Hiring the right faculty members is key to achieving the higher education mission, which is why colleges and universities invest time and money attracting top candidates … but once a position is accepted, many institutions greet new hires with inefficient onboarding processes and stacks of paperwork, rather than a positive first impression that lays the foundation for faculty retention and satisfaction.
“We spend a lot of time trying to court and attract good talent but we forget that a lot of the talent coming into the workforce now are very tech-savvy,” said Wendy Haynes, manager of compensation and recruitment at Tarleton State University in Texas. “We want to put a wonderful first foot forward for Tarleton, so there’s no reason to step out of the electronic process once we hire someone.”
But Wendy — along with other members of human resources and academic affairs teams — knows that simply adopting an electronic solution isn’t enough, truly effective faculty onboarding uses technology to help facilitate employee engagement, orientation, and preparation.
“A new faculty member may have responsibilities across multiple domains,” said Edward Wilson Jr., Ph.D., director of strategic partnerships at PeopleAdmin and former director of academic affairs and HR director at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “For example, they may have teaching load, they may have research load, they may have service requirements … there’s a variety of things that need to be covered during onboarding.”
To ensure completion of these tasks is as stress-free and easy as possible, Edward recommends following three onboarding steps:
1. Examine current onboarding practices
“I would start by evaluating processes to determine whether or not they need to be re-engineered,” Edward said. “Some processes may not need to be re-engineered, and others definitely could use that shot in the arm.”
To better manage the processes that do need re-engineering, Edward recommends using a customizable process and recordkeeping solution — such as PeopleAdmin’s Records.
“If you had a custom forms and workflow tool, like Records, it would free up time and resources for the academic administrators to focus on strategic activities,” Edward said. “They won’t have to worry so much about using multiple tools to collect and store the information. They’ll know that they have a single source of truth as it relates to where information lives, when it was collected, and more.”
2. Offer paperless self-service options
To further reduce administrative tasks during onboarding, and deliver more convenient options for new hires, Edward suggests using an employee portal — preferably a mobile-friendly one — that allows new faculty to complete mandatory forms electronically, from any location.
“Academic offices collect so much paperwork from faculty members,” Edward said. “If they had the ability to allow those faculty to fill out forms electronically, it would provide them with more time to communicate meaningfully and make connections.”
With Records, human resources and faculty affairs teams are able to offer the type of mobile-friendly portal that Edward recommends. But Records doesn’t just eliminate paper, it also allows academic administrators to create and track custom onboarding plans for new tenure-track faculty, research faculty, clinical faculty, and graduate teaching assistants.
“We are mindful of the new employee experience when we get them through onboarding,” Wendy said. “We want to make that a two-way experience where they can go in and see what they’ve got to complete and we can see what we have to complete.”
3. Design comprehensive processes that balance institutional and individual needs
“Every institution has a governance structure,” Edward said. “Make sure new faculty are aware of your committees, councils, work groups, and task forces. Share the purpose of each entity, provide bylaws, and give them the meeting dates and times.”
Additionally, onboarding should provide the training each new faculty member needs to excel in his or her unique role, and academic offices can design onboarding training based on the balance of a faculty member’s effort allocation.
“Someone who is teaching should be trained on your teaching practices and methodologies to make sure they’re familiar with the way you instruct students, enter grades, and use technologies — such as LMS, SMART Board, clickers, and projectors — that facilitate instruction,” Edward explained.
“Research departments also have specific procedures that need to be covered,” he added. “Whether it’s the human subjects application process or the CV format for federally funded grants, there’s a variety of things to explain during onboarding.”