360-Degree Risk Management Part II

May 12, 2011

Lori Miller Ed.D., JD
Professor, Sport & Recreation Law
Wichita State University

Welcome to Part II of the “360-Degree Risk Management” article. As introduced in the September issue of Risk Management for Campus Recreation (Volume 3.1), the 360-degree risk management concept represents the varied strategies Campus Recreation Directors adopt, implement, and assess to mitigate potential and current risks. Such risks may result in either monetary or non-monetary losses to the respective higher education entity, campus recreation department, supervisors and staff, students, alumni, volunteers, and other community partners (e.g., vendors, sponsors). Financial and non-financial losses, for example, include physical injuries, property damage, impaired public relations, decreased revenues, lower staff morale, and alleged legal improprieties (e.g., breach of contracts, tortuous wrongdoings, violating constitutional guarantees).

As portrayed by the circuitous nature of the 360-degree risk management icon and the surrounding, circuitous arrows, a 360-degree risk management system is opposite to an independent, autonomous, unique, or non-repetitive responsibility or task (e.g., annual career fair, blood drive, student orientation). Instead, 360-degree risk management embodies a comprehensive, interdependent, ongoing, progressive, and often complex system of loss prevention. Campus recreation directors desiring to prevent future losses can reflect on whether their respective campus recreation environment personifies the following eight primary ingredients associated with a quality 360-degree risk management system.

  1. Comprehensive understanding of the varied risks common to a campus recreation department;
  2. Broad based, multi-functional risk management responsibilities expected of all campus recreation staff, student workers, and volunteers;
  3. Ongoing communications with central administration, supervisors subordinates, community partners, volunteers, facility lessees, and students;
  4. Collection and analyses of internal data (e.g., participant usage, preferences, injuries, staff performance) and external data (e.g., legislation, professional standards, economic climate, demographic trends);
  5. Routine review, updating (if needed), and communication of campus recreation policies and procedures;
  6. Relevant risk management trainings and professional development opportunities;
  7. Campus recreation job descriptions and rewards that include defined risk management responsibilities and corresponding performance assessment; and
  8. Overt administrator commitment to an established quality risk management culture.

The first four elements directly related to a quality 360-degree risk management system were addressed in Part I. This article continues the discussion by describing the latter four criteria, #5-8, essential to a campus recreation director’s ability to both successfully attain and maintain a quality 360-degree risk management system.

5. Routine review, updating (if needed), and communication of campus recreation policies and procedures
Program handbooks, operation manuals, staff policies, facility rental agreements, and job descriptions offer tremendous organizational value to campus recreation program directors and constituencies if these documents are routinely updated, effectively communicated, regularly consulted, and followed consistently. For example, written documents assist decision makers when confronted with two equally compelling resource requests, yet only one request complements established department goals and the overall entity’s strategic plan. Similarly, a supervisor can reference entity policy when reminding staff members that using work computers for personal email communications and/or publicly critiquing other department coordinators is not appropriate and violates written department policy. In addition, an entity’s policies and procedures serve as a helpful guide to reference when completing unfamiliar or infrequent tasks, operations, procedures, or reports (e.g., payroll and time keeping, credit card transactions, new staff member search process, annual assessment report format). Further, effectively and responsibly maintaining, communicating, and adhering to entity policies and procedures provides persuasive legal evidence of non-negligent or wrongful activity if ever named as a defendant by a plaintiff seeking recourse for a perceived legal wrong(s).

The breadth of the topics and content covered throughout the various campus recreation documents further illustrate the 360 degree risk management concept since documents should exist for each recreational program offering (e.g., fitness, aquatics, intramurals) as well as functional responsibilities (e.g., administration, human resources, crisis management, maintenance, custodial). Professional organizations (e.g., risk management associations, accrediting organizations, trade-specific organizations) provide sample documents and table of contents, for example, often useful to campus recreation directors seeking clarity in regards to the scope of content appropriate to include in the campus recreation departments’ organizational documents (see www.primacentral.org, www.nonprofitrisk.org, www.about.com, www.ymca.org, www.eeoc.gov). Similar to all other risk management practices, quality documents are developed over time and require patience, perseverance, and a steadfast dedication and commitment to a professionally responsible risk management culture.

6. Relevant risk management trainings and professional development opportunities
The adoption and implementation of a 360-degree risk management program can be a painstaking undertaking for any campus recreation department. Risk management trainings and professional development opportunities typically dictate the staffs’ ability to comprehend the risk management concept, its importance to campus recreation departments, and their own contributions needed to successfully attain and maintain a quality risk management culture. Risk management trainings and professional development opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. In other words, there is no one “correct” risk management training and professional development protocol. Effective risk management training and professional development opportunities can entail both 10-minute discussions embed within a coordinator’s weekly meetings, as well as a staff members’ week long risk management conference attendance. Similarly, risk management staff trainings and professional development opportunities can occur both independently via a web-based tutorial as well as in all-staff annual orientations. Sharp et al. (2007, p. 23) succinctly summarize the value of trainings and professional development opportunities, “The best policies and procedures are useless if they are not reflected in organizational practice. Therefore, effective training programs ….are essential to the implementation” of a quality risk management system (emphasis added).

Similar to the wide span of topics covered in campus recreation department policies and procedures (element #5 above), relevant campus recreation training and professional development resources are abundantly available through numerous national and local professional organizations, entities, and individuals. Professional organizations often provide complimentary risk management fact sheets, e-newsletters, discussion boards, and webinars for a marginal, if any, expense (e.g., Public Risk Management Association, Nonprofit Risk Management Center). Locally, and often on one’s own campus, risk management trainings are similarly abundant for little, if any, expense. Professors or administrators with risk management expertise, campus police officers, human resource staff, and campus emergency response committee members, for example, reflect excellent resources to assist with campus recreation in-service trainings and workshops. Campus recreation directors can capitalize best on the benefits associated with a quality, professional, motivated staff by taking the time now to schedule professional development opportunities for the entire academic year.

7. Campus recreation job descriptions and rewards that include defined risk management responsibilities and corresponding performance assessment
Extensive research concludes that staff performance corresponds directly with the employers’ implemented reward structure. Similarly, campus recreation staff and other constituencies consciously excel most in those job responsibilities that directly influence received monetary and non-monetary rewards (e.g., salary increase, professional development conference attendance, technology purchases), while avoiding job responsibilities that go un-assessed and result in monetary or non-monetary detriment(s) (e.g., limited salary increase, program budget reductions). Evaluating individual risk management responsibilities and allocating earned reward(s) or corollary progressive discipline both legitimizes and communicates the respective campus recreation department’s commitment to a 360-degree risk management system.

Defined risk management job expectations must exist, for example, in all campus recreation job announcements, job descriptions, employment contracts, and policy manuals. Each prospective hire must be made aware of the risk management job expectations. Upon hire, each staff member must understand that performance evaluations also will include risk management performance criteria used to determine monetary rewards or job detriments (e.g., loss of funding, termination). Yet in the end, it is the director’s responsibility to ensure that all staff evaluations contain risk management performance criteria. Further, campus recreation directors also must inflict punitive consequences uniformly on staff failing to meet the defined risk management expectations.

8. Overt administrator commitment to an established quality risk management culture.

Evidence reflecting genuine administrative commitment to a 360-degree risk management system must include more than mere administrative and supervisory verbal assertions. The successful attainment of a 360-degree risk management system is possible only with indisputable administrator commitment, including an overt commitment to each of the 360-degree risk management system elements. Other evidence reflecting sincere administrative commitment to a 360-degree risk management system includes, for example, a(n): (a) mission statement that incorporates the organization’s commitment to risk management, (b) inclusion of risk management as an agenda item appearing on all department or program committee meeting agendas, (c) adequately funding program budgets to adequately accommodate risk management resource needs (trainings, manikins, emergency response items, etc.), and (d) inclusion of defined risk management responsibilities and performance expectations in all recreation campus staff offers of employment.

Recreation administrators do influence the actions and behaviors of other recreation constituents, including part- and full-time staff, volunteers, participants, and other community partners. As succinctly stated by Albert Schweitzer, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing” (Anderson, 2007, p. 131). As symbolized by the 360-degree icon, all administrators’ actions and behaviors, from the seemingly “significant” (e.g., hiring a full time risk management coordinator) to the seemingly “insignificant” (e.g., opening the door for a guest and allowing the guest to enter first), are closely watched by subordinate staff and recreation participants. These administrators’ actions and behaviors impact whether others choose to believe and act in ways that reflect their own commitment to the 360-degree risk management system.

The eight elements of the ‘360-Degree Risk Management’ system discussed in Part I of the prior Risk Management Newsletter and Part II (above) are symbiotic in nature. Whether creating a brand new 360-degree risk management system or refining an existing 360-degree risk management system, progress requires a concerted, steadfast dedication of the Campus Recreation Director. In the next issue of the Newsletter, Part III provides a sampling of monthly risk management tasks that can form the foundation of a more elaborate, yet practical and prudent, campus recreation risk management calendar.

Sharp, L., Moorman, A., & Claussen, C. (2007). Sport Law: A Managerial Approach. Holcomb Hathaway Publishers: Scottsdale, AZ.

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