Faculty Recruitment and Retention

Dianne H. Meyer, Ph.D.
Rush University


The Challenge

The most important activity of a department chairperson is the recruitment and retention of excellent faculty.  All of the measures of a department's  success are dependent on the talent and quality of its faculty, including research and teaching productivity, student recruitment, funding, clinical efforts, department visibility, and national reputation.  In programs of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) the recruitment and retention business has heightened because the projected number of doctoral graduates in the discipline is insufficient to meet the anticipated number of faculty vacancies (Petrosino, Lieberman, McNeill, & Shinn, 1999).

Faculty  Recruitment

Are the Rules Changing?

 Recent developments suggest that traditional assumptions about faculty recruitment may be changing.

What Attracts New Faculty?

Generally speaking, money is not the major motivator for scholars.  Challenge, growth opportunities, flexibility, and meaningful work are far more important.  In the sciences, salaries have increased substantially along with costs for start-up packages.  Table 1 compares traditional perks used in faculty recruitment with new attractions (Schneider, 1998).
Table 1.  Recruitment Perks For Faculty
Traditional Perks  New Attractions
  • Office space
  • Travel funds 
  • Research accounts
  • Top-of-the-line technology
  • Secretarial support
  • Reduced teaching loads
  • Spousal package
  • Research accounts are expected
  • Leave packages
  • Higher salaries and start-up packages, especially in the sciences
  • Housing subsidies

Recruitment "To-Do" List

Faculty Retention

Why Is It Important?

In view of the fact that new CSD faculty may continue to be hard to find in the near future, programs should work to retain the good faculty that they have.  There is a price to pay for losing a faculty member and having to recruit another.   Research suggests that replacing a key person in an organization will cost between 70 and 200 percent of the person's compensation (Kaye & Jordan-Evans, 1999).  This cost involves both direct and indirect expenses, as outlined in Table 2.  The time and expense involved in retaining good faculty are an important investment into the well-being of the department.
Table 2.  Costs of Losing a Key Faculty Member
Direct Costs Indirect Costs
  • Advertisement
  • Interview costs (hotel, airline,  meals,etc.)
  • Lost grants and/or  consulting
  • Moving allowance 
  • Perks for new faculty member 
  • Overload on the rest of the faculty
  • Work put on hold until  replacement  is recruited
  • Lowered faculty morale
  • Loss of other faculty
  • Chairperson and faculty members' time spent recruiting

Why Do Faculty Stay?

Studies have shown that the top three reasons for staying in an organization are the same, regardless of the industry and level of worker (Kaye & Jordan-Evans, 1999).    When asked what keeps them at the workplace, 90% of respondents list:

Other reasons listed include great people, being part of a team, good boss, recognition for work well done, fun on the job, autonomy, flexibility, fair pay and benefits, inspiring leadership, pride in the organization, great work environment, location, job security, family-friendly, and cutting-edge technology.

For the purposes of this workshop, I recently asked two groups of CSD professionals why they stayed in a position and what could lure them away.  The first group was the faculty at Rush University, which is comprised of 7 Ph.D. and 9 master level faculty, and the second was the 15-member executive board of the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  With both groups combined, there were 9 Ph.D. and 19 master's prepared individuals; 18 worked in the university setting and 10 worked as clinicians in a medical or school setting.  Tables 3 and 4 summarize the responses that were received to this informal survey.  The factors important to these individuals in our own professions are similar to those reported by workers in general.
Table 3.  Responses of Ph.D. Faculty to an Informal Survey About Faculty Retention
Reasons To Stay Reasons To Leave
  • Challenging and rewarding 
  • Feeling respected and appreciated
  • Independence
  • Liking what I do
  • Liking and respecting the people with whom I work
  • Flexibility
  • Salary 
  • Work environment
  • Location
  • May be time for a change
  • Feeling high stress and lack of support
  •  Ineffective upper administration

Table 4.  Responses of Master's Prepared Faculty/Staff to an Informal Survey About Retention
Reasons To Stay Reasons To Leave
  • Working with good colleagues
  • Salary and benefits
  • Opportunities for development in other areas
  • Interesting and challenging caseload
  • Flexible schedule 
  • Salary and benefits
  • New challenges and responsibilities
  • Situations related to personal life 
  • Better opportunity for advancementand professional growth
  • Unsatisfactory work conditions

Why an individual faculty member stays or leaves is no doubt unique to that individual and to the particular setting.  It is very important to ask faculty members why they stay or what would keep them.  If the questions are not asked, the chairperson may be operating on incorrect assumptions.  One faculty member may need substantial changes to stay, while another may need only a better parking spot!

Retention Strategies

Retention of Minority Faculty

 Dolores Battle (1999) has provided an excellent discussion of the problems and issues related to retention of minority faculty.  She pointed out that despite excellent efforts, faculty members at many institutions remain disproportionately male and white, especially at the senior ranks.  Additional strategies are needed to retain minority faculty members and to support a climate of acceptance.

Generation  X

Generation X refers to 44.5 million Americans born between 1965 and 1976.  Baby Boomers may feel challenged by the Xers' mind-set towards work and their definition of a career.  At the risk of over-generalizing, these are the characteristics associated with Xers (Kaye &  Jordan-Evans, 1999):

Generation Xers have and will continue to impact the fabric of university faculties, especially as senior faculty retire.  The Xers' approach to work reflects the social, technological, and political changes that have occurred in this country over the past 30 years.  The Xers are forging more collaborative relationships between employer and employee.


Battle, D. E.  (1999, October).  Retention of minority faculty in higher education.  Special Interest  Division 10 Issues in Higher Education, 7-12.

Kaye, B., &  Jordan-Evans, S. (1999).   Love 'em or lose 'em.  Getting good people to stay.  San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler .

Petrosino, L., Lieberman, R. J.,  NcNeil, M.R., & Shinn, R. E.  (1999).  1998-99 Survey of  undergraduate and gradu.ate programs.  Minneapolis, MN:  Council of Academic Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders .

Schneider, A.   (1998, May 29).   Recruiting academic stars:  New tactics in an old game.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A12.

Schneider, A.  (1999, September 9).  Public-private faculty-pay gap is $15,300 and growing, scholar says.  The Chronicle of Higher Education.