Don’t Strike Out: Three Rules for Successful Email Communication With Adjuncts

The Adjunct Institute at Alamance Community College (ACC) has been working with adjunct faculty members since 2005. Based on our decade of experience, we have developed three simple rules to guide our communication with adjuncts.

Adjuncts often have two or more jobs and many work at multiple institutions. They may have two or more email addresses that they check each day. As adjunct faculty coordinators, we need to tailor our messages to fit their needs and create cues that attract and keep their attention. At ACC, we incorporate the following guidelines when creating emails to our adjuncts.

Rule #1: Limit communication
Limit your contact with adjuncts to one or two times per week. Educational institutions are notorious for “To: All” emails that include committee minutes, campus activity announcements, newsletters, fundraising, security reminders, and general information. At the beginning of each semester, the average faculty member receives ten or more reminders. While each of them is important, all of those emails can be overwhelming and may be easily overlooked. By limiting the frequency of your emails, you relay the idea that the messages your adjuncts receive from you are truly important.

Rule #2: Communicate only pertinent information
We set the stage for effective communication by promising that we will only send pertinent information. We assure adjuncts that we will focus on providing only the essential information they need to do their jobs. Our emails contain reminders for major events such as due dates, registration, and professional development offerings. Since adjuncts aren’t inundated with unnecessary information, they recognize the relevance of these emails and therefore the necessity of reading them, as well as the importance of relaying pertinent information to their students.

Rule #3: Keep it short and positive
We keep our emails concise and positive, providing simple directions and announcements. We acknowledge that our adjuncts are busy professionals and that their time is valuable. If at all possible, we limit the message to one paragraph and attach directions, timelines, or handouts for those who need them. Each email contains an acknowledgment of our adjuncts’ workload and reminder of how much we appreciate their efforts.

By establishing and following through with these three basic rules, we hit a home run with our email communications: our adjuncts not only realize the value of our email messages, but actually read them!

Sherri Singer, Coordinator, Adjunct Institute, and Department Head
Alamance Community College