Simplifying systems to engage faculty at the University of Alabama Birmingham
“When you’re trying to get your search committees engaged with and using the system, you’ve got to take advantage of customization opportunities in PeopleAdmin.”
In higher education talent management, empowering faculty and search committee members to engage with and enjoy simplified processes requires electronic systems proven to facilitate faculty’s unique functions.
“More than ceasing to chase paper, we wanted a system that empowered better data management that was also faculty-focused, user-friendly, and customizable,” said Janice Ward, faculty affairs manager at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). “We worked really hard to engage faculty at the very beginning of the process to ensure we would meet their needs.”
Janice and her team sought to secure faculty buy-in and combat rumors — such as the popular belief that PeopleAdmin’s Applicant Tracking System would replace search committee meetings — by engaging them from day one.
“Before we chose a solution, we brought faculty into user groups and asked them, ‘What do you think? Here’s what we are thinking about doing. Here’s how other institutions use it,’” Janice said.
Based on the information gathered from those conversations, Janice and her team worked to configure ATS’s search committee-specific features to meet faculty needs for each department — a considerable task for the 23,000-employee institution.
“It was clear that the search committee feature was the selling point,” Janice explained. “We were very deliberate and purposeful in reaching out to different departments and ensuring we could meet their needs.”
Search Committees Require These Three Key Features:
- Setting up appropriate faculty user profiles. “If a person’s primary role in the system is to be a search committee member, we make that the default when we set them up with an account. Then, when they log in, they don’t have to think about it, they don’t get confused, they don’t call you, and they have a good experience.”
- Building auto-generated email templates. “If creating an applicant email that relays the message ‘We are not interested, but thanks for applying’ helps to get biology department search chairs to use the system, then we create those customized emails for them in the system. It takes a little work on the front end, but it’s worth it because they use it and like it. When you’re trying to get your search committees engaged with and using the system, you’ve got to take advantage of customization opportunities in PeopleAdmin.”
- Crafting school-specific evaluation criteria. “For example, if the school of nursing has a standard set of questions that they want all of their candidates to be evaluated on, whoever’s doing the requisition can go and choose school of nursing, and it is already done for them. This makes their lives easier and helps get them engaged, especially in departments where there is a huge number of applicants, because it may weed out the 200 out of 275 applicants who don’t meet the minimum qualifications.”
Providing role-specific training also helps faculty use the system in a way that works best for them.
“We held faculty search committee-specific training sessions instead of bringing them into the bigger sessions where they would review content that they will never, ever use,” Janice said. “We did power lunch-type sessions where we fed them — maybe that’s why they came, I don’t know, but it worked.”
And it worked well. Faculty members are now enjoying various benefits from their applicant tracking solution. “There are many system tools that have been very effective in the search committee environment for us, such as the reference letter collection, having everything in one place, applicant reviewer roles — so people who aren’t on the search committee can still review applicants — reporting, and so on,” Janice said. “We’re trying to get buy-in so they can realize the benefits of those tools, so we provide whatever support we can to accomplish that mission.”
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