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Cerkl Broadcast

5 Strategies to Improve Faculty Engagement in Higher Education

Do you recognize the importance of faculty engagement? We’ll show you why it’s a vital element of higher education and how to improve it.
Written by: Penny Swift
faculty engagement cover image
Published: July 5, 2024
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Faculty and staff are the lifeblood of any successful higher education institution. But with rising workloads and an ever-changing landscape, engagement can quickly dwindle. 

In a Workplace article published in April 2024, Gallop Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Wellbeing Jim Harter reported that U.S. engagement had hit an 11-year low. In the first quarter of the year, the downward trend of employee engagement continued to drop, reaching the 30% level of 2012-2013. Figures have been dropping since 2020 when the record-high percentage of engaged employees was 36%. 

Gallup also has figures for higher education employee engagement. These show that only 34% of university faculty and staff are engaged in their jobs. 

“Develop engaged employees who put students first — making your campus the best place to learn.”

only 34% of university faculty are engaged

It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, although differences in culture, language proficiency, and various social issues can make faculty engagement and student engagement a lot more challenging. 

A research study published by the International Journal of Applied Research in Social Sciences investigates the critical role of faculty engagement in enhancing the success of international students within higher education settings. 

Faculty Engagement in International Student Success: A Review of Best Practices and Strategies warns that higher education institutions face a myriad of challenges when it comes to promoting engagement with international students. But there is also a myriad of opportunities, as the three collaborating authors, Fadeke Atobatele (University of Texas at Arlington), Percy Chris Kpodo (University of North Dakota), and Isabel Obiageli Eke (Department of Education South Africa, Pietermaritzburg) point out. These include experiential learning, international travel, and cross-cultural collaborations.

Overall, they acknowledge that “understanding faculty engagement requires a multifaceted approach that considers the diverse roles, responsibilities, and interactions of faculty members within higher education institutions.” 

What is the Definition of a Faculty Engagement?

The first challenge is to understand faculty engagement and its impact. 

Faculty engagement refers to the level of investment, commitment, and enthusiasm faculty members have toward their work and the institution they work for. It goes beyond simply fulfilling job duties and encompasses a deep sense of connection to the student experience and the overall success of the university.

Here are some key aspects of faculty engagement:

  • Dedication to teaching: Engaged academic staff members are passionate about teaching and committed to creating a positive learning environment for students. They actively seek out opportunities to improve their teaching methods and stay updated in their field.
  • Scholarship and research: Engaged members within a faculty are actively involved in research and scholarship that contributes to their field. They are eager to share their knowledge with students and colleagues.
  • Service to the institution: Engaged members take an active role in the governance and decision-making processes of the university or college. They are willing to serve on committees, participate in faculty development initiatives, and contribute to the overall well-being of the institution.
  • Student success: Engaged members of any faculty are deeply invested in the success of their students. They will always go the extra mile to provide support and guidance, both inside and outside the classroom.
4 key aspects of faculty engagement

Benefits of An Engaged Faculty

When all the members of a faculty are engaged, everyone benefits. 

Benefits for Students

  • Improved learning outcomes: Engaged members of a faculty are more likely to create stimulating learning environments that foster critical thinking and intellectual curiosity in students.
  • Increased student satisfaction: Students are more likely to feel supported and valued when they have engaged staff members who are passionate about their success, as indicated in Faculty Engagement: A Study on the Higher Education Institutions’ Setting.
  • Enhanced student engagement: Engaged members of a faculty inspire students to become more involved in their learning and take ownership of their education.

Benefits for the Institution

  • Higher faculty retention: Engaged faculty members are more satisfied with their jobs and are less likely to leave the institution.
  • Improved reputation: Institutions with engaged members are usually seen as more attractive to both students and potential faculty recruits.
  • Increased research productivity: Engaged faculty members are more likely to be productive researchers who attract funding and contribute to the institution’s scholarly reputation.
  • Stronger sense of community: When members are engaged, there is a greater sense of collaboration and shared purpose within the institution.
benefits of an engaged faculty

5 Strategies for Better Faculty Engagement

It’s important to recognize the barriers and challenges that face institutions and their faculty staff. Luckily there are relatively simple ways to improve engagement. Here are 5 key strategies that you can use to reignite the vital flame of engagement:

1. Foster Two-Way Internal Communication 

Transparency and open internal communication are crucial for building trust and fostering a sense of belonging. This is where your internal communication solutions come into play!

  • Implement a multi-channel approach: Utilize a mix of email newsletters, employee apps, town halls, online forums, and social media groups to ensure everyone receives information and has a platform to voice their concerns.
  • Prioritize two-way dialogue: Don’t just broadcast messages. Actively solicit feedback through surveys, focus groups, and Q&A sessions.
  • Embrace transparency: Share organizational goals, challenges, and successes openly. This fosters a sense of shared purpose and allows faculty and staff to see the impact of their contributions.

Gallagher’s State of the Sector 2023/24 report indicates that engaging teams on purpose, strategy, and values is the top priority of internal communicators in 2024 for 63% of respondents. This represents an increase of 12% from 2023, even though it was still the top-ranked priority then too. 

2. Celebrate Faculty Achievements

Recognition is a powerful motivator. Be sure to celebrate faculty and staff achievements, big and small.

  • Highlight faculty research and publications: Showcase their expertise and contributions to the academic community.
  • Recognize staff excellence: Publicly acknowledge outstanding contributions from administrative, technical, and support staff.
  • Peer-to-peer recognition programs: Create a system where faculty and staff can acknowledge each other’s efforts and foster a supportive and collaborative environment.

3. Invest in Professional Growth and Development

Faculty personnel and staff members crave opportunities to learn and grow. Invest in their professional development by offering:

  • Workshops and seminars: Opt for relevant topics like teaching methodologies, technology integration, or mental health awareness.
  • Mentorship programs: Connect senior faculty and staff with new hires to facilitate knowledge transfer and career development.
  • Support for research and scholarship: Provide grants, release time, or travel stipends to allow faculty members to pursue their research interests.

4. Empower Shared Decision-Making

A sense of ownership is vital for engagement on any level. Empower faculty staff by involving them in decision-making processes.

  • Create committees and task forces: Solicit input on key issues like curriculum development, resource allocation, or strategic planning.
  • Delegate tasks and responsibilities: Trust those in charge with ownership over specific projects or initiatives.

Don’t ever forget that empowerment fosters a sense of agency and accountability. This, in turn, will lead to a more engaged workforce.

5. Cultivate a Culture of Appreciation 

A simple “thank you” can go a long way. Be sure to regularly express appreciation for the hard work and dedication of faculty and staff. There are lots of ways you can do this.

  • Personalized messages from leadership: A handwritten note or personalized email from a dean or department head can make a big difference.
  • Employee appreciation events: Organize social gatherings or team-building activities to create a sense of community and belonging.
  • Small gestures of thanks: When appropriate, provide free lunches, offer flexible work arrangements, or offer wellness programs to demonstrate that their well-being is valued.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a more engaged and motivated workforce, ultimately leading to a more vibrant and successful higher education institution. Remember, effective internal communication is the cornerstone of building trust and fostering a positive work environment. By providing the tools and platform for open communication, you’ll empower those in the faculty to be their best selves and contribute to the greater good of the institution.

strategies for better faculty engagement

How Can Cerkl Help Organizations Increase Your Faculty Engagement?

The core of Cerkl’s offering is our automated employee newsletter software. It saves your team time and provides a modern experience for faculty and staff.

Stanislaus State University used Cerkl’s AI technology to personalize a newsletter experience for its staff. This newsletter, called StanNews, was filled with university news, career development opportunities, student activities, and other best practices. By personalizing the content, Stan State managed to engage its staff better.

So, how can we help your institution?

Cerkl helps high education organizations increase faculty engagement in a number of ways, including:

  • Personalized communications: Cerkl’s MyNews engine tailors news feeds to individual faculty members, ensuring they receive relevant information. This can help them feel more invested in the communications they receive.
  • Dynamic segments: Communicators can create targeted email campaigns to specific groups of faculty members, based on their interests or needs. This allows for a much more focused communication process that is likely to resonate with staff.
  • On-demand communications: Those in the faculty can access important information whenever they need it via the Cerkl Broadcast mobile app. This can help the faculty stay informed and up-to-date on matters that affect it.
  • Improved data visibility: Cerkl provides real-time analytics and reporting on faculty engagement. This data can help communication teams understand what types of content are most engaging and tailor their communications accordingly.

What’s Next?

Do you know how engaged your faculty staff is? This is an essential prerequisite for a strategy that aims to improve faculty engagement. It can be tricky to assess, but we have made it easy. All you need is our engagement survey. While focused on employees, the parameters are identical for faculty staff. So give it a go. We’ve made it free just for you! 


What is the meaning of faculty engagement?

Faculty engagement goes beyond just a teaching job. It’s when professors are invested in teaching well, actively conducting research, and dedicated to ensuring their contributions make a real difference to the institution’s success.

What are some problems in engaging faculty staff?

Common faculty engagement problems include heavy workloads, lack of support for professional development, and feeling undervalued or out-of-touch with institutional goals.

How to increase faculty engagement

To boost faculty engagement, institutions can create opportunities for collaboration among colleagues, offer professional development programs, and clearly communicate how faculty work contributes to the institution’s mission.

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