Set-up costs

Do you hate “set-up costs” as much as I do?  You know… the time, effort, and sometimes even money that we have to “pay up front” when we are getting started on a particular course of action; for example, when you want to use a new software program, when you have to provide an introduction for a new employee, when you have to learn a new procedure, etc. 

Well, I may be exaggerating a bit.  Quite often, there is no small amount of excitement in unpacking and learning something like a new gadget, an upgrade to a useful piece of software, even the learning that goes into starting a new job or transferring location or companies.  There are some set-up costs that we not just accept willfully but actually embrace and look forward to it! 

Well, these days I feel that I have been feeling more of the former than the latter. 

You see, even though the economy has shrank 3.8% in October-December (Q4 in 2008) –after growing by only +0.6% the previous year and +4.9% in 2006), my school, as many others that have been experiencing growth even in the face of a shrinking college population, is in high need of qualified instructors for a variety of positions, in particular Finance, Information Systems, Human Resource Management, Marketing, and several other business specializations.

In my department, this year I have been chairing the search committee that is looking for qualified candidates to staff a couple of positions needed for several years, but authorized only in the fall of 2008.  Evidently, we are not the only department in the University that is in dire need of qualified colleagues!

And chairing a search committee reminds me when, as a manager for a small department, I had to sift through dozens of applications to identify suitable candidates that I would feel suitable to interview and send to the Human Resources department for testing and all the related procedures.  Only this time I cannot make the decision by myself; I have to reach consensus with the other members of the committee and send a recommendation to the chairperson, who then must send it to the Dean, and so on until the President of the University signs the job offer and starts the salary negotiation.  Working for a public employer –as opposed to a private one—in a position that requires shared governance has a number of strong differences and this is definitely one of them.

The scientific side of my brain reminds me that group decisions –when handled appropriately, and I should be able to do so since I have a doctoral degree!—outperform individual decisions when the task is complex.  And sure enough, hiring a highly qualified person is a multi-dimensional decision that involves making judgment calls about the candidates’ potential to be outstanding teachers, researchers and colleagues.  This is the type of decision that could definitely be included in a textbook or in an exam with the confidence that all the signs point in the direction of preferring a group decision to an individual one.

But still, the interdependence required in setting up interview schedules that involve half-a-dozen people and bringing candidates from just about anywhere in the nation is not so much fun when the semester keeps going and deadlines for research papers also continue their pace.  The “set-up cost” of hiring in academia is quite high in both monetary and non-monetary resources.  It’s time to count my blessings, such as a very fulfilling job that might not have incredible end-of-the-year bonuses but is resilient simply because there is still a strong need to educate the next generations of managers.

What about yourself?  Do you find yourself inconvenienced by the set-up costs of hiring, starting a new venture, etc.?  Or do you enjoy the challenge of getting started on an activity that should soon reach a more stable state?  

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¡Hasta la próxima!