Higher education human resources departments are changing dramatically thanks to increases in technology, the changing of social dynamics, and uncontrollable economic swings.
These impacting forces also take a toll on HR departments in other industries, too. But, the applicability of these changes are very different within higher education institutions.
Like most public sector organizations, higher education human resources struggling to keep up with the innovation taking place in the private sector.
The good news: higher education human resources teams aren’t stuck in 1999, and the role of human resources in higher education is constantly changing and evolving for the better.
The bad news: a lot of these departments aren’t caught up to 2017, either.
This is a huge issue for institutions trying to build a solid employment pipeline that hires and retains the right talent. After all, what will keep top talent interested in your organization if they can have better resources in the private sector? This has been a higher education problem for a very long time now.
To help you weather the storm, we've created the following list to go over the most important changes heavily impacting higher education human resources teams. Alongside a description of each problem, we include tips on how to handle the change to improve HR delivery for higher ed teams.
Let’s get started:
1. HR and Budget Cuts
The HR budget has shrunk at most institutions. In fact, the average higher education human resources budget is 50-75% lower than found in other industries. That's a huge gap.
This probably makes you want to say: “How am I suppose to improve my delivery with no money? New technology costs money. And this is the opposite of what I have.”
This can be a balancing act for most higher education human resources teams. But, surprise! We have the formula to the secret sauce that will help you gain some more elbowroom in your budget to invest in technology.
The key to gaining more budget space is to look at your current expenditures for cost efficiency. If you are still using vendors from 1995, chances are they are inefficient and costly. We recommend doing an immediate audit to see what money you could be saving through this strategy.
Here is an example of this strategy can play out:
“Human Resources Sally is still using an outplacement service that her predecessor decided on in the 90s. When she audits this service, she realizes that the provider is 70% more expensive than others on the market. The provider also has outdated processes and technologies that aren’t improving the quality of her HR team’s overall delivery. If she switches to a new age provider at a lower cost, she will gain thousands of dollars back into her budget to spend elsewhere.”
2. Understanding the Aging Workforce
There are a lot of different factors that play into the aging workforce. So, instead of going through all of them, which would require an article of its own, let's analyze the most talked about topic in this niche: Millennials.
Millennials, love ‘em or hate ‘em, are changing the way higher education institutions are run. Millennials are fans of technology, personal development, and purpose-filled work.
There are several ways a higher education human resources team can accommodate Millennials within their organization. Our recommendation is to offer some type of leadership development program.
A lot of companies build these programs internally, however, for institutions looking for a quick fix that isn’t the best option. Instead, there are several vendors who provide different types of leadership development programs out there that compliment your current HR offerings.
These types of leadership development programs come in many different flavors and focus on various aspects of the training, including - but not limited to - seminars, classes, and online training modules.
The second and most overlooked aspect of the aging workforce is the Baby Boomer population, which impacts the higher education sector in particular due to the large number of tenured works usually employed by institutions. For many universities, this has led to a reluctant retiree problem.
The main way reluctant retirees can impact your organization is by driving up costs. There are direct costs: health benefits, retirement, larger salaries as well as indirect costs, such as Millennial workers leaving your organization due to the lack of upward mobility. Without a healthy turnover of talent, new workers will simply quit, leaving for places that value development.
Because of this, we recommend that institutions develop a program to start talking to potential retirees earlier than later. A new trend in HR is to offer retirement lifestyle planning benefits to Baby Boomers to encourage them to start planning their retirement so that when it is time for them to make the jump, they can do so happily and successfully.
Surprisingly, most reluctant retirees at institutions aren’t nervous about the financial aspect of retirement. Instead, they focus on the social side of retiring. Allowing them time to plan out their retirement in advance can mitigate these fears and result in a more reliable pipeline of workforce transition in your institution.
3. Navigating Diversity Issues
Millennials are the most diverse generation to ever exist in the working world. 44.2% of the generation is part of a minority group, for example. Also, studies have shown that Millennials care about diversity in the workplace more than ever before, too.
We aren’t saying that other generations don’t, or didn't, care. They definitely do! The age of Millennials has just coincided with the age of digital activism, causing diversity issues to become more apparent than ever.
Higher education human resources teams will need to address these issues within their HR strategies. This will be important for several reasons, including:
- It is a key for retaining millennials.
- It can potentially affect your institution's enrollment rates.
- Diversity has been proven to actually increase performance.
There are several easy ways a higher education institution can create diversity initiatives within an organization. Here are our top recommendations:
- Create leadership councils for different diverse groups. For example, a Female Leadership Council, a Black Leadership Council, etc.
- Develop policies that embrace new norms to support the LGBTQ+ community.
- Designate a “diversity czar” in your top leadership that is responsible for hearing and responding to diversity issues/complaints.
- Promote a culture of openness through an internal marketing campaign that encourages people to report diversity issues to the appointed “diversity czar."
As you can see, higher education human resources teams are changing dramatically. To keep up with the times and address the numerous HR challenges in higher education, we recommend that these teams analyze the items above and then implement some of the tips we have provided. Doing so will increase efficiency in your department and improve your overall HR delivery.
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