Academic Biomedical Career Customization (ABCC)

A New Model For Career Development

Through a 2012 Award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in partnership with the American Council on Education (ACE), Stanford undertook an investigation of faculty work-life flexibility through the Academic Biomedical Career Customization (ABCC) project.

ABCC encompasses tools and resources to advance faculty career paths. ABCC represents a new “lattice” model of career development to achieve career-life fit at different time points in faculty members’ careers. Changing workforce demographics and family structures have led many institutions to step away from a one-size-fits-all model for career development and advancement.  This lattice model comes in contrast to the traditional "ladder" model of career development, and has emerged among organizations across different sectors. Get started with Career Customization by completing a Self-Reflection Guide and using the ABCC Career Planning Tool.

ABCC Pilot Program

The Academic Biomedical Career Customization (ABCC) program encompasses a set of initiatives to enhance, complement, and increase the use of current flexibility policies which are an integral part of faculty career advancement.

The elements of ABCC include: 

  1. Career tracks where faculty plan their desired work distribution, progression and collaboration with their chairs, division chiefs, and teams.
  2. Recognition of faculty contributions to university and academic service.
  3. Sponsored Emergency Back-Up Childcare for Stanford Medicine faculty.

With support from the School of Medicine, the Stanford University Office of the Provost, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in partnership with the American Council on Education, OFDD conducted a proof-of-concept pilot with a number of teams across the school in clinical and basic science departments. The main goals of this pilot were proof of concept, adaption of the model to the specific needs of each division, and assessment of short-term benefits such as career satisfaction and perceived productivity. 

The ABCC Time Banking Program

The ABCC Time Baking Program served to recognize faculty contributions to university and academic service. This innovative program grew out of the identified practice of “trading favors” related to clinical and institutional service activities and served to “buy back” faculty time. The banking system turns stealth work into measurable accomplishments by capturing data to count unrecognized teaching, service, and clinical work and acknowledge it with practical rewards.

As “service activities” differ from team to team, each team (a clinical division or basic science department) came together to identify a list of credit-earning tasks. The general framework required that teams identify tasks that: 1) were otherwise uncompensated or not adequately recognized and/or 2) benefited other team members’ flexibility. Examples of tasks chosen by teams that were redeemable for credit included: filling clinical service for a colleague on short notice; mentoring students/trainees and junior faculty; serving on institutional service committees such as a search committee; national service, such as NIH study section or serving as an officer for one’s professional society; among others.

Credits were recorded monthly and could be redeemed for support services at home (e.g., housecleaning, laundry, meal delivery, errand outsourcing, car service) or at work (e.g., grant writing, editing, lab management, website design, PowerPoint design, office organizing). Services were meant to benefit career and personal goals by providing mechanisms to alleviate time pressure. The credit system encouraged team members to take on more shared responsibilities when able to or reduce their workload when needed, and reduced guilt associated with asking others for help, thus creating more flexibility across the team.

OFDD’s administration of the pilot program period has ended and it is currently being administered at the department level. Contact us to learn more about how the time banking program may operate in your department.

Contact OFDD

For more information on the ABCC model:

Assistance with Career Customization

Faculty Self-Reflection Guide: Reflect on what your faculty career profile looks like now and what you would like for it to look like 3-5 years from now.

Having a Career Conversation with Your Department Chair or Division Chief: How to start the conversation about your career profile with your Department Chair or Division Chief.        

Flexibility Scenarios

See how leveraging Stanford's flexibility policies may be used to manage specific work/life situations:

Pilot Results

The ABCC pilot program had positive effects on participants’ grant writing activities, improved participants’ perceptions of support from the university in the area of work-life fit, and increased global satisfaction with participants’ academic careers. In addition, four major principles emerged from the program that OFDD continues to incorporate in its programming going forward.

Build Awareness of Work/Life Policies
Career conversations can and should consider how available flexibility policies can be used to meet faculty work and life goals. By incorporating planning around career customization into faculty career development conversations, we can increase awareness around the accessibility of Stanford Medicine’s Stanford Medicine’s extensive work-life policies, which, in the past, have gone vastly underused. 

Transparency Surrounding Service Work
Faculty appreciate transparency about the type and amount of institutional service work they perform. The mere act of logging their hours of service work in a transparent way enables faculty to understand the proportion of their own time as well as their colleagues’ time that is devoted to these activities, and to feel recognized for their efforts that help the team and the institution.

Recognition of Service Work
The recognition of service work may go a long way to foster inclusion and sense of belonging. When faculty members are recognized in some way for the uncompensated service work they perform, they feel that ALL of their work activities are valued by their team.

Importance of the Micro-Culture
Most importantly, the ABCC pilot program made clear that all faculty development programs, including flexibility programs, need to be catered to the micro-cultures of individual teams, Departments, and/or Divisions. This insight has led to an entirely new approach from OFDD in all programmatic activities, recognizing the hyperlocal nature of team culture.