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Adjunct Faculty as Human Capital

Students in classAdjuncts now make up nearly three-quarters of the higher education instructional workforce, and that number is growing every year. Different types of institutions use adjuncts to varying degrees, and the pros and cons of using off-the-tenure-track faculty are vast and varied, depending on who you ask. In the session “The Role of Adjunct Faculty as Human Capital” at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2013, attendees heard observations on the use of adjuncts from panelists from three different higher ed institutions. The consensus was that since adjuncts are here to stay, we need to find ways to help them succeed by leveraging their unique knowledge and talents and ensuring that they are contributing in a meaningful way to the institutional mission.

So how can we do this?

  1. Define the role of adjunct in the context of a human capital strategy for supporting your institutional mission – a value contribution or a cost contribution?
  2. Academic, finance and HR leaders should partner to ensure that rewards programs and other HR management programs are designed and executed to support #1.
  3. If you decide the role of adjuncts at your institution is that of a value contribution, provide required training for adjuncts.
  4. Encourage participation of adjuncts in faculty meetings, professional development programs, and faculty social events.
  5. Formally evaluate adjunct performance and offer professional development support with reference to the expected strategic and operational contributions of adjuncts.

Although the faculty workforce usually falls outside of human resources (unless your institution has an academic HR organization), HR is involved with adjunct workforce management at many institutions. How about you? Does HR play a role in adjunct faculty management or development at your institution? Tell us in the comments below.

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