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Hiring For Innovation In Faith-Based Institutions

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by academickeys No Comments

Faith-based colleges and universities view their religious affiliation as integral to their mission and identity.  This reality makes hiring for mission most important.  But, all too often, there is a tendency to downplay mission for hard to fill positions.

Today’s competitive environment makes matters even more difficult.  Universities are not just searching for academically qualified candidates.  They also are searching for innovators to invigorate their faculty and staff.  So, how can a university attract highly qualified, innovative, candidates who also can contribute to its mission?

A crucial part of the answer is clarity about the connection between mission and innovation.  Vigorous religious traditions are living traditions.  They are grounded in the past, but are not grounded by the past.  The difference is a matter of perspective.  No doubt, traditions need to be preserved, but enduring traditions are open to ways of expression that most effectively communicate meaning in the world today.

It is vitally important for an institution to be clear about the nature of its religious affiliation and how it contributes to the totality of its mission as a university.  This clarity makes explicit the framework for its support of innovative teaching and research.  Most importantly, it implicitly sets the foundation for institutional innovation, and the people who can make it happen.

Choosing mission over innovation, or vice versa, is a false choice.  The compatibility of the two emanate from the identity of the institution.  The clearer a university can be about its religious affiliation and mission the more likely it is to attract faculty and staff who want to contribute to its vibrancy in creative ways.

The Most Important Thing We Do

Posted on: January 13th, 2014 by academickeys No Comments

After nearly 30 years in academia, including 17 years as an academic administrator, I can still hear myself advising deans and department chairs that the most important thing we do is to hire the right people.  Perhaps this is arguable, but even if one thinks the most important outcomes of higher education are student centeredness and academic achievement, those results depend upon having the right people doing an excellent job along the way.

So, how do we ensure that we are hiring the right person?  One viewpoint is that we can’t really know until after the fact, when the person moves from candidate to employee.  Their track record on the job then tells the tale.  This begs the question of why go through a rigorous search process trying to attract people who are only likely to succeed?

If an institution believes that their most important asset is their faculty and staff, then the process it uses for position searches should be an institutional priority.  All too often, however, more emphasis is placed on strategic and financial planning than on personnel planning.

Institutional planning is useless if talented people are not in place to develop and implement plans.  In the end, hiring good and effective people is more process than procedure, and it is more important than most institutions realize.   This insight is the beginning of placing emphasis where it belongs . . . on the practice of attracting the right people for the right position at the right institution.  Doing anything less neglects the most important thing we do.