What to Know About Higher Education Staffing Right Now

The COVID-19 aftermath lingers on even today. The world has yet to recover from the loss of lives and livelihoods and the pandemic’s profound impact on global economies. One area we can’t ignore is the labor market. Employers, including those in higher education institutions, have had to adapt to flexible work arrangements. The employee mindset has also shifted—the traditional office is becoming less appealing as people seek better opportunities and more work-life balance.

It’s not surprising that professionals are ditching their jobs in colleges and universities for higher-paying corporate careers. Then there’s the recurring issue of budgetary constraints that makes it harder for institutions to afford full-time workers. Let’s explore these and other higher education staffing concerns.  

Labor Shortage Impacting Higher Education Staffing 

For a long time now, colleges and universities have attracted the highest quality talent thanks to their reputation as prestigious institutions of higher learning. However, many of these institutions barely get by on the available resources. Budgetary constraints make it nearly impossible to hire full-time staff. When it comes to academics, many have no choice but to hire adjunct faculty who work on a contract and part-time basis. 

The shift to remote learning has also impacted higher education staffing. Students typically seek employment within the institution as part of the work-study financial packages. But with students off-campus, institutions must dig into their already tight budgets to get other people to do the work. 

The Great Resignation also hit the education sector during and post-COVID-19. Exhaustion and the perceived lack of organizational support informed some people’s decision to leave academia. But for the most part, professionals were seeking better-paying and more meaningful jobs with flexible work schedules. According to a past CUPA-HR survey, more than half the employees in higher education will leave their jobs by the end of 2023.

To retain the existing talent, higher education institutions need to:

  • Offer better pay
  • Allow for remote work and flexible schedules
  • Better manage employee workloads
  • Recognize employee achievements
  • Invest in Career Development
  • Give opportunities for career advancement
  • Provide perks such as childcare subsidies and parental leave 

Difficulties in Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Staff

Global mobility, competition from corporates, and skill gaps are making it harder for colleges and universities to attract, hire and retain qualified staff. And predictions for the coming years don’t paint a glossy picture. 

With a significant population of the higher education workforce above 55, institutions will experience considerable knowledge gaps when the staff retires.

Worse still, higher education institutions are doing very little to empower the next generation of workers. That’s not to mention the lack of structures to replace such professionals. So, when the older workers leave, they won’t pass on the knowledge they have collected over the years. 

Also noteworthy is the fact that the younger demographic isn’t positive about working in higher education. Per a recent CUPA-HR study:

  • Those under 25 negatively rate the compensation and education culture in such institutions. Remember, millennials and Gen Zers account for approximately 40% of the workforce. For them, the “Why” or impact-driven values are essential—you must show them their work matters and that they’re making a difference.
  • 60% of the LGBTQ community and 70% of Black Americans don’t consider higher ed institutions comfortable places to work. Yet, we must recognize the role of inclusivity and equity in the modern workplace. People are more likely to stay in an organization that values their individuality and provides equal growth opportunities. 

The Need to Adopt Creative Hiring Techniques

Higher education institutions must adopt more creative hiring techniques—it’s no longer viable to post job ads and wait for people to apply.

Better options exist, such as those offered by talent communities. A talent community represents a group of individuals with similar job qualifications, skill sets, and interests. Talent communities are distinct from talent pools, which refer to candidate databases. 

A talent community helps professionals grow, share knowledge, and network with potential employers. Furthermore, tapping into these communities offers a proactive recruiting strategy. This way, you can fill positions as soon as they arise to prevent the consequences of extended vacancies. The faster you onboard, the faster the new hires can learn their roles, reducing the burden on current employees. Another benefit is stronger team dynamics. When a position is vacant for too long, it creates gaps within the team that hinder collaboration.

Don’t forget the cost benefits of talent communities. Thanks to the targeted recruitment approach, colleges and universities can find the perfect fit to avoid wasting money on ill-fitting hires. Moreover, talent communities provide direct access to candidates, reducing overreliance on costly third parties. 

Talent communities also help institutions communicate their values and culture while building relationships with potential staff. On the other hand, candidates provide feedback on your hiring strategy for a better candidate experience. 

The Lingering Effects of the Pandemic on Staffing

Higher education institutions are still grappling with the effects of the pandemic. The reality is that many employees are unwilling to return to the offices, preferring to work from home. The same impact is felt in higher education—many would rather quit than return to the traditional 9-to-5 arrangement. 

As we also stated, a greater concern for financial stability makes the corporate field more attractive. Add this to the aging workforce, early retirement, budget and salary cuts, and hiring freeze, which have hit the institutions hard. 

However, landing quality talent goes beyond attractive remuneration packages. It also involves investing in learning and development opportunities for employees, making sure to offer promotions and better support for hybrid and remote work policies.

Institutions of higher learning must also pay attention to heightened concerns around health and safety, post-COVID-19 pandemic. That means implementing mechanisms to deal with mental health, physical health, behavioral challenges, and more. 

Talent Management as a Solution to Staffing Challenges

Overcoming staffing challenges starts with a solid talent management and development strategy. Are you looking for a solution to your higher education staffing challenges? Contact us to start building your talent community.

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