Losing the Future: Transparent Promotion Pathways for Administrative Faculty
Nationally and locally, within higher education, reports of low morale and high turnover among administrative faculty abound. The Women’s Council Hiring, Retention, and Assessment Task Force has listened to stories from our members and from others around campus; their concerns mirror those we read about all too frequently in national publications and social media focused on higher education. (Krone, 2021), Data on retention is hard to come by, but publicly available data show that roughly 43% of all UNLV administrative faculty were hired in the last five years, and that period included a temporary hiring freeze (HR Employee data, accessed 11/21). We worry that a significant number of administrative faculty members have left UNLV and that many of those departures are due to issues women face in the workplace. A variety of workplace issues, such as inflexible work schedules and work-life imbalance, may contribute to low morale and high turnover, but one other factor may be a lack of clear and consistent processes across campus by which administrative faculty can be recognized and rewarded for their performance. Knowing that advancement and recognition are possible (and not infrequent) and understanding what needs to be accomplished in order to merit promotion are surely important factors in an employee’s decision to stay at UNLV or go elsewhere. Except for a small number of groups (e.g. OIT, Academic Advising, and Alumni Engagement), administrative faculty at UNLV lack transparent, measurable, or equitable pathways for promotion.
Voluntary departures hurt the university in many ways; it’s expensive and time-consuming to identify and hire qualified replacements; those employees who are left behind often experience a decline in morale and productivity. Moreover, too many employee resignations may damage the university’s reputation and make it even harder to hire new employees (Heinz 2022). A conservative estimate of the cost of losing an individual employee is one-half to two-times their annual salary (McFeely and Wigert, Gallup, 2019). In addition, “Losing your best people means losing your reliable winners, your constant innovators and your most effective problem solvers” and “When it comes to rare talent, "voluntary turnover" is simply a nice way of saying, "You just lost the future” (McFeely and Wigert, Gallup, 2019). The same article notes that 52% of employees who voluntarily left their jobs say that their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving.
Steps that UNLV can take now to improve the work environment for administrative faculty include (1) ensuring that all administrative faculty timely receive annual evaluations; (2) developing clear and transparent promotion pathways for administrative faculty across all units on campus; and (3) ensuring that those promotion processes are consistent and fair across units. Moreover, because we can better address retention issues if we understand why employees leave the University, we hope that the University will develop and routinely conduct exit interviews with all employees who choose to leave UNLV and that the University will act upon the information learned in these interviews to improve working conditions at UNLV.
The UNLV Women’s Council is working with the Faculty Senate Administrative Committee, and the Faculty Senate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee toward establishing clear promotion standards for administrative faculty at UNLV. The Women’s Council’s Task Force on Hiring, Retention and Assessment has developed “Recommendations for Developing Guidelines for Promotion of Administrative Faculty”. We hope that these recommendations will result in a top-down initiative that will guide and encourage each unit on campus to develop transparent promotion pathways for all administrative positions on campus. The UNLV Office of Information Technology has already developed transparent promotion pathways for administrative faculty; their guidelines might be shared and serve as a model for other units.
Transparent promotion pathways at UNLV have already been established for academic faculty, both tenure-track and faculty in residence. It is essential that similar transparent pathways are implemented for administrative faculty in order to prevent high-performing administrative faculty and leaders from leaving UNLV and to increase their motivation to perform at their best. And, it’s simply the right and appropriate thing to do. Administrative faculty are instrumental in ensuring that departments run smoothly and that UNLV continues to meet its Top Tier goals. Administrative Faculty should enjoy the same promotional pathways as their academic counterparts.
If you want to help in this effort, please consider joining the Women’s Council Hiring, Retention, and Assessment (HRA) Task Force (https://www.unlv.edu/womenscouncil/get-involved) or writing to your representative on the Faculty Senate Administrative Faculty or DEI Committees.
Heinz, K.. 2022. https://builtin.com/recruiting/cost-of-turnover
HR, UNLV Employee Listing data, Downloaded November 2021. https://hrsearch.unlv.edu/hrweb/
Krone, M., 2021. To Those Who Have Stayed, https://medium.com/@megankrone/to-those-who-have-stayed-5caf6a1ab7bd
Shane McFeely and Ben Wigert, 2019, Gallup.com https://www.gallup.com/workplace/247391/fixable-problem-costs-businesses-trillion.aspx