Why It’s So Difficult to Hire in Higher Education

As the labor market becomes more competitive, it’s getting harder for human resource departments to hire in higher education. And even when you’re lucky enough to attract the right professionals, retaining them isn’t always guaranteed. 

This is unlike previous years when colleges and universities were a magnet for those looking to pursue academic careers. Now it seems like the higher education sector has lost its luster as a top employer. And several factors can explain this situation.

Salary Issues Make It Hard To Hire In Higher Education

Poor pay is directly connected to employee turnover. It’s not uncommon for colleges and universities to lose talent to better-paying employers. This leads to a loss of institutional knowledge and a disruption to day-to-day operations. Moreover, institutions must contend with the additional cost of filling vacant positions. 

Unfortunately, budgetary constraints are common in colleges and universities. This is especially true for public institutions that rely on state funding. The reduced fiscal allocations and economic uncertainties don’t just restrict the number of open positions, they also limit how much universities can offer in compensation. 

Private universities are not exempt from budgetary constraints. A drop in student enrollment, for instance, can put financial strains on the institution, limiting its ability to hire in higher education and retain staff.

Competition from Other Sectors

Higher education is losing top talent to other industries for various reasons, including:

  • Higher salaries than what is available in academic positions. Industries outside of academia, such as finance, technology, healthcare, and engineering, have the capacity to give better remuneration. The prospect of higher earnings is more enticing to professionals with specialized skills and advanced degrees.
  • Better benefits, especially in the private sector. Corporates have the financial capacity to give perks such as retirement plans, stock options, health insurance, and performance-based bonuses.
  • Advancement opportunities guarantee a more rapid career progression than what academia can offer. Moreover, other sectors offer more work-life balance and flexible working arrangements. On the other hand, higher education careers are more demanding when it comes to time and workload. That’s not to mention universities’ tenure-based and hierarchical system, which can limit a professional’s career growth. 
  • Other industries offer global mobility in response to the interconnectedness of the modern world. Professionals now have more flexibility in pursuing careers internationally.

Understandably, due to budgetary constraints, higher education institutions are finding it harder to compete with other sectors. But they should look at providing more competitive compensation packages. For example, they can offer benefits unique to those working in academia, including intellectual freedom, job stability, and research opportunities.

Institutions must also look at increasing flexibility while ensuring a healthy work-life balance for employees. This is especially important if they hope to hire from the Gen Z and millennial demographic. Younger people would readily go for lower pay if the job has perks that improve their lives.

Additionally, branding also goes a long way in highlighting your unique attributes and contributions to society. Candidates are attracted to an institution with a solid reputation and employer brand.

Complex Hiring Processes in Higher Education

The academic sector has gained a reputation for the complexity and thoroughness of its hiring processes. Institutions have a lot of requirements for skills, qualifications, and experience. All these are critical to ensuring that only those who align with the academic and institutional goals get hired. However, with such strictness comes recruitment delays. 

Candidates must go through multistage, often exhausting interviews. The steps include initial screening, video/phone interviews, on-campus interviews, and follow-up interviews. Furthermore, faculty positions require applicants to prove their teaching capabilities. They would, for instance, have to demonstrate their skills in lecture halls and before hiring committees. This provides an opportunity to assess the candidate’s teaching style and ability to engage with students. 

Likewise, those applying for tenure-track or research positions must present research to the faculty and other stakeholders. Next comes committee reviews, rigorous evaluations, and much more. 

To overcome such challenges, higher education institutions should eliminate redundancy and improve communication with potential recruits. The latter will ensure transparency and a better hiring experience. 

Lack of Support for Hybrid Working

Many higher education institutions insist on full-time work even after the COVID-19 pandemic proved the effectiveness of working from home. And because employees were already used to remote work, higher ed institutions lost professionals to organizations offering hybrid arrangements.

A hybrid workforce offers several advantages. For starters, it supports employee retention by promoting work-life balance. Employees are more productive and less likely to experience burnout when they can control their work environment. On the other hand, universities save money on office space, travel allowances, and infrastructure. Institutions can also access a diverse workforce without geographical limitations.

Not Utilizing Talent Communities to Find Qualified Candidates

With the ever-changing labor market, posting jobs and waiting for applicants is no longer effective. The number of candidates applying for open positions has significantly reduced over the years. For higher education institutions, it has become an employee rather than employer-led market. Universities must, therefore, take a proactive approach to sourcing talent. One of the best places to find qualified professionals is talent communities

A talent community is a network of individuals with shared interests, skills, and connections. In addition to offering talent on demand, these communities are an opportunity to build long-lasting relationships. Not to be mistaken for talent pools, which are a database of candidates with shared resumes. 

Talent communities offer one-on-one contact with professionals, allowing committees to engage potential and passive candidates. By doing so, employers can pick out individuals who show an actual interest in working in academia. Even if the institution doesn’t need to fill a position immediately, they will have a ready talent pipeline when they do, reducing recruitment costs and time-to-hire.

Let’s Build Your Talent Community Together

Make your brand more relatable to candidates with a talent community. Tell us your needs and see just how easy it is to hire in higher education. Ready to meet professionals that align with your institution’s values? Contact nextSource to get started.

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