The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

5 Ways Technology Can Help Humanize Contingent Faculty Hiring

This blog post was contributed by Sarah Forbes, senior vice president, PageUp.

Higher education institutions are increasingly looking to contingent labor (adjuncts) to complement full-time or tenure-track faculty and administrative staff. The issues surrounding adjunct hires, their pay and the effects of stretched and inexperienced resources on student outcomes are currently a hot topic.

Even though contingent workers are vital players in the higher education landscape, adjunct professors often experience unstable working arrangements. With 73 percent of all faculty positions now off the tenure track, it’s imperative for institutions to support this growing cohort.

Here’s where technology can help humanize the way institutions interact with all talent:

  • Treat your adjunct and casual staff like any other talent pool. Provide early engagement and keep your adjunct talent pool in the loop by sending regular communications leading up to the start of the semester. Technology can help manage your relationships with adjunct talent by enabling rich communication, including personalized touch points, talent pooling and expression of interest campaigns that attract talent at all times.Institutions should also make a commitment to commence the hiring and credential verification of contingent faculty early on — that way, new entrants to your contingent faculty pool are appropriately vetted for their teaching abilities, and you can identify areas where learning materials and orientation could help to bridge gaps. It’s also a great idea to proactively search your existing pool to make sure you’re re-engaging past hires, particularly those who have demonstrated great teaching outcomes (this is easy to achieve if you maintain a searchable database of contingent faculty talent).
  • Have an adjunct-to-full-time process with yearly targets for conversion. An online process and policy for adjunct conversion makes it clear that your institution is committed to providing your contingent faculty pool with clear opportunities for job security. Setting targets to convert a certain percentage of your contingent faculty pool to more secure positions sends the right signals to the academic community and benefits your institution’s employer brand.You’re also reinforcing a commitment to treat this cohort as an important part of the talent required to achieve great student outcomes. Technology helps to monitor the success of these programs by embedding the process in a step-by-step workflow. For example, online contract extensions, end-date reminders and certification expiry tracking can help people leaders manage and convert their adjunct engagements.
  • Ensure adjunct staff with great student outcomes are appropriately rewarded. Track number of engagements, contract extensions, student grades and feedback to ensure that your best performers are rewarded and included in your talent pipeline for full-time engagements. Centralizing the tracking of adjunct contracts and pay rates with a system that provides robust reporting can help to rationalize contingent faculty pay against tenure-track salaries.One of the biggest complaints about contingent faculty work is that the pay is miles below that of full-time faculty. Being able to report the actual reality and incremental improvements here can go a long way to making sure your contingent talent are recognized for the important work that they perform.
  • Manage your contingent faculty through a digital process. Reducing the paperwork required to engage contingent faculty can help to reduce frustration experienced by both administrative and faculty hiring teams. Particularly for adjunct hires, completing the preliminary administrative work can be just as time intensive as the actual jobs they perform. Having to fill out piles of manual paperwork to get paid for a few hours of work doesn’t value an adjunct employee’s time. Technology can differentiate your institution by reducing the need for excessive paperwork in the adjunct hiring process.
  • Provide the same learning courses in your contingent faculty onboarding that you do for tenure-track faculty. Any tools, content or materials that help enrich teaching standards for tenure-track staff are worth repackaging for a contingent cohort. Opportunities for development keep adjunct staff engaged with their role in an institution. Managing this content through a learning management system also ensures that content is appropriately segregated and delivered so that there is a clear distinction between your full-time and contingent faculty.

Adjunct faculty play a vital role in higher education institutions, but often experience unstable, demanding working arrangements. As a growing majority in the higher education landscape, it’s in an institution’s best interests to optimize and humanize they way they engage with, support and develop this crucial cohort.