Thinking Outside the Box (or in this case, Outside the State)

By Sandy Bryan, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, Cochise College

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Or so it seemed to me. In the space of two weeks, I learned that both of my research analysts were leaving the institution at about the same time – one would retire at the end of the fiscal year and the other was resigning due to spousal relocation.

The analyst who was relocating had only been with the college 7 months, but her hiring process was long, drawn out, and challenging. It consisted of numerous conversations with Human Resources about job advertisement and several failed searches. And as if that were not enough, we felt compelled to re-write the job description and reclassify the position to a higher entry level. Finally, after 9 months, we succeeded in hiring a new analyst. I felt that the task of filling two positions was going to be arduous, especially since we wanted to keep the office functioning during what may be another lengthy hiring process. Might there be a way to keep my fledgling analyst?

I did not want to lose a dedicated employee with so much potential. Plus we had already invested a lot of time and resources into her position-related training. As soon as I received her letter of resignation, I began to plot with my supervisor how best to retain her services. I knew chaining her to her desk was not an option; however I just had to keep her on my payroll. Fortunately, we enjoy a part-time remote association with a former full-time analyst that relocated several years ago. Because of this situation, it dawned on me that a remote working relationship with our newest employee would be the only way to keep her on staff. Though the college has never had a full-time remote employee, I was determined to not let this stand in my way.

The more research I conducted into best practices for remote employment, the more feasible the idea became. First, the institutional research analyst position lends itself to a remote working arrangement. The work is done almost exclusively on the computer and much of the position’s time is spent connecting securely to databases and mining for data to answer research and survey related questions. Project requestors and stakeholders can be reached via telephone or email, and our institution recently implemented new video-conferencing software that can make face-to-face meet and greets possible.

I began to think this thing could work. My supervisor and I continued researching existing full-time remote employee scenarios and, as luck would have it, I met a young woman from Seattle who was working remotely for a major university. She kindly agreed to answer general questions I had about her working situation. Putting all of this together, I came up with a list of recommendations related to benefits, facilities, equipment, and supplies (who provides what), and working conditions. We were getting close to something really, really big!!

Next month, I’ll discuss in more detail the remote employment recommendations that we presented to our Vice President of Human Resources. Stay tuned!