Four Factors Impacting Academic Talent Attraction in 2022

3 min read · By Academic Positions · Published 2 months ago

As we slowly move out of the pandemic and closer to “normal life,” it is clear that “normal” has changed. The way we work and play continues to shift as employees and employers take a hard look at what they want and what they are willing to sacrifice.  

The nature of school and work continues to evolve with many professionals and students working in a hybrid situation with some work and school virtual and some in person. All of these changes have inevitably impacted how universities find and attract new talent to their faculties and research teams. 

However, it’s not just the lingering pandemic that is impacting talent attraction, there are a number of other factors influencing how universities are finding and retaining top talent. In addition to broader trends like The Great Resignation, university recruitment is also feeling the effects of adjunctification, changes to advertising policies on social media, and the growing need to create and maintain a clear employer brand.

To adjust to these current trends, universities need to be mindful of these changes and understand how to respond to them to remain attractive to potential candidates and successful in their academic pursuits.

The Great Resignation

The pandemic caused huge shifts in how millions of people, all over the world, work and live. When the world came to a standstill, people had the time and space to pause and think about deep philosophical questions about their work, their personal lives, and the balance between the two. The result? Many workers resigned from their positions in what has been termed The Great Resignation. 

The causes of The Great Resignation reach beyond singular concerns about Covid, just as the movement itself reaches beyond white collar careers. Academia is also feeling the impact of the great resignation, and surprisingly it’s often tenured faculty that are resigning. 

William Hanneker, a professor of English, wrote about his decision to leave for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He recognized long-standing academic issues such as the low pay and inflexibility of faculty positions but noted, “It’s not just about flexibility and costs…Being away from the campus has made many of us realize that we are unhappy — for a host of reasons — and do not want to return under any circumstances.”

The deeply embedded frustrations of many academics came to a head in the past year, but if university recruiters want to continue to find top talent, they need to recognize these complaints and work to change the status quo. This includes greater flexibility when it comes to where and how academics work, increased pay, better work-life balance, as well as other benefits that will appeal to beleaguered researchers and teachers. 

Adjunctification 

When UCLA recently posted an adjunct professor job that was explicitly unpaid, it’s hard to believe they thought it would go unnoticed. Then again, the practice of replacing tenure track jobs with low paid contingent faculty positions is not exactly a new trend. 

However, for many years this kind of adjunctification was somewhat limited to the most prestigious universities who could argue that payment was in the form of building a distinguished resume and developing a stellar reputation as a top academic. 

While it was disappointing to see a state school like UCLA post an unpaid adjunct position, the good news is, it seems candidates’ tolerance for these positions might be reaching a tipping point. The backlash to UCLA’s posting was swift and brutal, ultimately resulting in a half-hearted apology and the pulling of the advert. 

Timothy Burke, a professor of history at Swarthmore College, said of the advert, “It’s corrupting: it legitimates the concept of asking a Ph.D. to work for free, it mocks the idea that a nationally advertised search is meant to look for nationally qualified candidates.”

Universities looking to attract highly qualified candidates should anticipate ways to adequately and fairly compensate their faculty, even if this means changing the way things have traditionally been done. 

New Facebook Advertising Policies 

Facebook has recently changed its advertising policies in favor of practices that help to reduce biases in hiring. Universities can no longer target ads based on demographic information like age, gender, and location. 

This change has had a big impact on talent attraction and social recruitment more broadly as it is one change that is quite beneficial to academic recruiting. Instead of potentially limiting your advert to only certain locations for example, these new rules remove any potential bias. The content of your ad description will dictate the audience as Facebook’s algorithm will adjust to your prime audience as the ad gains traction. 

Universities should see these changes as positive, helpful, steps towards achieving truly unbiased recruitment.

Employer Branding 

Each of the above trends contribute to a university’s employer brand. Your employer brand is at the heart of your recruiting. Your brand encompasses your university’s reputation, popular research endeavors and accomplishments, your facilities, and softer benefits like location and quality of life. 

Recognizing the importance of your brand is vital but working to strengthen and shape your brand is the key to attracting top talent. In the age of social media and a constant stream of information at your fingertips, having a talent attraction strategy is more important than ever. Universities and research institutes need to prioritize their talent attraction and leverage employer branding to adapt. 

Posting a job advert on a free job board and hoping for the best is no longer enough. Universities need to establish a recruitment marketing strategy to stay relevant. Knowing where to begin can feel overwhelming but working with a recruitment partner with products designed to get results can help. 

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This guide will give you an overview of what recruitment marketing is, why your university needs to start using it, and how to get started.

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