it is small. Any ideas on that are appreciated too!

May 6, 2010

PULSE Survey, Extension version

A couple months ago I headed over to the U's Quality Fair, one of my favorite University-sponsored events (for which I think this year may have been the last? since that department has been dissolved? anybody know?). It was at the new stadium (on the press level! FANCY!) so that was very exciting for me to see for the first time. The press level has cushy chairs and very nice bathrooms. Bathrooms that broadcast the keynote speaker! You won't miss a thing! However, you will miss a thing if you obsess over there being NO COFFEE for the whole day. ARE THEY TRYING TO KILL ME.

Anyway. My point here was what. Oh yes! Even in my coffee-parched stupor, I happened upon a great poster at the Poster Session: a department had utilized the results of their PULSE survey to target training and try to increase job satisfaction and retention. Now I'm no HR person, but that sounded neat! I came back and talked to our HR and got a copy of our PULSE results from the last survey in 2008. I was hoping to look through and find any areas where we could target some resources from a programmatic perspective.

It was exciting to see that Extension as a unit (with 54% response rate) has very high job satisfaction, job importance, job worth type of feelings. We feel important! We like our co-workers and are overall pretty happy with benefits and pay and working at the U.

Two things I thought were interesting were a high level of work-family conflict and a low level of what they termed "work interdependence."

For the first one, work-family conflict, I have to admit I was a little surprised that Extension's work-family conflict was so much higher than other units at the U. Something about our jobs is tougher on personal lives than perhaps it could/should be and it would be a great project to figure that out.

For the second thing I thought was alarming, "work interdependence" is supposedly a measure of teamwork, but if you read the questions that figure into the data, it seems to be more of a measure of cross-teamwork ("How much do members of your workgroup depend on other workgroup members for help or assistance to do their work?"). Extension as a unit rated the lowest in the whole University for these questions. I think this reflects a fundamental cross-Center work problem that has been around Extension for years. I remember my first day in Extension, my boss explaining to me that we can't have "silos" and I'm not a farm girl so I was like, blink. blink. silos are bad?

One idea I have to try to combat the silos is a cross-Center "buddy" program. CHEEZY, right? (At least you'll have something to talk about with your buddy, as in "OMG this is so cheezy") But do you think it could work for opening channels into other Centers? I had a conversation with the evaluation team about doing what they called an 'overlap analysis,' where everybody fills out a survey and it shows where people are most likely to have overlap in their work, and then voila you know who your new buddy is. I can also see merits to random buddies--then there could be serendipity with combos of programming ideas no one would have ever thought of.

Well that is my take on Extension's 2008 PULSE results. If you'd care to shed any light on any of these issues, just leave a comment or drop me an email! Thanks!

March 8, 2010

Products and Publications

Many questions that educators and specialists have involve creating or managing a product in the Extension Store. Erik Bremer, Neil Anderson, and I have worked to redo the Products and Publications section of the Employee site. We added new information and made things easier (hopefully) to find.

We would really appreciate any feedback! Specifically on:

  1. Info provided about pubs, store, etc.--is anything missing?
  2. What type of efforts would get this info in the hands of potential authors?
Thanks for your thoughts!

January 11, 2010

Goals for a New Year

I spent a little time last week brainstorming some goals for my side of the PRU (resource creation) and I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE your feedback.

Strengthen New Employee Orientation (in conjunction with other units):
  • Online courses for new programmatic staff:
    • Grants curriculum (already have Grantsmanship Fundamentals)
    • Technology Use, University specific (in conjunction with IT)
    • Evaluation Basics
    • Presentation Skills (preparation, organization, powerpoint, audience)
    • Marketing your program

On-the-job opportunities

  • Mentorship program for new employees
  • Cross-capacity 'buddy' program
  • Grantwriting mentor program

'Fingertip' resources (job aids)

  • Is it a grant?
  • How to process a grant
  • Library Use
  • Disaster Response
  • How to create a product
Technology Awareness (in conjunction with OTU)

  • "Extension 2.0 and Beyond!" a new online course building on and updating Extension 2.0
    • Online surveys
    • Social bookmarking
    • Uses of social networking
    • Collaborating with Google tools
    • iTunes U and podcasting
Interpersonal/Personal skills (best delivery method???)

  • Time Management
  • Email Management
  • Team communication
  • Supervisory skills (in conjunction with HR)
  • Hiring and Interviewing
  • Developing clear expectations
  • Motivation
  • Long-distance supervision

Also Informal Communication via:

  • PRU blog
  • PRU podcast (an idea)

November 23, 2009

New Conflict of Interest Policy

Mike Schmitt recently gave me a copy of the U's new draft of a Conflict of Interest policy. I eventually found it online and here's the link:

It is worth reading through, since it will affect every one of us. I found it very different from our previous policy, but not out of line with corporate policies. It will be quite a culture shift if this policy is adopted.

If you have feedback about this draft, you can always send them to Bev Durgan or Mike Schmitt, or any higher uppity up that you happen to know. There is also a form at the bottom of the policy, asking for feedback. I'm not sure where that goes though!

November 16, 2009

ASTD Conference

Last Thursday I went to the ASTD-TCC conference in St. Paul. Apparently ASTD stands for Workplace Learning and Performance. (For the record, I don't approve of acronyms that STAND FOR NOTHING). It is a professional organization for people who do staff training.

I was pretty excited for this conference, the keystone of my professional development this year. And it started out with a bang. There was coffee and the best blueberry muffin. Ever. The first keynote was a guy talking about interpersonal styles (Scott Schwefel of the Insights program). I took the 25 question quiz and was totally surprised when it described me to a T. The U offers a similar thing, What's my Type? (scroll down on the page) for $34, in case you are curious!

I went to several break-outs, and to be honest, only one of them was any good at all. I hate that about conferences. Each break-out time had EIGHT choices so it is extra sad when you end up in a bad one. You had seven other choices! Gah!

One break-out I went to mentioned how the most used skill set of a professional executive is their interpersonal skills. But, they pointed out, almost no staff development goes into interpersonal skill building. I was relieved to remember we at least had one session at Program Conference about conflict management. And there are these from the U HR department.

Another session was on teambuilding, and I thought it was very interesting although I didn't see myself doing any teambuilding workshops anytime in the future. The speakers recommended what looked like a great book, Influencer, with lots of examples of how to make large and small scale changes. Here is the book description:

"Everyone wants to be an influencer. We all want to learn how to help ourselves and others change behavior. And yet, in spite of the fact that we routinely attempt to do everything from lose weight to improve quality at work, few of us have more than one or two ideas about how to exert influence. For the first time, Influencer brings together the breakthrough strategies of contemporary influence masters. By drawing from the skills of hundreds of successful influencers and combining them with five decades of the best social science research, Influencer shares eight powerful principles for changing behaviors--principles almost anyone can apply to change almost anything."

OK, so now that I know my type, which is basically "wishy washy socialite," maybe this book isn't for me. But I'm sure it could be useful to some of you persuasive types!

In the middle of all this, daycare calls to tell me both of my kids are sick. I call my husband and dispatch him to go get them, since I really want to go to the last session "Put some GO in your Goals" because I am very eager to get freshly motivated.

Well it was such a terrible cliche of a session, I figure that will teach me to put work above family. sheesh.

So, overall, not a great conference, but I picked up a few gems. And it was good networking time with my two Extension colleagues who went. We got fired up about staff training. Now let's do it!

October 14, 2009

Program Conference Wrap-Up

Well yay for Program Conference! Yay for 330 of you who attended!

Yay for it being OVER!

You are all Program Delivery people, you know what I mean. It was great and all, but, WHEW. I needed about a 3 day nap.

Relive the magic (and try finding yourself--always entertaining) in our conference pictures on flickr!

Also, some of you may find interesting the following evaluation results...

  • The most important reason for attending Program Conference for most of you is to network and meet with colleagues. 74% of respondents thought the conference was successful in achieving this.
  • The most valuable time at the conference was in Center-organized time (38%), followed by break-outs (26%).
  • The conference location (St. Paul) was popular, with 70% rating it as above average or excellent.
  • Respondents found Chris Farrell's talk interesting and relevant, while Michael Swanson's talk was perhaps a bit too ag-y.
  • The poster session is useful, a good networking time, and good for learning about projects that are new to you.
  • The awards lunch was also a popular part of the agenda, and interestingly, was strongly preferred over an awards dinner.
  • All tours were consistently ranked very interesting, with many comments to continue including this. Obviously with the rain and budget constraints, we didn't have ideal circumstances, so it is great so many people still found these tours valuable!
  • The technology tools break-out (Matthes, Jacobsen) was the session that stood above the rest on the eval.
If you planned or gave a session and would like that break-out or Center's specific eval data, just let me know and I will filter it out for you.

Thanks again for your attendance and enthusiasm about Program Conference! It was great to see so many familiar faces.

October 1, 2009

See you at Program Conference!

I can't believe Program Conference is already next week! Ready or not!

We're so looking forward to seeing all of you who can make it in St. Paul!

September 29, 2009

Welcome Dianne!

A great big PRU welcome to Dianne Sivald, Extension's new Grants Manager!

Dianne has many years of experience finding, writing, and managing grants, most recently with Minnesota Public Radio. She has many exciting ideas for making this new position useful and efficient, and is very enthusiastic about the work we do in Extension. Dianne will be a valuable resource for all Extension staff. If you run into her around campus or at Program Conference next week, please introduce yourself and help us welcome Dianne!

September 17, 2009

Informal Learning

OK, raise your hand if you've heard of informal learning.

I just went to a seminar on this, and I had no idea what it was. In fact, I wonder what made me sign up for it in the first place? Anyway. It was a good idea. Although honestly, don't you hate it when something they could have said in an hour takes all day? Geez.

The gist of it was that you can do formal education/training, and people forget 91% of the information within 7 days. Or something like that. I forgot to bring pen and paper. So I forgot 91% of his info. But if you give someone informal learning, which it turns out is usually a JOB AID that you use as a cheat sheet, people remember better. Well DUH! But I say DUH but do I have any job aids for you? Um. Not really.

So the presenter shared a lot of really nice, successful job aids and I am inspired to create them as the need arises in the PRU. I figure the next one we'll probably need is for grants (from the new grants manager). But are there any other ideas?

He also had an example of a successful online training--it used all kinds of little tricks (I mean that in a good way) to help you remember the info. Graphics, tag lines, stuff like that. It was neat.

Perhaps the best part of the seminar was sitting next to a woman from General Mills who does a lot of staff training. She told me about her super cool idea of giving every new employee in her unit (which is humongous) an iPod pre-loaded with podcasts by her and other key people, as well as a grocery store walk-through on there too. I told you it was super cool! And with the Pillsbury Doughboy just walking around and the free yogurt parfaits and granola bars, I have three words for you. Employer. Of. Choice.

September 2, 2009

New Grants Manager Position

Just an update--we are busy in the PR Unit working on filling our new position: Grants Manager. We have several good candidates and are interviewing them now. This new position is better described by people other than me, but a dumbed-down description is that he or she will be working with the overall process and strategy of pulling grants into the organization. It should be very helpful, since that process is a bit muddled right now.

I'll be glad when these interviews are over. I am having to be on my best behavior since I don't want to scare anyone off from working here. Really, we're normal and fun! Just ignore the insane redhead talking into the zucchini!

I could get a lot more work done if this zucchini would stop ringing

August 17, 2009

Blogwell Conference

I know you will all be jealous when I tell you that I got to go to the Blogwell conference in Minneapolis. It had a really interesting line-up of speakers--all about how large organizations use social media, internally and externally. I went to break-outs given by Mayo Clinic, Walmart, McDonald's, and Ford. I came away quite inspired for the direction Extension should be going with some of these things. Like I thought it was interesting how well Mayo Clinic is using twitter and YouTube and FaceBook, and it is all justified by them having identified the ways they get clientele: word of mouth, media stories, and expert referrals. That is not that different than us! Cool! They have also changed their media strategy, using their social media and particularly their website, as the presenter said, "Don't pitch to the media, BE THE MEDIA." Meaning that they write up their stories and distribute directly to potential clientele (via the web).

Another thing I found interesting was that McDonalds had a gazillion twitter and Facebook pages, since many franchises were operating their own. McDonalds corporate eliminated all these accounts (I'm sure that was a popular announcement!) and created a nationally-branded Facebook page and twitter accounts. I think Extension could take some lessons from that too! Very interesting. Also from McDonalds--and this reminded me of Employer of Choice material--they have employee discussion boards ("Mindshare Community") and put 'discuss' buttons on all pages of the corporate McDonalds site. There is also a Station M web site for all employees (it looked like it was geared towards young workers). Both of these efforts have improved the feeling of what they call the "McFamily." They also have a motivation to build what they called [online] Brand Ambassadors out of their 700,000 US employees. I found a lot of this relate-able to Extension.

The Ford guy was possibly the most inspiring. The social media efforts coming out of Ford (which are sizable--they have 34 twitter accounts, for example) are all run by one guy. He is a communications guy, not a sales guy, and he uses online media tools to better Ford's communication goals, not necessarily their sales. His big pitch was that all companies need their senior leadership to GET IT and to BE ON BOARD with it.  Awesome point.

The last break-out I went to was by Walmart and their message was so relevant for us. They did a bunch of research (or whatever) and found that 78% of their employees wanted to connect with each other online--even though they aren't allowed to do social media stuff from work! That means most of their employees wanted to use a Walmart employee site from home. holy cow! They found that engaged employees were more loyal and stayed with the company longer. They originally were worried about control. What if employees get on the employee chat board and just bitch about Walmart? They finally decided they couldn't control it so why worry. They built a big employee website with exactly what the employees said they wanted (top requests: forms, friending, chat) as well as some info that is important from the business side of things, and 90,000 employees joined the site since it launched three months ago and (this part shocked me) 90% of these employees return at least every 10 days!!

There was a lot interesting at this conference. It was also fun to visit General Mills Headquarters, who hosted it. I got tons of free samples, which is probably an ethics violation, but how can I resist free yogurt parfaits and granola bars?? I CAN'T!

And, the best for last, I GOT TO MEET THE PILLSBURY DOUGHBOY! Best professional development ever.

General Mills, happiest place on earth

August 10, 2009

In which I become a program person

So I'm sure it is painfully obvious at times--I am not a program manager/leader like all of you. I can set up a Proxima with the best of them, but when it comes to logistical planning and getting butts in the seats and all that, I am a newbie. But Program Conference changes all that! Luckily, many hands are helping with Conference, so I can learn a lot. Here are a few things I've learned already.

  • We are using Basecamp for planning all our tasks. It is very appealing to my (admittedly small) organizer side, since it allows for collaborative to-do lists and timelines and such. The PR Unit didn't pay for it, but I'm assuming we got the Basic plan, which is $24 a month. 
  • Registration is online and is going to be done by the Extension Store. So far we are very pleased with the system. It allows break-out registration and automatically removes options as they fill up, it allows us to batch send a reminder email(s), and also allows online access to data at all times. The price tag is a bit hefty, at $4.75/registrant or $150 setup plus $3.50/registrant (we are using the latter). More info on the Extension Store's Registration Options.
  • And one more thing I have learned: No Listserv is Perfect! My humblest apologies to anyone who is left off. Please let me know if someone you think should be getting Program Conference emails isn't getting them. Thanks!

July 31, 2009

Fall Conference--let the huge amounts of planning begin!

So we have sealed the deal with the Crowne Plaza in St. Paul! It seems like a nice hotel and the saleswoman offered me anything we wanted from the snack bar (I chose lemonade--didn't want to seem greedy with a extra grande mocha frappucino), so I'm pretty much a fan for life. Also, it was Al Franken's venue of choice. If it's good enough for Al.... right?

We are hammering out the mini-tours and concurrent sessions. The survey we just did asking your opinions on these items was helpful. Except I did have to laugh when I first prepared the results and the average for EVERYTHING was "May or May not attend." You guys don't like to commit, I take it. Or maybe it was the options given. As one commenter said:

"Anything more interesting than fees, grantwriting, reporting and evaluation would be great. These are the four worst/most boring aspects of our jobs. Could there be any sessions that deal with some of the positive aspects of our work?"

That is such an excellent point. I wonder how many educators/faculty share this point of view? Probably lots! We need to do our very best to make this conference positive and energizing, and not drudgery. Any ideas how best this can be accomplished? Specifically?