What’s Next for Staffing in Higher Education: How to Stay Ahead and Attract Talent

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The higher education landscape has undergone a massive transformation, with tough economic times pushing candidates to more lucrative industries. On the other hand, the corporate sector is actively seeking higher education professionals, enticing them with competitive salaries and benefits and career advancement opportunities. Let’s look into the challenges facing staffing in higher education and possible remedies. 

Staffing in Higher Education: Setbacks 

Here’s a breakdown of the challenges of staffing in higher education. 

Lingering Effects of the Pandemic

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 650,000 higher education staff lost their jobs in 2020 alone. Even with normal learning resuming, staffing in higher education is still a challenge due to budget cuts, hiring backlog, planning issues, and changing workforce needs.

Likewise, some employees felt the pandemic’s impact more than others. Per a 2021 Fortune publication, nearly 3 million women left their jobs because of childcare responsibilities. According to another article by The Chronicle of Higher Education, there were fewer journal submissions from women faculty members. What’s more, mothers of younger children recorded fewer working hours than their male colleagues. 

Shrinking Pool of Qualified Applications

Several factors explain the decreasing volume of higher ed job applications. The first one is competition among institutions, with colleges battling for a limited pool of qualified candidates. It’s even worse with new online learning platforms and universities emerging by the day.

This goes hand in hand with the aging workforce. Delayed retirement by older faculty members reduces job openings, resulting in fewer applications. Additionally, older staff might be slower to embrace new technologies and methodologies, making higher ed careers unappealing to younger generations. Another issue is skills mismatch. Even if they possess general qualifications, candidates might avoid positions that demand specific competencies. 

Rising Costs

Staffing in higher education is getting costlier because of inflation and increasing demands from employees. Competition from other sectors compounds this problem—colleges and universities may struggle to match the remuneration packages of other sectors. And this doesn’t just apply to corporate jobs. With the rise of the gig economy, freelancers enjoy more flexibility and income opportunities than traditional employment.

The Way Forward

One of the most significant COVID-19 lessons is the need for flexibility and innovation. Only those who were willing to adapt survived the pandemic’s aftermath. Here’s how to overcome the challenges of staffing in higher education. 

Embrace Talent Communities

With all the aforementioned issues, higher education institutions cannot entirely depend on traditional recruitment. Rather than awaiting responses for job postings, recruiters should take their search to potential candidates. And that’s how talent communities work. These are groups of networks or individuals with shared connections, interests, or expertise. 

By utilizing these networks, higher education institutions enjoy targeted reach, saving time and money on recruitment. Talent communities also nurture relationships with passive candidates, streamlining future engagements when relevant opportunities arise. Institutions also tap into diverse skill sets, experiences, and backgrounds, bringing fresh perspectives to your faculty.  

Improve the Perks and Benefits 

Colleges and universities operate on tight budgets. With enrollment declines since the COVID-19 pandemic, private universities have lost a huge chunk of their tuition revenue. Public institutions are not exempt from this situation. Besides the intake decline, public universities have to deal with reduced state funding as governments contend with the pandemic’s economic fallout.

With budgetary constraints standing in the way of pay raises, institutions should find alternative ways to attract and retain talent. They include:

Professional Development

Besides improving work efficiency, professional development provides opportunities for career progression, increasing employee morale and job satisfaction. These efforts also prove a genuine interest in your employees’ personal growth, making you attractive to ambitious candidates. Development programs also shed light on an individual’s strengths for easier task allocation.

Institutions can pay for online courses and certification programs and allow professional development leaves. Additionally, you can form peer learning groups and organize seminars and cross-trainings to share experiences from different departments. 

Flexible Working Arrangements

Adaptable schedules allow individuals to balance work with other commitments to reduce stress and enhance their overall well-being. What’s more, employees can tend to personal needs like childcare and medical appointments without taking too much time off. Another benefit is personalized work environments. Employees can tailor their workspace to individual preferences for maximum comfort and productivity. Besides remote work, colleges can enhance their employees’ work-life balance with flexible hours, job sharing, compressed workweeks, and more personal days.

Health Benefits

In high-stress environments like academia, candidates are more likely to choose employers who take care of their well-being. A healthier workforce is also more satisfied with their jobs—a past Zippia study reveals that wellness programs lower absenteeism by 14–19%.

For starters, institutions can provide health insurance to minimize out-of-pocket payments when seeking treatment. Mental health support is also integral to a productive work environment. Colleges can reduce mental health stigma by sharing crisis helplines and contact details for therapists.

Institutions can also introduce wellness programs such as meditation, stress management courses, nutrition counseling, and fitness classes. This goes hand in hand with streamlining feedback mechanisms—besides encouraging employees to voice their concerns, managers should also learn how to identify mental health issues among their team members.   

Remember, it’s not just about enticing candidates with attractive perks. To increase retention rates, institutions should create an environment where employees feel valued and motivated.

Inclusive Recruitment

Inclusivity benefits institutions and staff in various ways. The first is by introducing diverse perspectives for better decision-making and unique insights at the workplace. Employees who feel appreciated are also more satisfied with their roles, increasing productivity and job satisfaction. Additionally, inclusivity enhances communication among employees to reduce employee conflict. Note that inclusive hiring isn’t just about legal compliance—candidates can differentiate genuine inclusion efforts from when you’re chasing a quota.

Here’s how to promote inclusion when staffing in higher education:

  • Enforce anti-discrimination policies
  • Streamline feedback mechanisms
  • Diversify hiring committees
  • Use inclusive language on job postings
  • Train current employees on inclusion and diversity
  • Increase support for underrepresented employees
  • Review hiring strategies regularly for more inclusive work environments 

Staffing in Higher Education Just Got Easier With nextSource

With more than twenty years of experience, we offer unique solutions to every client, whether your institution is struggling with administrative burdens, stalled diversity programs, or talent scarcity. Talk to our experts at nextSource for all your full-time, project, or temporary staffing needs.

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