University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Faculty Incentives Pilot

Allen S. Levine, dean, College of Food, Agricultral and Natural Resource Sciences
Jay Bell, associate dean for Academic Programs and Faculty Affairs, College of Food, Agricultral and Natural Resource Sciences

Overview of the Project

An area that continues to be a University-wide challenge is finding ways of providing meaningful, sustainable rewards and incentives to faculty for advancing the teaching, research and outreach mission. In a climate of continued fiscal challenge and increasing needs for accountability it is more important than ever to offer faculty incentives that advance progress toward college and university goals as well as to the overall mission. The focus of this project is to identify meaningful incentives for faculty to advance the teaching, research and outreach agenda of the University of Minnesota. These include providing both financial and non-financial incentives directly to colleges, departments and faculty for the purposes of advancing instructional quality, new course development, innovation, team teaching, increased student credit hours taught, entrepreneurism in the classroom in addition to several relating to research and outreach activities.

The University is positioning itself to be one of the top three public research universities in the world. Strategic planning efforts across the University are targeting this aspirational goal. One example of the level of commitment is the development of the four action strategies that include exceptional students, exceptional faculty and staff, exceptional organization and exceptional innovation. These four strategic themes help units align to an overall organizational strategy that moves the University forward.

This project is directly related to the strategic theme of exceptional faculty and staff with a particular focus on the faculty. Specifically the University intends the following strategic result: “recruit, mentor, reward, and retain world-class faculty and staff who are innovative, energetic, and dedicated to the highest standards of excellence”. There are five strategic objectives associated with this strategic result that includes the following.

Strategic University objectives

  • Recruit, identify, support, and reward stars on the rise
  • Create a robust culture of collaboration that encourages and rewards boldness, imagination, and innovation
  • Hire, develop, and place diverse faculty and staff in positions which match their skills and abilities with organizational needs
  • Strengthen the performance evaluation and reward systems to fully engage, motivate, and challenge faculty and staff
  • Significantly increase the number of faculty receiving awards of distinction

Project Goals

These strategic objectives form the foundation for this project in that they offer a focus from which to conduct research that will ultimately generate specific recommendations around what faculty incentives are. Further this project relates directly to all five of the strategic objectives as they have at their center, a culture of performance, advancement and rewards. Alignment of individual behaviors to institutional objectives is critical in advancing the University’s goals.

In addition to alignment with strategic priorities, this project also seeks to leverage the Criteria for Decision Making that has been identified by the University. The outcomes of this project will impact a number of the below criteria. For example, item 2 quality, productivity and impact require comparative data that will likely come out of this project. Enhancement of academic synergies, item 4 below will be impacted through a clearer understating of a balanced, insightful incentives plan that integrates the teaching, research and outreach mission. In addition item 6 below, efficiency and effectiveness, will also be impacted by the results of this project. To some extent each of the seven criteria below can play a role in this project. It will be up to the team with guidance from the sponsors to determine what role they play in this project.

Criteria for Decision Making

  1. Centrality to Mission
  2. Quality, Productivity, and Impact
  3. Uniqueness and Comparative Advantage
  4. Enhancement of Academic Synergies
  5. Demand and Resources
  6. Efficiency and Effectiveness
  7. Development and Leveraging of Resources

The role of the PEL team will be to research, evaluate and identify an incentive model that can be successfully implemented across the University at the college, department and faculty level. Integration with the land grant mission is an important point as well. The team will need to review and evaluate best practices of colleges across the University and those of peer institutions.

Incentives can take many forms including:

  1. Financial Incentives
    • Salary
    • One-time lump-sum payments
    • Teaching/research assistant support
    • Funding to attend meetings
    • Professional development
    • Other support
  2. Non-financial incentives
    • Leave of absence (e.g., sabbaticals)
    • Team teaching and group projects
    • Interdisciplinary research opportunities
    • Recognition (e.g., awards)

Strategic questions

  1. How are faculty incentives defined within the context of higher education and specifically the University of Minnesota?
  2. What policies, structures or procedures are in place or need to be in place that address or facilitate faculty incentives across the Institution?
  3. What are the guiding principles that support faculty incentives and how are they tied to strategic objectives?
  4. What are the major issues that will challenge the implementation and use of faculty incentives at the University of Minnesota and within specific colleges?

Team Goals

  • Outline elements of a robust faculty incentives plan and link it to strategic objectives
  • Make recommendations on the characteristics of a successfully faculty incentive plan
  • Identify specific steps to implement the above plan using CFANS as a pilot
  • Find ways to leverage existing work already done in this area and tie effort to literature and best practices
  • Identify how this effort can be integrated with existing management practices
  • Work to meet and/or exceed specific team and individual PEL goals for the year

Project tasks

  • Conduct a literature review and interview individuals and groups to assess the state of faculty incentives and to form recommendations on what the incentives are and how best to implement them
  • Differentiate between tenure track faculty and those who have tenure relating to incentives
  • Identify best practices of colleges across the University and peer institutions
    • Assess workload policies for teaching and research
    • Assess retention practices; investigate incentive policies within the context of retention
  • Recommend a strategy for implementing faculty incentives across the University using CFANS as a pilot
  • Assess the effect of organizational readiness, culture and fiscal capacity has on implementation and ongoing success of a faculty incentive effort
  • Assess what impact instructional incentives may have on the promotion and tenure process
  • Identify the distinction between performance expectations of teaching, research and outreach and the role that faculty incentives play in improving outreach, research, teaching, learning, recruitment and retention of faculty, etc.
  • Identify measures or benchmarks in assessing progress toward college and University objectives within the context of faculty incentives

Project Team

Team Members

Stacy Doepner-Hove
Onboarding Program Manager
Office of Human Resources Communications

Makeda Zulu Gillespie
Community Liaison
University Northside Partnership/Urban Outreach and Engagement Center Minneapolis Urban League

Renee Rivers
Coordinators of Strategic Initiatives

Kent Spauling
Relationship Manager
Corporate and Foundations Relations, UMR

Yelena Yan
Online Instructinal Designer