Attracting the Best Faculty

What does it take to bring top-notch faculty to your business school? Four deans share the methods they use to hire great talent.
Attracting the Best Faculty

Globally branded schools with high rankings and deep pockets have little trouble recruiting top scholars, but for most business schools, competing for faculty is one of their most formidable challenges. And for every school, depending on its location and its resources, the task of recruiting faculty is just a little different.

For instance, what obstacles must a school overcome when it’s in a crowded market? That’s the situation for Françoise Dany, dean of the faculty and professor of human resource management at EMLYON Business School in Lyon, France. How can a dean attract candidates to a school in a remote location? Rashmi Prasad, the interim dean of the College of Business and Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), deals with that question every day. Enase Okonedo, dean of the Lagos Business School in Nigeria, must counter the reservations some candidates have about working at a school in an emerging economy. And Mirta Martin, dean of the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business at Virginia State University in Petersburg, must constantly work around constrained resources as she recruits faculty to her state school—which also hap-pens to be one of America’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Even as these deans focus on their own particular challenges, they can offer insights on four primary concerns that arise—for them and their counterparts across the globe—as they recruit and look for ways to retain faculty. These deans believe that four main issues will impact management education for the foreseeable future:

1. The finite supply of PhDs.

This could be the most critical one for deans worldwide, notes Okonedo. “In the coming years, business schools all over the world will find themselves competing fo faculty as the number of business schools increases and the doctoral faculty shortage worsens,” she says.

The crunch will intensify as schools in emerging economies enter the field, predicts Prasad. “Business schools in Latin America and Asia are coming of age, and they will be joining the competition for faculty,” he says. “But they also could be producing faculty, so they might represent an opportunity as well as more competition.”

Deans are already instituting strategies to try to negate the effect of the shortfall. For instance, EMLYON in France frequently turns to adjunct professors, says Dany. She adds, “We try to develop strong relationships with them to be sure of the quality of their teaching and their commitment to the school.” 

2. The technological revolution.

“Technology is having a huge impact on traditional, evolving delivery models,” says Okonedo. “Deans and their faculty will find it challenging t keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, especially when they’re subject to tight budgetary constraints.” The key, believes Dany, is to make faculty comfortable with the changing delivery methods of education as we “continue to develop and transform teaching practices, tools, and content over time.”

Changing educational models—from MOOCs to online institutions like Western Governors University—offer exciting opportunities as well as obstacles, points out Martin. The Lewis School explored the MOOC option this summer as a way to deliver courses to students who couldn’t physically be on cam-pus, but Martin thinks online educational delivery could have even more far-reaching possibilities.

For instance, she says, if traditional universities can develop faculty who are at ease teaching in a digital environment, they’ll be able to reach student populations anywhere in the world, including areas where other educational opportunities are limited. She says, “We can engage in great philanthropy while improving the bottom lines for our schools.”

3. Faculty engagement.

Some education critics believe the tenure track model is outdated (see “Two Takes on Tenure,” page 30). But as long as it is the standard, says Prasad, a key concern will be keeping mid-career faculty members engaged, motivated, and current. He thinks it’s critical for deans to offer counseling and mentoring—but he also thinks mentors can be found anywhere. In fact, he says, junior faculty members with fresh ideas and technological competence can mentor senior professors.

At UAA, for instance, younger faculty have encouraged the adoption of classroom video capture; they’ve also led the way in initiatives such as the Experimental Economics Lab and the Committee for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. “The teaming of newer and longer-term faculty resulted in renewed engagement for more senior faculty,” Prasad reports. He sees two factors that allow junior faculty to influence senior faculty: their participation on committees that address cutting-edge topics, and improved internal communication that allows new ideas to diffuse across the college.

Prasad also believes that deans will find it easier to motivate faculty now that AACSB has adopted a new system of classifying faculty as scholarly practitioners, scholarly academics, practice academics, and instructional practitioners. “This allows faculty to migrate over the course of their careers, and maybe even reinvent themselves,” he says. “A purely academic researcher can become more of a practitioner. AACSB is giving us more tools to work with, but keeping senior faculty engaged will remain an ongoing challenge.”

4. The changing landscape of business education.

The biggest problems might not even be on the radar yet. Says Martin, “As business school leaders, we need to think about the challenges that don’t yet exist so we can prepare for them, but we aren’t doing enough of that.  We need a SWOT analysis of what the business school landscape will look like in five years, in ten years, so we can shift the models we use to recruit and retain faculty.

“For instance, we’re going to have to consider the best ways to utilize our facilities full-time,” she goes on. “I looked out my window a few days after May commencement, and the campus was deserted. Can we afford to let our buildings sit empty for a few months every summer? Can we afford to keep faculty who don’t work for 12 months a year? We could be looking at a paradigm shift.”

Prasad wholeheartedly agrees. He says, “I think the very substance of our MBA programs is undergoing a change, and this will have a huge effect on how we hire. The MBA was designed to capture the diverse range of skills and knowledge an executive should have, but as the knowledge being generated in the business world becomes so wide and broad, one degree might not be able to capture it. It might be more logical for executives to earn multiple specialized credentials—which requires a different mix of faculty.

“At that point, a key challenge becomes hiring strategically to meet the demands of changing business,” he continues. “We can’t just fill old slots. We can’t just hire a new marketing professor to replace one that just retired. We have to anticipate the shape of intellectual capital we will need in the future.”

Thus, like many other tasks that fall to business school leaders, faculty recruiting will become a balancing act. Deans will have to weigh their present needs against their future plans, their local requirements against global norms. They’ll have to factor in technology, globalization, and intensifying competition, while those that are accredited will have to meet explicit standards. No wonder deans see faculty recruiting as one of the most critical tasks they’ll face for the rest of the decade. In the following pages, Martin, Prasad, Dany, and Okonedo get specific about their strategies for facing these challenges head-on.

A State School, An HBCU

By Mirta Martin

For publicly funded state schools like Virginia State University, it’s a major challenge to recruit talented, qualified faculty, especially as we’re competing with private schools that have significant endowments I obviously can’t compete with schools that can offer candidates US$20,000 or $30,000 more than I can. But if the difference is only $10,000, I’m often able to recruit candidates who are looking for two things: a congenial working atmo-sphere, and a chance to make a difference in the world by teaching students from minority populations.

At the Lewis College of Business, we treat our junior faculty with the same respect we give our tenured professors, and we rely on the expertise and enthusiasm they bring to the school. One of the reasons we were able to convert to a digitally delivered curriculum a few years ago is that our tech-savvy junior faculty led the way.

It’s important to me that we have a family atmosphere. To my faculty, I’m not “the dean”—I’m Mirta. This helps us recruit new faculty through word of mouth, because our junior members spread the word to their friends still in school that this is a good place to work.

All the faculty I recruit must be from AACSB-accredited schools, but I also look for candidates who have had previous lives. Of the 14 faculty I’ve hired, 13 had successful careers as businesspeople, lawyers, auditors, and CFOs. Most of them earned their PhDs after they grew tired of the corporate rat race.

These faculty can use their real-life experiences to explain why a piece of theory is relevant. A professor who used to own a business can tell his class, “We had a strategic plan that looked ahead one, three, five, and ten years. Without it, we wouldn’t have survived the market crash. This is why you have to do your strategic analysis.”

I hire African American professors when I can, because I believe our students need to have role models who share similar values and experiences. Unfortunately, minority candidates are rare and many go to higher-paying institutions. How-ever, I also think it’s important to recruit diverse faculty. My current roster is a mini U.N., with African American, Chinese, Korean, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Indian faculty on board. They come to VSU with their cultures and their accents and their specific stories from their countries, and they give our students a real taste of the world they will be graduating into.

Finally, I want to recruit faculty for whom education is a calling. Everyone who comes here understands that what we do is a matter of mission. Schools like ours often lack resources, so faculty become resources for the students, and they know it. They want to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of leaders. And they want to teach this population because they believe that’s where they can enact the greatest change.

Anyone can teach a student who has as 4.7 GPA. But it’s more of a challenge to teach a student who has a 2.8 or a 3.0 average. When I’m interviewing candidates, I tell them, “If you follow your passion and come here, you might not be paid top dollar. But you’ll go home every evening saying, ‘Today I made a difference in someone’s life.’”

A School Off the Beaten Path

By Rashmi Prasad

To find faculty for the University of Alaska in Anchorage, we follow some of the traditional steps: We advertise positions, utilize professional societies, and rely on informal networks. But one of the most effective methods is outreach by senior leaders among our faculty, such as Gunnar Knapp, director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER). At conferences, Knapp actively promotes the state, its mystique, and the opportunities it affords. A couple of years ago, he staged our presentation space with all kinds of “Alas-kana,” including smoked salmon and posters of our beautiful state. He drew quite a crowd.

We typically see three types of faculty candidates. Some are already disposed to come here for part of their careers, because living in Alaska has always been on their “bucket lists.” These are often productive senior scholars who move easily from place to place. Some already have a negative attitude about the idea of working in Alaska, so we don’t put any effort into trying to recruit them. It’s not worth the cost.

The final group is made up o more open-minded candidates, and with them we are proactive in counteracting their misconceptions. Yes, Alaska is remote, but Anchor-age has most of the amenities you’d want in a major city. It’s also an extraordinary place. It’s built on the edge of a national park, with fabulous outdoor recreational opportunities available year-round. This combination of the lifestyle and urban amenities is very attractive.

One fear candidates have is that Alaska is so isolated that they will have trouble maintaining personal and professional networks. But the communications revolution means that colleagues around the world are readily available through video chat services like Skype. In addition, Anchorage is only an eight- or nine-hour flight from 90 percent of the industrialized world. Moscow and London can be reached in nine hours, Taipei in eight, Los Angeles and Honolulu in five. The faculty lifestyle generally accommodates trips, and we’re generous about faculty travel.

Finally, some candidates worry that they’ll have a hard time adjusting to Alaska’s environment, such as its swings between seemingly endless days and nights. For this reason, we actively mentor them—either formally, through the Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence (CAFE), or informally among department chairs and senior faculty. For instance, if new hires are having trouble with the long nights during winter, we encourage them to buy lights that simulate sunlight or to travel to someplace like Hawaii.

Once we get candidates past the obstacles of coming to Alaska, we point out UAA’s many advantages. For instance, Anchorage contains more than 40 percent of the state’s population, which means faculty at our university can make a big impact. We have access to business leaders, and politicians take us seriously.

Many local leaders rely on the policy research produced by faculty who work at ISER and who focus on key Alaskan issues such as energy. Faculty members who join ISER don’t have to have a great deal of previous understanding of Alaska’s priorities; they just have to learn local conditions.

And that’s important, because we believe it’s critical for us to recruit diverse faculty from anywhere in the world. Our state has a huge geography and a small population, so we rely on trade with the outside. We can’t afford for Alaska to be inward-looking and parochial, because Anchorage needs to be a first-class business center. That means we need a population that is cosmopolitan, understands other cultures, maintains a broad global perspective, and can interact with other citizens anywhere in the world. To help educate that population, we need diverse faculty.

Even so, for business schools like ours in remote regions, the questions remain: What are our critical tasks? What is our continuing unique offering to the state and the community? Has our mission changed as we respond to globalization, the rise of technology, and the shifts in higher education? Those are important questions. Since there are only a few significant universities in Alaska, UAA can’t leave the answers to someone else.

A School in a Crowded Market

by Françoise Dany

Because EMLYON Business School is in a highly competitive region, we put a great deal of effort into offering good working conditions and creating a friendly and supportive working environment. We have to go beyond window dressing.

When recruiting faculty, we point out the excellent life conditions in the city. Lyon is ranked among the best places in the world to live, and it is close to numerous popular des-tinations—London, Geneva, Barcelona, Milan, the Mediterranean, and the French Alps.But, even more important, we emphasize the quality of local infra-structures. Lyon is the second larg-est economic area of France, which is the sixth-largest economy of the world, and it is characterized by dynamic industries. This means faculty have tremendous opportunities to cooperate with business leaders to develop knowledge. We recognize the importance of fieldwork, an we know how critical it is for faculty to develop strong relationships with our economic partners as well as our program participants.

Therefore, when we’re recruiting faculty, we emphasize the potential for them to develop rich long-term professional projects. We also strive to develop a collective and engaging intellectual life within our faculty as we consider our roles and responsibilities toward society. Because we are a research-oriented institution, we give faculty members time to research and write for publication. We also encourage individual and collective initiatives through our learning lab and five research centers.

For EMLYON, the goal is to attain increasing international recognition, which means we recruit faculty members who produce significant publications and areengaged in numerous research networks. Having well-known individuals at our school enhances our reputation and increases the employability of our faculty.

But we also make sure candidates know they have the possibility of developing different kinds of careers—either focused on research or on teaching and development. This may well be one of the key challenges for all business schools going forward: making sure we develop career paths for both research-oriented and teaching-oriented faculty. Among other things, this means making sure we promote interactions and projects that involve both kinds.

In the coming years, we expect EMLYON’s biggest challenge to be finding the balanced profiles we arlooking for, while keeping faculty committed to our institution. We want to work together to build a collective project for developing entrepreneurs for the world.

A School in An Emerging Nation

by Enase Okonedo

At business schools in emerging markets, it’s critical that faculty members are not only academically sound, but also knowledgeable about business in their environment. Management knowledge obtained through a purely Western education often isn’t applicable to the situation in developing economies. We must teach our students to think globally but act locally.

Lagos Business School is a post-graduate school whose mission is to improve the management of African enterprises by strengthening the capacity of African managers. Thus, we seek faculty who have practical business knowledge and who maintain continuous engagement with industry. This practical experience allows them to effectively communicate management theories to students and also to develop pedagogical materials that can enhance student learning.

Having said this, for faculty who are teaching in the doctoral program, we look for those who have back-grounds that skew toward the theoretical side. We always look for candidates who are active in at least two legs of the faculty tripod: teaching, research, and industry engagement. 

Finding suitable faculty is always difficult because we want candidates who can work within the culture at our school, where we use the case study method, focus on humanistic management practices, and emphasize a strong engagement with industry. In addition, we are founded on the Christian concept of the human person, as well as economic activity. Thus, we want faculty who can share our values, who have strong academic abilities, and who have significant practical experience. In addition, we look for faculty who can be facilitators in the classroom.

Not all the faculty we hire are ready-cut diamonds, so we engage in faculty development, especially to familiarize them with the case method. Most of our faculty are alumni of either the International Faculty program at IESE or the Teaching the Practice of Management program offered by the Association of African Business Schools. 

We also sometimes grow our own talent by hiring promising young people who have values that are consistent with ours. We usually find them by looking among our graduating students for bright individuals and encouraging them to apply as research associates. This gives them a couple of years to explore the academic life and see if they find it attractive. If they do, we help them earn their master’s degrees and PhDs, after which they become lecturers. We also have two designated “scouts” among our faculty; they are involved in youth networks, and they keep an eye out for bright young individuals we could bring in as research assistants and start on the same path. 

In some disciplines, such as finance and marketing, its particularly difficult to recruit qualified faculty, because candidates can earn much better salaries in industry. In those cases, we must find people who really love teaching and want academic careers.

We recruit both locally and internationally, by advertising, networking at conferences, and asking current faculty for recommendations. While individuals who know and understand the Nigerian business environment are our primary targets, we also believe in exposing our students to global business environments through outside faculty who have fresh perspectives.

When we’re recruiting from outside Nigeria, the biggest challenge is overcoming worries about “environmental factors” that make candidates hesitate to commit to a long-term stay. Often they have concerns about the level of security or the adequacy of the infrastructure. In addition to dealing with these issues, we must try to match international salaries and pay candidates enough to afford our high cost of living. We frequently find these outside faculty members by collaborating with international schools to arrange faculty visits and/or study tours.

We also reach out to academics from the Nigerian diaspora who wish to return to their home country. Sometimes we encounter Nigerians working abroad who are trying to decide whether to join LBS or take positions in South Africa or a Persian Gulf country. To convince them to come to LBS, we emphasize that here they can contribute to the building up of the country, which we consider an exciting adventure.

We also emphasize that working at LBS could be very good for their careers, because their visibility and impact will be much greater in Nigeria than abroad, where each would be only one among thousands of equally well-qualified academics in hundreds of business schools. We promise that we can give them the kind of support toward personal and career development that they will not find anywhere else in the country. And we tell them they will derive deep satisfaction from communicating our values to others as they help transform the business environment and, thus, the society at large.