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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report 3 Communication, Knowledge Management, and Human-Resources Management The zoo is a complex organization of highly differentiated operational units with a hierarchic management structure (Figures 1-1 to 1-5, interim report). At the apex of this structure is the zoo director, whose responsibilities involve contact with three advisory bodies: Friends of the National Zoo, the National Zoo Advisory Board, and the CRC Foundation Board. A deputy director is responsible for day-to-day operations of the zoo and, in the absence of the director, serves as its chief executive. At the next level are managers of the zoo’s eight operations units. They report individually to the deputy director. They also report to the director as a group during regularly scheduled meetings of the Executive Committee. They are the associate director for public affairs and communications, the general curator of the Department of Animal Programs, the associate director for the Conservation and Research Center; the associate director for administration and technology, the associate director for exhibits and outreach, the head veterinary medical officer for animal health, the supervisor of the Department of Pathology; and the chief of the Police Department. Within each operational unit are associates, assistants, supervisors, or heads for subdivisions of the units. At the bottom of the hierarchy are staff that have day-to-day hands-on responsibility for the various tasks that determine the effectiveness of those above them. Concerns regarding the hierarchy for the care and welfare of animals prompted the committee to give special attention to the Animal Programs Department, which is run by a management team consisting of the general curator, two associate curators, and eight assistant curators. This team oversees about 70 employees (NZP, Organizational Chart for Department of Animal Programs, 2003) who have direct responsibility for animal care and management at the Rock Creek Park facility. It is important to note that the general curator has primary responsibility for the day-to-day care and management of the animal collection at the Rock Creek Park facility, which amounts to almost 90% of the entire collection of about 2,600 animals. The rest of the zoo collection is housed at the CRC, in Front Royal, VA. During the first phase of its review, the committee noted that management’s efforts to address problems related to animal deaths at the zoo focused on the organization and management structure. Accordingly, several important changes had occurred, and others were in progress. The changes included appointments to critical managerial positions, redistribution of some core responsibilities, and other measures to strengthen the chain of command. Examples are the appointment of a deputy director for day-to-day operations; a new general curator of the Department of Animal Programs, who would also assume responsibility for the Registrar’s Office and for animal care and exhibitions; and a head veterinarian to assume full authority over animal health. In addition, responsibility for the use of pesticides in exhibit areas was reassigned to a member of the executive staff (the head of the Department of Pathology). Policies and standard operating procedures had been reviewed and revised, and performance objectives and measures for FY 2003 were published. The animal deaths brought to the fore a wide array of problems at the zoo of long duration, which, in the face of unfavorable press and public sentiment, created an environment racked by turbulence and uncertainty. No doubt, the management strategy employed by the zoo as a result of this scrutiny—which clarified roles, relationships, lines of authority, rules, and procedures—was essential to enable the zoo to rise above these circumstances and move forward. The committee was encouraged by the initial changes, but it became clear that the zoo was aware of its organizational and management deficiencies over a decade ago and failed to act upon them. In 1993, a needs analysis of training and services required to improve the zoo’s management and supervisory capabilities was completed (NZP, Robinson memo, March 18, 1993). The principal finding of the analysis, referred to as the Alexander report, was that zoo managers, supervisors, and employees were stuck in habitual ways of interacting, which had resulted in a sense of mistrust of management and generated increased complaints of sex and racial bias, increased miscommunication, and general displeasure in working with one another. The Alexander report made seven principal recommendations (as indicated in Robinson memo, March 18, 1993) to address the needs including: Provide training for management on communication and human relations skills.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Provide all supervisors with basic training in making fair employment decisions and understanding the dynamics of a diverse workforce. Emphasize performance and conduct management, and teach constructive feedback. Those recommendations so closely match the recommendations detailed in this chapter that it is clear that deficiencies identified by the committee, such as lack of accountability at all levels and poor adherence to the zoo’s own policies, were identified as major deficiencies at the zoo over 10 years ago. It is not apparent that any of the recommendations to address the deficiencies were acted on. In the committee’s opinion, firm action by the leadership of the zoo and the Smithsonian Institution to address the concerns raised by the Alexander report most likely would have averted some of the decade-long decline at the zoo. For this final report, the committee focused on management in the Department of Animal Programs because this department has primary responsibility for the day-to-day care and management of the animal collections at the zoo. However, we also considered more wide-sweeping management problems at the zoo when there was a clear connection to animal-care and management concerns. On the basis of discussions with zoo and Smithsonian staff, personal observations, and analysis of various documents, four primary management problems were identified: communication, knowledge management, human-resources planning and use, and human-resources development and training. The following sections discus those topics in detail. It is important to note that communication, knowledge development and transfer, and human-resources planning and development are mutually dependent and determine in large part the quality of performance and productivity of staff in any organization. It might be predicted, therefore, that advances in the care and welfare of the animal collection at the zoo and in the viability of the whole enterprise will be proportional to progress in addressing challenges in a systematic and systemwide fashion. COMMUNICATION Communication is a critical determinant of individual, team, and organizational performance. Communication enables information exchange and supports organizational learning. Social interaction facilitates resource exchange among employees and business units, which can lead to the generation of new ideas and enhanced organizational performance (Tsai and Ghoshal, 1998). The same is true within teams, where communication leads to the exchange of task-related information, establishment of intrateam interaction patterns, and the development of team solutions to problems (Kozlowski and Bell, 2003). Both internal communication frequency (e.g., Waller, 1999) and external communication frequency (e.g., Ancona and Caldwell, 1992) have been linked to team performance. Communication is also critical for conveying an organization’s mission to employees and establishing a desired organizational culture. For example, safety-related communication from managers has been shown to increase safe work behaviors and lead to substantial reductions in workplace injuries and accidents (Hofmann and Morgenson, 1999; Zohar, 2002). Open communication is also an important determinant of employees’ trust in their manager and their willingness to engage in desired organizational behaviors (Korsgaard et al., 2002). Current State of Communication The zoo recognizes that communication is critical for its revitalization and for ensuring high-quality animal management and care. Several factors pose challenges to effective communication within the zoo. The size and complexity of the zoo make effective communication difficult. The zoo has a hierarchic structure with multiple layers of management. Decision-making authority resides at the top of the organizational chart as opposed to being distributed throughout lower levels. As the number of layers of management increases, communication between the upper and lower levels of the organization becomes more difficult (Tesluk et al., 2002). In addtion, the zoo is functionally departmentalized. Different functions within the zoo—animal programs, pathology, maintenance, exhibits, and so on—are divided into distinct units, and the animal-programs unit is further organized by animal type. Functional departmentalization may be the most logical division of work within the zoo, but it is important to recognize that it creates challenges to organizationwide communication and vision. The magnitude of the communication challenges is especially apparent in the Department of Animal Programs, where the scope of responsibility is wide, large numbers of personnel are involved, and multiple layers of
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report management extend the department’s chain of command. Communication is difficult at best. Linkages for vertical integration, coordination, and control are not adequate to ensure effective channels of communication down the line. That has been a source of serious concern because important communications from top management have been channeled inconsistently or inaccurately to lower levels of the hierarchy. For instance, many employees never received information regarding policies and staff actions that might have contributed to recent animal deaths, nor was information passed on about subsequent changes made by senior management to prevent a similar incident in the future. Furthermore, the lack of horizontal linkages has led to gaps in communication between the department and the various other functional units. Yet, the Department of Animal Programs depends heavily on all other units to carry out its defined functions. Alternative devices for enhancing communication and strengthening the capacity for knowledge development and transfer—within this department and between this department and other units of the zoo—are essential to ensure that the care and welfare of animals are of the highest quality possible. During the final phase of the committee review, its deliberations revealed encouraging findings in both areas. The zoo is developing devices to overcome structural barriers to effective communication within and among the major units of the zoo. For example: The newly hired associate curators now communicate with staff down the line during daily visits to their respective units. Regularly scheduled meetings with structured discussions have been established, which bring together all members of the curatorial staff. Interdepartmental meetings are increasingly being held to facilitate communication among units and keepers are invited to attend these meetings so that they can share information from the meetings with all employees. The zoo has recently distributed updated best-practices manuals and communication plans throughout the organization New walkie-talkies and other communication tools have been purchased and distributed to select staff. Findings and Recommendations The January 2003 American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Accreditation Report for the zoo called attention to various gaps in communication and highlighted the need for a mechanism to ensure that staff—at keeper and management levels—share information through appropriate channels. That assessment was confirmed by findings from interviews and observations of this committee, which highlighted several conditions that impose barriers to effective communication throughout the zoo. Findings: Different units are structurally isolated from one another and linkages across unit boundaries are not apparent. The zoo has taken some initial actions to overcome these obstacles to communication by holding interdepartmental meetings and regularly scheduled, structured meetings with all of the curatorial staff. Bottom-up communication at lower levels of the organization is lacking, communication channels between staff and management are not well established, and many employees do not feel that they have a voice within their units or the organization. In an effort to address this concern, the newly hired associate curators communicate with down-the-line staff during daily visits to each unit under their management. Information obtained or generated at the upper levels of the organization is not consistently transmitted to employees at lower levels. All told, the nature and effectiveness of communication throughout the organization determine in large part the quality of animal care and management and the viability and success of the zoo.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Managers recognize that improvements in communication are critical for revitalizing the zoo and ensuring high-quality animal care and management, but the organizational complexity of the zoo is a barrier that must be surmounted. The zoo recognizes the importance of communications and acknowledges the associated problems and the urgency to remedy them, and it has taken several steps to do so.respect and the urgency to remedy them, and it has taken several steps have been taken to do so. Many of the recent actions taken by the zoo comprise positive steps, and collectively they have helped to improve communication within the zoo. The committee hopes that the momentum apparent at the zoo will be sustained and progress accelerated in the days ahead. Recommendations: The zoo should continue efforts to facilitate communication among and within departments and to improve communication between different organizational levels. There are many potential ways to achieve improvement: formalize regular interdepartmental meetings, expand the use of cross-functional assignments and cross-training, and formalize the use of available technological resources for enhancing communications within and across the various units of the zoo. Management at the zoo should be persistent in efforts to facilitate communication up and down the organization as a whole and in the chain of command in each unit. The zoo should develop a plan and process for monitoring adherence to and evaluating the outcome of standards, policies, procedures, special guidelines, and other aspects of communication. Staff training in communications is necessary to ensure that these policies have been assimilated and understood, and that there is accountability for adherence at all levels. The zoo must endeavor to build a sense of community for its employees and create professional relationships between various departments and individuals. KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT The development, management, and transfer of knowledge are critical for organizational success (Noe et al., 2003). Knowledge management involves generating new knowledge, for example, through training and development activities or by selecting employees who have desired knowledge and skills (DeNisi et al., 2003). Those activities help to ensure that employees have the most up-to-date knowledge in their fields and can help to facilitate organizational learning. However, knowledge management goes beyond the generation and acquisition of knowledge. It also includes the management and sharing of information. Many knowledge-management efforts emphasize using technology to collect and maintain data, experiences, and lessons (Pfeffer and Sutton, 1999). And, it creates social systems that facilitate interaction and information exchange among employees in an organization. In the zoo setting, knowledge management has many potentially important implications. It is critical for ensuring that employees have the most current knowledge and skills in animal care and management. A focus on knowledge sharing can help to ensure that advances in animal care and management practices generated in one part of the zoo are transferred to other parts. Managing institutional knowledge can also prevent the loss of knowledge that typically occurs when people leave an organization and thereby to make sure that animal care and safety are not compromised by staff turnover. Knowledge is essential for providing high-quality animal care and management; therefore, zoos, like any other organization, must take steps to manage their institutional knowledge. Current State of Knowledge Management Previous reports and data collected during the committee’s review revealed three primary areas of knowledge-management problems at the zoo: knowledge-sharing, generation of new knowledge, and retaining and
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report archiving knowledge. It is important to note that steps have recently been taken to address those problems and that progress has been made. Each of the concerns is outlined below to identify not only existing challenges but also progress. The zoo does not have a formal plan in place for the management of institutional knowledge, and knowledge-sharing among units is lacking. In part, that is due to the communication problems outlined above. For example, personnel have developed innovative and apparently effective work practices in their own units, but these successful work practices have not been transferred to other units. It is expected that as additional steps are taken to enhance interdepartment communication, knowledge-sharing in the zoo will increase as well. The use of technology for knowledge-sharing is inadequate (for details on the use of technology at the zoo, refer to Chapter 3 of the interim report). For example, e-mail use in the zoo is sporadic and therefore does not serve as a reliable means of communication. In some units, the zoo’s computer network has been used as a place to store valuable information so that it can be easily accessed by all members of the unit; but this practice is not widespread. The zoo needs to identify how technology can be used to enhance communication and information-sharing and then adopt zoowide practices that encourage better use of technologic resources. The second concern is the generation of new knowledge in the zoo. Continuing education is critical for introducing new knowledge into an organization. As discussed in further detail later in this chapter, the zoo has a long history of deficiencies in continuing education, which have limited the amount of new knowledge flowing into the zoo over the last 10 years. Recognizing the lack of continuing education, the associate curators have taken steps to provide more educational opportunities to staff in the Department of Animal Programs in the last year. It is also important for management to have access to continuing education. The zoo has begun to use management and executive training opportunities offered by the US Department of Agriculture, the Smithsonian Institution, and several private firms. That is a favorable step and should be continued. However, time and money have been a constant challenge in providing such opportunities to staff. The generation of new knowledge in the zoo, however, goes beyond the continuous development of existing zoo staff and involves hiring employees with different knowledge, skills, and perspectives. Historically, the zoo has relied on internal development: open positions are filled from within the zoo rather than by hiring from outside. For example, nearly 80% of new keeper positions are filled by volunteers, and most upper-level positions have been filled by people who have worked their way up through the ranks. The zoo should be commended for bringing new employees into the zoological profession and providing staff with opportunities for upward mobility. However, relying solely on internal development can create a insular culture and isolate the zoo from outside perspectives and innovations. The zoo’s ability to recruit outside talent is limited, in part, by its location in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, and it has been deemed difficult to recruit people from other zoos to the area, particularly for low-paying positions, because of the high cost of living. However, zoo management has recently engaged in efforts, such as broader advertising of open positions, trying to attract people from outside. Those efforts should continue with the goal of achieving a better balance of filling positions inside and outside the organization. The third knowledge-management concern is the zoo’s ability to capture, archive, and retain existing institutional knowledge. That is a critical problem in the zoo, given the high level of turnover in recent years. If there is no mechanism to capture employees’ knowledge, their tacit knowledge is lost when they leave the organization. Research has shown that turnover has less effect when structures and processes are well defined and explicit (Argote et al., 2001). Thus, the zoo’s recent efforts to update and standardize policies and procedures should help to retain valuable institutional knowledge. However, additional efforts should be made to try to capture organizational knowledge. For example, information technologies can be used to store knowledge and to enable employees to locate and access information in a just-in-time fashion (DeNisi et al., 2003). The zoo may benefit from appointing a Chief Information Officer – a single individual who would be responsible for creating and maintaining systems to capture, retain, and manage new and old information for the zoo. As the zoo moves forward, it will be important for it to become more of a learning organization. The zoo has a long history of being a leader in the generation of new knowledge, but in the last 5-10 years the focus on learning has been overshadowed by other issues. Reinvigorating the learning climate in the zoo will help it not only to overcome current problems but also to position itself for the future. Research by Tannenbaum (1997) identified the following characteristics in learning organizations: People are aware of the “big picture” and have a shared understanding of what the organization is trying to accomplish and how their job are related to others in the organization.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report People are accountable for learning, and performance expectations are high enough to necessitate continued personal growth. Situational constraints on learning and performance are identified and minimized. New ideas are valued and encouraged. Supervisors and co-workers provide support, allowing people to learn and attempt to implement new ideas. Policies and practices support the effective use of training. Some efforts have been undertaken, and there are signs of progress. But overall there are substantial lags in the kinds of efforts that would foster the acquisition of new knowledge and the appropriate use of technologies for capturing, storing, and transmitting existing knowledge and data throughout the zoo. These signs of progress: Standards, policies, and procedures were recently updated; this is helpful in efforts to capture and retain institutional knowledge and important information. Work assists—moving employees from one unit into another to provide advice on particular issues—are being used to promote the sharing of knowledge and information between units. A process for soliciting ideas and information from employees at all levels is being used in the zoo’s strategic-planning process. The “all-hands” meetings, initiated by the zoo director before the committee’s review, were originally used to disseminate important information to a zoowide audience. Now, the format is more like that of a town-hall meeting, which serves as a forum not only for the dissemination of information by top management but also for members of the zoowide audience to share concerns, ideas, and information. Findings and Recommendations Findings: The use of technology for knowledge-sharing is limited. Email use is sporadic and the use of the zoo’s intranet to store and share knowledge within units is not widespread. In the past, the zoo has lacked the ability and commitment to capture, archive, and retain existing institutional knowledge. Recent efforts to update and standardize policies and procedures should help retain valuable institutional knowledge; additional efforts could complement this initialwork. The zoo relies heavily on an internal development strategy, which coupled with a lack of continuing-education opportunities, creates an insular culture and isolates the zoo from outside perspectives and innovations. Recommendations: The zoo should develop appropriate electronic storage of knowledge and enable employees to locate and access information in a just-in-time fashion. To improve the knowledge base among staff, the zoo should develop recruitment strategies to ensure an appropriate balance of staff recruited from outside and those transferred or promoted from within the organization. The zoo should develop additional strategies for capturing and retaining existing institutional knowledge that is being lost through the departure of experienced staff.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report The zoo should conduct an assessment of its learning environment to identify barriers to and opportunities for implementing initiatives for advancing the work culture as a learning organization. HUMAN-RESOURCES PLANNING AND USE There are several keys to using an organization’s human resources effectively (Noe et al., 2000). First, an organization must understand its current human-resources configuration. It must understand the strengths and weaknesses of its employee population and take steps to leverage the strengths and neutralize the weaknesses. In a zoo environment, high-quality animal care and management depends on having employees with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to perform at the highest levels. Second, an organization must have a plan for where it is headed and understand how its current human resources are related to the plan. If there are gaps between the current human-resources configuration and the configuration needed for implementation of the organization’s plan, efforts (such as selection and training) must be taken to close them. In a zoo, human-resources planning can help the organization to meet its long-term goals, such as being a leader in animal care and husbandry or conservation. Current State of Human-Resources Planning and Use The National Zoo Personnel Office is relatively small and must focus much of its energy on handling personnel-related administrative tasks, such as job postings. Most of the human-resources systems in the zoo are developed by the centralized Smithsonian Office of Human Resources (OHR), and major personnel decisions, such as staff reductions, are made at this level. The OHR also administers many of the human-resources systems, such as employee selection. However, responsibility for human-resources activities has increasingly fallen to managers. Managers now spend substantial time in such activities as selection, training, and performance management, and they receive minimal assistance in these activities. Human-resources planning and use are examined by AZA during the accreditation process. The January 2003 AZA Accreditation Report commented on the following concerns: Although annual appropriations increases have been given to the National Zoo, they have been insufficient to cover mandatory federal employee wage increases. Over the last 10 years, that has led to severe staffing problems at the curatorial level. The team has concerns about how long it takes to hire staff. The Smithsonian OHR was affected by a recent early retirement offer; whatever the cause, the turnaround time for keeper positions is very long. Assistant curators have repeatedly been assigned to areas in which they had no taxonomic expertise. All those concerns point to weaknesses related to human-resources planning and use in the zoo. The first involves staffing levels. From 1993 to2000, the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) allocated to the zoo steadily declined by about 14%, from 370 to 317 FTEs (NZP, FTE Use, August 9, 2004); this trend was reversed in 2001, and the zoo currently is allocated 346 FTEs. However, there was no net change in the number of keeper staff from 1993 to 2000 (NZP, Staff Gain/loss Statement 1993-2003, September 24, 2003), even though the size of the zoo’s animal collection declined by about 38% (NZP Status of the Collection Reports, 1993-2002). In fact, as the size of the collection decreased after 2000 to less than 50% of its 1993 size, the zoo actually added six keepers to the Animal Programs staff (NZP Staff Gain/Loss Statement 1993-2003, September 24, 2003). The zoo now has 74 permanent keeper positions and only one is unfilled (Tanner Memo of July 19, 2004). On the basis of those statistics and staff interviews, the committee concludes that keeper staffing levels at the zoo are more than adequate to care for the current animal collection appropriately and any increase that might happen over the next few years. A second, more troubling concern is the speed at which open positions are filled. The hiring process is long, and this has created problems for hiring staff at all levels. There is an immediate need for a more efficient hiring process in the zoo to increase the likelihood of successfully recruiting top candidates for open positions. A third concern involves the effective use of human resources. Resource-allocation decisions are often ambiguous and appear to lack a strategic focus. The AZA report noted that people are sometimes assigned to work
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report for which they lack the necessary expertise. Furthermore, the specific needs of different units do not appear always to be considered in determining how human resources should be allocated. Of more recent concern to the committee is the lack of attention paid to human resources in the newly written strategic plan. The strategic plan should have projected the staffing needs necessary to accomplish its 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year goals so that human-resources decisions could support the strategic vision for the zoo. However, as noted in Chapter 2, a situational analysis was not performed as part of the strategic planning process; such an analysis would have included an assessment of the adequacy of current staffing and provided the basis for accurate projections of staffing needs. It is important to recognize that steps have recently been taken to address some of those concerns. For example, zoo management has begun working with the OHR to streamline the hiring process, such as developing more-specific job announcements to reduce the number of unqualified applicants who must be processed. In addition, the Smithsonian is in the process of developing an enterprise resource planning system that will enable many administrative human-resources actions (such as requests for personnel actions, tracking of training instances, and application receipts) to be processed electronically (NZP, Tanner memo, May 14, 2004). It is hoped that the system will increase the efficiency of human-resources actions in the zoo and free up staff of the zoo personnel office to focus on other tasks related to human resources. Findings and Recommendations Findings: The zoo does not have a human-resources plan, and the current strategic plan does not include projections of the staffing necessary to support the new strategic vision of the zoo. Human-resources allocation decisions have often lacked a strategic focus. Staffing levels in most units of the zoo appear to be appropriate, but it is unclear how the specific needs of different units are weighed in determining how human resources should be allocated. There is a clear need for a more efficient hiring process in the zoo to increase the likelihood of successfully recruiting top candidates for open positions in a timely manner. Several solutions might be employed in addition to these current actions. One solution to address human-resources problems is to restructure the human-resources management function. The centralization of human-resources services in the Smithsonian OHR has created inefficiencies, such as those noted above in staffing. It would be beneficial to enhance the size and scope of the zoo personnel office, perhaps by placing one of the Smithsonian OHR staff on-site at the zoo as a liaison that could champion the needs of the zoo. This liaison could work closely with zoo management to develop a human-resources strategy that will support the larger goals and mission of the zoo. The zoo should still have their own Personnel staff to assume responsibility for human-resources practices in the zoo and provide support to management on human-resources issues, such as forecasting and planning, staffing, performance management, and training. Clearly, this recommendation is feasible only if resources (such as staff) that are now centralized in the Smithsonian OHR are decentralized to individual units such as the zoo. A second recommendation is that attention be focused on maximizing the use of human resources in the organization. For example, many units have ceased engaging in cross-training, because they are unable to “loan” employees to other units. That is unfortunate because cross-training can enhance both individual and team performance and can provide organizations with some flexibility when staffing levels are low (e.g., Blickensderfer et al., 1998). There is also some confusion and conflict regarding employees’ roles and responsibilities in the zoo. For example, the performance plan for assistant curators lists supervision as a noncritical job responsibility (NZP, Performance Plan, Assistant Curator), although this is an important element of their job. In addition, some assistant curators are required to develop research programs and seek funding, and others are not, depending on their grade level (GS-12 vs GS-13). It is important to define and communicate employees’ roles and responsibilities, and to evaluate employees on how well they are fulfilling their responsibilities. Finally, it will be important to make sure that the work environment facilitates effective employee performance. Both associate curators have given high priority to addressing the smaller, nagging concerns that reduce employees’ motivation on the job. For example, attention has been paid to ensuring that employees have the
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report tools necessary to perform their jobs. It will be important to continue to focus on ways to maximize the use of human resources in the zoo. Recommendations: A more efficient hiring process in the zoo and the Smithsonian Institution would increase the likelihood of successfully recruiting top candidates for open positions at the zoo. The zoo should focus attention on developing a human-resources plan based on an analysis of the adequacy of its current staffing levels and projections of staffing necessary to achieve its strategic vision TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT OF ANIMAL-CARE STAFF Three elements characterize successful organizational training and development systems. First, a good training program is systematic, in that it is intentionally designed and implemented to address specific needs that have been identified through a comprehensive training-needs assessment (Goldstein and Ford, 2002). Second, training is aligned with other components of the larger organizational system. There is an underlying assumption that training interacts with and is directly affected by a larger system that involves organizational policies and practices (such as management philosophy and employee staffing) (Tannenbaum, 2002). When alignment is high, the various human-resources management (HRM) subsystems (such as selection, training, and performance management) work together harmoniously and are mutually reinforcing; as a result, the effectiveness of each component is enhanced, as is the overall HRM system and its ability to support an organization’s goals and mission (Becker et al., 2001). Third, a successful organizational training and development system focuses not only on developing employee skills but also on generating and managing institutional knowledge. It does that by implementing systems and structures that create new knowledge, archive existing knowledge, and facilitate knowledge-sharing across the organization (DeNisi et al., 2003). Numerous mechanisms can be used to manage and leverage institutional knowledge. The most common involves social systems in the organization that enable knowledge-sharing within and between organizational units (DeNisi et al., 2003). Information technologies can be used to store valuable knowledge and to enable employees to locate and access information in a just-in-time fashion. Although the specific mechanisms may vary, it is essential for an organization to manage its intellectual capital. The Department of Animal Programs at the zoo—which includes keepers, assistant curators, associate curators, and the general curator—has the most direct and frequent contact with zoo animals, so specific training with their charges is of the utmost importance. Traditionally, zoos have used informal training methods (such as mentoring and apprenticeship) to teach new staff about the daily routines of feeding, cleaning, and observing the animals in their care. New keepers might be given a few days to several weeks to learn how to perform the routine duties in their assigned area before performing them without assistance. Unusual circumstances—such as responding to animal escapes, assisting with medical procedures, or responding to animals that are behaving aggressively—were learned on the job as situations arose. Managers, such as the curator staff, learned how to train and motivate employees through trial and error. Most contemporary zoos have established in-house training programs that provide all keepers with a foundation in animal care, and most zoos also use AZA’s courses for training management staff. Although zoos continue to use veteran keepers or area supervisors to train new keepers to perform daily routine tasks, many zoo administrators have discovered the benefits of providing formal, universal training to all keeper staff, regardless of their specialties. Upper management staff—including curators, nutritionists, and veterinarians—share their expertise with keeper staff, teaching them about animal behavior, general nutrition, animal restraint, the administration of medications, the importance of enrichment and appropriate cage furniture, and how to respond to animal escapes. A formal training program is not meant to replace the training that keepers receive from their fellow keepers; it is meant to supplement it. It provides keepers with a foundation for understanding nutrition, veterinary care, and animal behavior, so that they are better prepared for working with their animals and are properly equipped to respond to animal emergencies throughout the zoo. The Indianapolis Zoo Society (IZS) uses both formal and informal training. In the Collections Department at this zoo, which includes keepers and curators, each new employee is given a document titled Core Training Components (IZS, 2004) during orientation. It outlines basic training requirements, the zoo’s expectation for collection employee performance, and standard operating procedures, such as:
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Animal escape. Lock protocols and policy. Communication. Keepers’ role in animal health. Keeper health and safety. Preventing animal injuries. Observation and recordkeeping. Husbandry protocols. Performance expectation. Regulatory oversight. On review and understanding of the basic rules, both employee and curator must sign off, acknowledging full comprehension of all rules. The employee must also pass a test on the rules before continuing in the training process. Core Training Components includes timeframes for completion of training, skills assessments, and the protocol for documenting training. Training for keepers continues through a mentoring process and through coursework and certifications by organizations outside IZS. During the mentoring process, a new keeper is paired with an experienced staff member and is trained in area-specific skills. This mentoring is guided by animal-husbandry protocols to ensure acquisition of a common skill set and provision of at least minimal quality of animal care. An animal-husbandry protocol includes the following information: Taxon name. Record identifier. Date approved. General curator and curator signatures. Exhibit or species. Environmental measures. Diet and feeding schedules. Daily routines. Weekly routines. Seasonal routines. Safety concerns. Reproduction. Behavioral-enrichment procedures. Using a written document, such as an IZS animal husbandry protocol, to guide an informal training process provides standardization of training, allows for regular skills assessment, and provides a clear performance expectation.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Mentored training is also acknowledged in writing by the new keeper and curator and is documented in the employee’s permanent training file. Both parties (curator and new keeper) are responsible for keeping the file up to date. The permanent training file allows each employee to understand fully what is expected of him or her and allows all parties involved to know what further training is required. Current State of Training and Development of Animal-Care Staff Of utmost importance to the committee is the necessity for the zoo to develop effective mechanisms for ensuring that people who are directly responsible for the care and well-being of the zoo’s animal collection are adequately prepared and competent to assume their responsibilities. But the committee was unable to obtain any documents from the zoo that describe the essential knowledge and skills or training that people who have the most frequent and the closest day-to-day contact with animals receive. Employees of the zoo participated in a total of 487 training courses and other developmental activities (such as conferences) in 2001-2002 (NZP, FY01 Training, October 16, 2003; NZP, FY02 Training, October 16, 2003). Training in the areas of compliance (such as sexual harassment and safety) and basic skills (for example, computer software applications) accounted for about 80% of all training opportunities (NZP, FY01 Training, October 16, 2003; NZP, FY02 Training, October 16, 2003). Little training was offered in other critical subjects, such as management skills and animal care. Keepers, Museum Specialists, and Biologists The zoo has no documentation outlining the content or goals of any training program for animal-care staff in the Department of Animal Programs. There is an informal training program for keepers, but there are no written requirements for the length of time that a new keeper should spend in training, what information and protocols new keepers should be taught, how to assess the quality of the training or how well the training was assimilated. The lack of formal training or well-structured informal training has been noted in the AZA accreditation reports since 1992 (AZA, 1992). In 1992, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, now AZA, noted in its report, “that the keeper training program as described seems weak and it was not clear to us how employee development was encouraged except through general self-improvement courses of the Smithsonian.” The 1997 AZA accreditation report echoes the same concerns: There is a significant amount of required federal government training given to each employee, i.e., HIV/AIDS Introduction and Policy, Sexual Harassment, etc. Other training appears to be somewhat random. We were told that keepers and others may attend a session, ‘Pathology Rounds,’ every Tuesday at 1:00 p.m., where all animal deaths are reviewed by the Department of Pathology. Senior staff stated that about 50% of the staff attends at least one conference or training session. There is currently a system where keepers are provided an opportunity to cross-train in other areas of the zoo. Twenty-two keepers cross trained last year. Several keepers stated that they felt that training opportunities were limited. The 2003 AZA accreditation report also mentions the problem of insufficient keeper training: There is no formal keeper training program. Overall, there is a severe lack of training/professional development in the area of animal husbandry, both at the keeper and assistant curator level. Professional development opportunities and training programs at both the keeper and curatorial level appeared inadequate for an institution of National Zoo’s size and caliber. Because of the lack of documentation of the zoo’s current informal keeper training, committee members questioned keepers and curators at the zoo to evaluate the program. The interviews indicated that new keepers follow veteran keepers for a few days to 2 weeks to learn how to perform their routines and that the informal training methods described in the previous section are the standard operating procedure at the zoo. In general, permanent keepers are provided with a longer training period than temporary keepers. Management of animal behavior, nutrition, and enrichment is learned on the job, and keepers learn how to respond to animal emergencies by reading a manual and by accessing the standard operating procedures for each area.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Some attempt to address the lack of documentation of animal-care staff training was made when the Best Practices Manual was updated in July 2003 (NZP, AZA Accreditation Progress Report, 2004). The manual lists the administrative, compliance, and animal-management training courses that each employee is required to attend: Core Training Requirements Supervisor Requirements Prevention of Sexual Harassment Equal Employment Opportunity for Supervisors Safety Orientation Basic Supervisory Training Computer Security Awareness Training Safety Training for Supervisors Animal Programs Staff Requirements Proper handling and use of Smithsonian Institution travel Cards Travel Manager PeopleSoft FarSight AZA Management School (curators) All pertinent AZA offered training Elephant Manager Training General computer operation SSP and other population management participation/training As shown in Table 2-1 of the 2004 AZA accreditation report, the number of keepers who participated in required training courses increased from one to four. In 2004, none of the 56 keepers at the Rock Creek Park facility are scheduled to participate in training courses required by the Best Practices Manual (NZP, Best Practices Manual, 2003). Beyond the list of courses shown above, there is no mention of training in the Best Practices Manual. That may be in part because written husbandry standard operating procedures (SOPs) have not existed in all units at the zoo. The zoo has made strides in documenting husbandry SOPs in the last year, but it is not apparent that husbandry SOPs have been established for each species at the zoo. Employees are required to acknowledge, by signature, familiarity with the zoo’s Best Practices Manual. However, it is unclear whether any assessment of understanding is carried out. Furthermore, although assistant curators are responsible for ensuing that “supervisees are cognizant of and adhere to all National Zoo, SI and other policies and procedures” (NZP, Performance Plan, Assistant Curator), the committee was shown no evidence that individual assistant curators have developed or implemented plans for what information should be conveyed to keepers during training or for how (if at all) knowledge will be assessed to ensure the adequacy of the training.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report TABLE 2-1. Training and continuing education of animal care staff in the Department of Animal Programs at the Rock Creek Park facility from 2001-2004. Training and Continuing Education of Curators, 2001-2004 (including assistant, associate, and general curators) 2001 2002 2003 2004e Curators that Participated in Required Trainingb (Number of Classes Attended) 1(1) 1(1) 3(4)a 4(4) Curators that Participated in Continuing Educationc (Number of Classes Attended) 1(1) 8(14)a 11(20)a 8(12)a Total 2(2) 8d(15) 11d(24) 10d(16) Training and Continuing Education of Keepers, 2001-2004 (including keepers, museum specialists, and biologists) 2001 2002 2003 2004e Keepers that Participated in Required Trainingb (Number of Classes Attended) 1(1) 3(3) 4(4) 0(0) Keepers that Participated in Continuing Educationc (Number of Classes Attended) 3(4)a 12(14)a 20(27)a 21(24)a Total 3d(5) 15(17) 21d(31) 21(24) aSome employees attended more than one training/continuing education event during the year. bRequired Training includes training classes outlined in the NZP Best Practices Manual (2003). cContinuing education includes all non-required training, workshops, conferences, etc. dTotal does not equal the sum of the columns because employees who participated in both training and continuing education during that year were counted. eIncludes training and continuing education events planned for 2004. Source: NZP, AZA Accreditation Progress Report, 2004; NZP, FY 01 Training, October 16, 2003; NZP, FY 02 Training, October 16, 2003.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Continuing education for keepers, defined as all training and professional-development events other than courses identified in the Best Practices Manual, has also been lacking at the National Zoo. In 2001, only three keepers from the Rock Creek Park facility participated in continuing-education events (Table 2-1). In 2004, 21 keepers are scheduled to participate in continuing-education events. The committee was particularly encouraged by the renewed presence of the zoo’s animal-care staff at the AZA national meeting, an event at which they can make contacts and mingle with the leaders in their fields. Curators Requirements for training of supervisors at all Smithsonian Institution facilities are stated in National Zoo’s Best Practices Manual and include courses in equal employment opportunity for supervisors, basic supervisory training, and safety training for supervisors. In 2003, the zoo determined that all assistant curators in the Department of Animal Programs should receive management training through the AZA Management School (NZP, Department of Animal Programs - Best Practices, 2003); by the end of 2004, three of the eight assistant curators will have taken this course. However, there appears to be little additional training offered to improve leadership and management skills specifically of assistant curators at the zoo (NZP, FY 01 Training, October 16, 2003; NZP, FY 02 Training, October 16, 2003). Over the last 10 years, most assistant curators at the zoo were hired from the zoo’s keeper staff. There is no evidence to suggest that assistant curators promoted from keeper to curator participated in or were required to receive any type of leadership or management training peculiar to zoo operation. As a result, the management team most directly responsible for the care and well-being of the animal collection consists of people who have not received any well-structured formal training during their employment with the zoo. The zoo is, however, making some moves in continuing education of its curatorial staff. In 2001, only one curator participated in a continuing-education event (Table 2-1); in 2004, eight of the 11 curators are slated to participate in continuing-education events. Future Assessments of Training Needs In May 2004, the National Zoo established a goal of “including individual development plans in the performance plans of National Zoo employees in the 2005 performance cycle.” (NZP, Tanner memo, June 2004). To determine whether gaps exist in the training of current employees, zoo management has developed a training-assessment instrument. The instrument will be distributed in September 2004 and will be collected in October, November, and December 2004. A training plan will be developed by staff on the basis of results of the survey. Findings and Recommendations The result of the training system described above is that the quality of training and the ability of new personnel to address important organizational needs are highly variable in the zoo. As a result, the zoo’s expectations of its animal-care staff are unclear, performance at both curator and keeper levels is not assessed in a standard way (if at all), and there is no written guidance or formal policy regarding the information that should be imparted during training. When information to be conveyed during training is clearly documented and an employee is tested to assess learning of the material, it creates an environment of accountability in which expectations for employee performance are clearly stated and employee performance is assessed in an unbiased manner. The committee observed isolated cases at the zoo in which a keeper or group of keepers has taken the initiative to stay abreast of innovations in the care and management of the species they manage. Generally speaking, however, the lack of a well-structured training program has resulted in an animal-care staff that is functioning with animal-husbandry knowledge from the early 1990s that has been passed down by word of mouth from keeper to keeper. Regular participation by the animal-care staff in continuing education events could have provided a conduit, though relatively minor, for updated knowledge into the zoo; however, the failure of the zoo staff to participate in continuing-education events over the last 10 years indicates a lack of commitment of senior management to provide the animal-care staff with the support and knowledge they require to adequately perform their jobs. The current state of the keeper training program creates no expectations for keepers and assistant curators to be responsible for staying abreast of innovations and furthering their education in their field. Keepers and assistant curators tend not to participate in continuing-education opportunities, because, they state, the animal program is understaffed. However, there was no net change in the number of keeper staff from 1993 to 2000 (NZP,
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Staff Gain/loss Statement 1993–2003, September 24, 2003), even though the size of the zoo’s animal collection declined by about 38% (NZP, Status of the Collection Reports, 1993–2002). In fact, as the size of the collection continued to decrease after 2000 to less than 50% of its 1993 size, the zoo actually added six keepers to their animal programs staff (NZP Staff Gain/Loss Statement 1993–2003, September 24, 2003). The zoo now has 74 permanent keeper positions (NZP, Tanner memo, July 19, 2004). On the basis of those statistics, staff interviews, and the committee’s observations, keeper staffing levels are more than adequate to allow basic husbandry training, continuing education, and cross-training on some scale within the zoo. The committee also expects that when the central commissary begins operations, this will free up a significant portion of the time the keeper staff spends on food preparation. In the committee’s opinion, the general perception that the animal-care staff is understaffed and the negative culture that developed as a result is a direct result of senior management’s lack of commitment through the 1990s to support the animal-care staff with the resources, training, and leadership necessary for them to perform their duties in an effective manner. The following list of findings was developed by the committee on the basis of its observations of the Rock Creek Park facility, interviews with keepers and curators (assistant, associate, and general), and relevant documents provided by the zoo. Findings: For the most part, the current cadre of keepers at the zoo had no prior experience in the care of zoo animals when they began as volunteers or employees of the zoo. Since at least 1992, training for keepers has been informal and has not followed a common protocol. Consequently, verbal descriptions of the goals and content of training initiatives of the zoo are inconsistent and vague and have resulted in husbandry training that is highly variable across the zoo. The lack of formal training or well-structured informal training has been noted in every American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) accreditation report since 1992. New keepers follow veteran keepers for a period of a few days to 2 weeks. It appears that this is the standard operating procedure and is intended to help new keepers learn how to perform their routines. Training times differ, and are longer for permanent keepers than for those being appointed to temporary positions. In 2003, the zoo determined that all assistant curators in animal programs should receive management training through the AZA Management School; by the end of 2004, three of eight assistant curators will have taken this course. There is no documentation that additional training is offered to improve leadership and management skills of assistant curators at the zoo. The current state of training and professional development at the zoo does not foster the expectation that staff will assume responsibility to stay abreast of innovations and further their education and development in their fields. Keepers and assistant curators tend not to participate in continuing education opportunities because, they state, the animal program is understaffed. In fact, over the last 10 years, the keeper staff increased while the number of animals in the collection declined by 50%. Management of animal behavior, nutrition, and enrichment is learned on the job. Keepers learn how to respond to animal emergencies by reading a manual and by accessing the standard operating procedures that exist for each area. Recommendations: The zoo should develop and implement an animal-care training program for its keeper staff immediately. This action requires establishing written husbandry protocols for each species at the zoo, standardizing the information to be passed to new keepers during training, designing a formal assessment of learned information, and instituting a formal system for documenting compliance with training requirements.The management team directly responsible for overseeing the day-to-day care of the animal collection (assistant curators) must undergo some form of management training.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Developing a training program can be a long and complex process, consuming time and resources that the zoo may not have in abundance. However, many other large zoos in the United States, such as the Indianapolis Zoo, have expended considerable energy to develop strong keeper-training programs. The committee strongly suggests that the zoo consider implementing a keeper-training program that has already been developed at another zoo, bypassing the need to develop a completely new program, and use its resources to tailor this program to the zoo and move its keepers through as rapidly as possible. It may be worthwhile for the zoo to consider hiring an experienced training and development specialist to oversee the development of a rigorous training program and corresponding set of measures to ensure follow through. Central to the success of any program implemented at the zoo is a common understanding and acceptance that training in animal husbandry will benefit the work performance of every keeper at the zoo, including those who that have been with the zoo for many years. Senior management at the zoo must ensure that any training program implemented include more than animal husbandry training for the particular species of animal that an animal care staff member manages. All animal care staff must be indoctrinated in the general principles of animal husbandry, welfare, and behavior, as well as the preventive health, nutrition, pest management, occupational health and safety, and sanitation programs. As noted in Chapter 7, a lack of zoo-wide support for integrated pest management, has led to a paralysis of the IPM program and a failure to implement zoo-wide, sustainable programs necessary for long-term control of pests. Senior management must ensure comprehensive training of animal care staff, so the staff understands that these other programs require their active support to function and benefit the animal collection and improve their own work environment. Standardized training in the general principles of animal husbandry, welfare, and behavior at both the Rock Creek Park and CRC facilities will also benefit the animal collection by widening the knowledge base at the zoo; allowing keepers to assist in other areas, creating more flexibility in coordinating human resources; and providing harmonized management of animals that move between the two facilities. Comprehensive and rigorous training for all animal care staff, if appropriately developed and implemented, can also begin addressing the general perception that the animal program is understaffed. This perception is used by all levels of management at the zoo to justify the failure of animal care staff to participate in professional development and to stay abreast of the latest advances in animal enrichment and husbandry, whether through formal training events or self-education. Training can help establish effective time management skills, identify attainable daily goals for the animal care staff, and introduce long-overdue efficiencies. It is also essential that any new training program (for keepers or curators) at the zoo instill a sense of personal responsibility for the continued professional development of the staff. In that way, the zoo can become a “learning organization” as described in the knowledge-management section of this chapter and once again become the premier institution where people come to learn about cutting-edge zoologic research and husbandry. The Department of Herpetology at the Dallas Zoo is an excellent example of a department that has successfully used high expectations to foster the intellectual and professional development of its keeper staff. In that department, once new keepers complete their initial training, they are given material for a self-taught course in herpetology similar to a university-level herpetology course. The keepers are expected to pass a test on the material within 6 months to move beyond a probationary period. All keepers are expected to achieve that goal, regardless of previous education or professional experience (Dallas Zoo, Department of Herpetology Manual).
Representative terms from entire chapter: