Compliance Matters Series: What’s at Stake for the Higher Education Industry

All rules governing a workforce management program, whether they are internally developed business rules or externally imposed governmental regulations, are critically important to the success of the initiative. Knowing the rules alone is not enough to guarantee results. Operating without adherence to these rules breeds failure and potential damage the underlying business in the process.

This is the second post in a multi-part series highlighting why compliance matters in effective workforce management programs by industry. Today we’re examining the role played by ensuring compliance within a workforce management program for organizations in the higher education vertical.

In a recently released nextSource market report on the state of workforce management in the higher education industry, it was revealed that higher education institutions were accelerating the practice of leveraging contract workers as a recruitment tool by populating their pipeline of candidates for full time positions with pre-proven workers who began as temp labor. This practice underscores both the innovation that workforce management solutions can deliver and the potential for compliance challenges that such activity poses.

While this is a beneficial practice for higher education organizations, it is critically important that there are clearly defined tenure rules, applied consistently across the entire organization. Using VMS automation, this kind of data can be successfully captured and term dates can be consistently observed leading to lower risk of co-employment challenges.

The report also discussed higher education’s utilization of contract resources. Educational institutions continue to increase their reliance on remote workers, sourcing people with the requisite skills regardless of locations to work at home via virtual office arrangements. In some cases, institutions are hiring more foreign workers to staff extension properties at different global locations. This development increases potential misclassification risk as such a decentralized workforce and is inherently more difficult to monitor and manage. Again, the key is to ensure policies exist to clearly define parameters under which remote workers are engaged. Such policies, based on IRS and Labor Department guidelines can be codified in a VMS tool, making it less likely a remote resource will be improperly classified.

 The next compliance issue specific to higher education does not involve regulatory compliance as discussed in the prior two examples. This one focuses more on compliance with business rules and the potential liabilities of failing to do so. Colleges and universities with robust workforce management initiatives have been capitalizing on the good reputation of their schools’ brands when seeking to source top quality talent on a contingent basis.  Schools leveraging the recruitment infrastructure of Managed Service Providers take advantage of their established brands across alumni, past employees, referred candidates, and candidates’ networks, spawning talent communities that enhance their recruitment contractor reach. This leveraging of brand equity is a double-edged sword, however. If compliance with the two aforementioned regulatory concerns is not well enforced, the fallout from the damage inflicted can have serious repercussions for a school’s brand and reputation. Not only will this kind of negative press be a detriment to their workforce management program, but it could reflect poorly on the overall institution; something no respectable higher education organization wants.

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