NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD

Slides: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD


  • Kim Patten, University of Arizona
  • Tisha Mullen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Gay Cookson, University of Utah
  • Gretchen Kiser, University of California San Francisco

Thanks to our session scribe, Daniel Campbell, Old Dominion University!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • The path matters for recruitment & retention and a poorly defined math can lead to low morale that can be an issue with all of the other demands on RD.
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Office of Proposal Development utilized a tier structure already approved by HR for other units across campus and massaged RD positions to fit within the structure.
  • Using an existing/approved structure makes promotion easy within the unit, provides flexibility in hiring, supports future growth, is not static and can be revised.
  • University of Arizona – Central Research Development Office combined the UA Career Architecture Project and the NORDP community’s input for definition of RD, past & present job postings, salary survey, and previous conference presentations to create career levels that were more appropriate to RD.
  • It can be beneficial to focus on the Soft Benefits of RD and use them as a recruiting tool. Items such as; a flexible schedule, academic environment where opportunities abound, community, mentoring, & team building activities, and Professional Development opportunities for which many places have significant budgets.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Titles are an important issue to consider. Consider using working titles in addition to HR titles as titles can affect retention.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s) response?

Question: How did you work with your teams to build these progression ladders?


  • Be involved as early as possible
  • Survey the landscape
  • Engage with RD staff
  • Ensure appropriate levels; entry, mid, senior
  • Tie progression to functional skills and experience
  • Salary bands are broad enough to accommodate time in office
  • Develop clear job descriptions associated with career levels
  • Consider your office environment
  • Develop and maintain metrics – helps with expansion and recognizing change over time

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Make use of NORDP’s resources as they can be a great tool when working within your campus human resources structure.

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