5 Significant HR Trends in Higher Education

Attracting and retaining top talent should be a primary concern for organizations in every industry, but especially in higher education institutions. The impact a competent and happy faculty has on the student experience is exactly the same as how high-caliber employees and their experience with a company feed into customer satisfaction. And your institution’s reputation, and thereby its success, depends on how your students, alumni, and faculty feel (and talk) about it.

Here are five significant HR trends that institutions are currently adopting in higher education to attract and keep talent. Look to these trending initiatives as you develop new recruitment and retention strategies:

  1. Hiring a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)
  2. Elevating professional development for faculty and staff
  3. Establishing an online brand
  4. Becoming a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
  5. Investing in a human resources information system (HRIS)

1. Hiring a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

The CHRO, or head of HR, often reports directly to the dean. They are responsible for spearheading all strategic aspects of HR, including:

In August 2020, Kevin McClure, an associate professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, expressed his certainty in the idea that higher education institutions would see an unprecedented level of burnout among staff, faculty, and students as classes commenced during the pandemic. “The more important question,” he wrote, “is how college leaders will address it.”

Failing to address burnout, McClure predicted, would lead to institutions losing talent—not only during the pandemic, but even after conditions settled. This is especially true for entry-level positions in student affairs, where demoralization is often enough to convince someone to change careers. Hiring a CHRO in higher education puts someone at the helm of staffing issues as they innovate incentives that improve retention, bolster recruitment efforts at large, and streamline hiring.

How to Do It

The CHRO you want for your organization will have ample experience leading HR staff and will understand the strategies required to build an impactful initiative.

Already have a CHRO? Think about how you’re currently leveraging the position. Could you optimize the role to better suit your institution’s values and goals?

Here are a few checklist items your CHRO can focus on:

2. Elevating Professional Development for Faculty and Staff

Ironically, universities rank in the bottom quartile for providing learning and development opportunities for their staff compared to other industries. Not only do these seats of education lack mentorship programs, but they also don’t offer enough growth encouragement. Specifically, the Gallup survey cited above discovered that fewer than four out of ten higher-ed staff and faculty strongly agree that someone at work encouraged their development in the past six months or that they’ve had opportunities at work to learn and grow, compared to seven in ten employees in organizations outside of higher ed.

Fortunately, the world of higher education is waking up to the importance of ongoing development for faculty and staff. You can do the same and improve retention by showing your staff the value you place not only on their professional development, but also on what they bring to your institution.

How to Do It

What can you do to offer useful learning and growth opportunities to your faculty and staff? Here are two ways to start:

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3. Establishing Your Online Brand

Conveying your institution’s prestige requires crafting a meaningful story and communicating it to potential hires. In today’s digital age, where nearly 80 percent of job seekers go online to find their next placement, you need to establish your online brand.

To that end, universities looking for top talent are focusing on creating a robust online presence. This also helps expand your hiring network and draws candidates from pools you aren’t reaching through your in-person or print communications.

How to Do It

Work with your marketing team to:

4. Becoming a Leader in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Recent college admissions scandals have spurred conversations about inequality and privilege across institutions. Moreover, people of color (POC) make up roughly only one-fifth of professors. POC are also under-represented among academic staff and administrators. By contrast, nearly half of undergraduates are POC.

A university’s commitment (or lack of) to DEI will have an impact on whether or not prospective staff will choose to work or stay there. Don’t let the social and political issues that silently pervade your campus go unresolved. Identify them now and roll out initiatives to fix them. The sooner you act, the more you can do to build a safe and attractive environment for faculty, staff, and students.

How to Do It

Here are a few initiatives your CHRO can push forward::

5. Investing in an HR Software System

The right HR software propels your CHRO’s initiatives not only by digitizing and simplifying menial HR tasks, but by putting time-saving and strategic tools into the hands of recruiters—those tasked with finding and empowering the staff and educators who will transform your university for the better. In short, HR software assists CHROs in staying ahead of competing institutions.

How to Do It

Using a reliable HR software system can help your HR teams:

Free Up Time with Secure HR Software

Keeping up with today’s higher education trends requires more than good intentions and a will to persevere. It requires time, which is a hard commodity to come by in HR. As HR admins in higher education take on the colossal task of addressing burnout in the industry, turning to trusted HR software to organize and simplify tasks is step one in preserving precious hours that can be spent on what matters most—your people.

BambooHR takes critical HR tasks to school.

Save time for strategy with a single secure database, onboarding task automation, and countless other A-grade features!

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