The backbone of any industry, including academics, is the staff, employees, and faculty there. Keeping those who work inside an institution satisfied is the first way to ensure success of the overall mission. But budget cuts on a federal and state level have required universities, colleges, and lower-level schools to revise how they utilize their funding and revamp the role of full-time staff. Now, the push towards part-time faculty is a common experience in the academic landscape.
The problem is that people need to feel valued and appreciated in order to be loyal to a cause or job. When they’re loyal, they’re more likely to be engaged in their job. Moving a once full-time position to that of part-time with the same or similar expectations typically has the opposite effect. As institutions continue to juggle the problems of budget cuts with faculty satisfaction, it’s important to have a measurement that tracks the engagement of their employees.
Obstacles Part-Time Workers Strive to Overcome
The majority of faculty in an institution don’t go into their jobs intending to be unengaged and disloyal. They want to make a difference somehow, either through student interaction or research. But over time, when an individual feels unappreciated, the typical next reaction is to become less engaged.
This happens as they strive to overcome obstacles that are placed in their way with the expectation of full time standards with part-time pay. Part-time faculty members often state that they run into issues at work like:
● Devalued opinions since they are not present full-time
● Lack of encouragement from their department or those in leadership positions around them
● Lack of supervision regarding progress and setting goals, integration of the part-time role into the overall mission
● Lack of understanding of how their role’s purpose fits into the overall mission of the institution
● An assigned responsibility rather than an opportunity to follow the path they intended upon entering the academic world
These obstacles often lead to a lack of satisfaction or engagement in their positions, leaving someone who was once intellectually-minded to drop their connection with their work, both emotionally and mentally.
When faculty are disengaged, they are less productive and more likely to take time off or get sick. Satisfied employees equate to a better overall quality of life, making them healthier and, as a result, lowering the cost of healthcare for the institution providing insurance coverage as a benefit.
Measurements to Determine Engagement
Faculty engagement is both external and internal, but it’s possible to measure when it’s viewed from an individual, team, and growth perspective.
As an individual, there are a few factors that help faculty, both full-time and part-time, engage in their job. When they know what’s expected of them rather than having ambiguous job descriptions or always having new tasks piled on them, they’re more content. In addition, when the institution provides the training and resources that they need to do the job well, they’re more likely to be confident in their role. From there, the work they do should receive positive recognition and constructive interaction to help them continue to improve, and they should feel valued as an individual, not simply for their position within the institution.
Working as a team gives another insight into the engagement of a person. In the team interaction, an engaged person wants to work with their team and do well. They know the mission and purpose, and their own important role in the overall success of the project. The team makes the individual feel welcome as they work towards a shared goal.
As the faculty member continues to work within an institution, they should be given learning opportunities to grow professionally. Supervisors should make themselves available for questions, suggestions, and requests for improvement. The individual will be more engaged if they feel like they understand their role and have an opportunity for growth.
Loyal, engaged part-time and full-time faculty members are critical to aiding the institution to make their mission statement a success and reach their academic goals.