Challenges for HR Leaders in Higher Education  

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Over the next two decades, there would be a fundamental paradigm shift in the world economy. As the base of the manufacturing continues to shrink, future growth and social welfare will rely increasingly on knowledge-intensive industries and services. As a result, ever more jobs will require a higher education qualification. This scenario will be a staple across the global economy as higher education is strategically essential.

The market has an international feel and is increasingly attractive. Thus, universities need to be geared up towards attracting the best talents. Professionalism and leadership foundation for higher education are essential concomitant as much as increased demand for transparency and accountability. College and universities need to have specific HR departments that operate efficiently even under financial constraints. Moving past their primary administrative role, they must become a significant organisational influence. This is a healthy practice that would also help identify some key challenges that cross the path of human resources.

The challenges of the corporate business houses are same as that of modern universities: employee retention, talent acquisition, customer satisfaction and future planning. Academic employees are the steel framework of any higher education university, and the reputation and research culture of the university is dependent upon the calibre of the faculty members. The supporting staff is there to facilitate and cultivate a thriving centre of learning. An essential challenge for HR leaders in higher education is to create both academics and students to thrive copiously. Human Resource is an integral part of any higher education institution that aims at protecting, attracting and retaining human capital.

The Key HR Challenges

There is quite a unanimity among HR professionals about the main challenges faced today:

Budget
Recruiting
Leadership Development/
Organizational Strategy
Use of technology
Diversity and inclusion
Need for a global approach
Striking right balance

1. Budget

Budget allotted for HR activities in higher education is mostly tight-fisted. HR departments identify areas of strength and areas of concern by reports gathered from various sources. However, variance in budget allotment cannot be a hindrance to the performance of HR activities. The operations need to be kept viable and sustainable.

2. Recruiting/ Talent Management

Recruiting best human resources is the primary objective of an HR. A clear holistic strategy is needed for attracting and training talents at all levels of the organisation. To retain talent, it is important to provide the workforce with appropriate training and also recognise the purposes of individual employees and provide them with the means to meet these goals within the organisation. Drawing and retaining talent is a challenge that is faced by organisations everywhere. At times, nurturing in-house talent for bigger roles is part of the strategy. This is known as effective, successful planning that would also manage financial constraints. Mentoring them also helps in planning succession properly.

3. Leadership Development

In the coming years, leadership development and succession planning will become a huge priority as the competition becomes more intense. Developing a coherent HR strategy for the same is the fundamental responsibility of the HR team. Who and how they recruit is based on available resources and Data-Driven Decision Management. Data reporting is also a tool of decision making since they enable the HR people to draw correlations between modern observations and potential trends. This is a strategic need that adds immense value to the organisation. This also helps as the HR manager is not taken by surprise being conscious of the DDDM.

4. Organizational strategy

The higher education sector has always witnessed attrition and high turnover rate since it is a challenge to retain the constant stream of quality applicants while also devising methods to retain the existing employees by promoting them to senior roles. Many times, faculty hiring is delegated to the concerned department, but HR, of course, is the ultimate authority in deciding the pay package or offering any other support to avoid any legal or compliance issues. Organizational design can be addressed only with goal-based planning. For reducing costs, reducing the risk to the institution, and increasing the efficiency of the institution is the primary objective of an efficient Human Resources department.

5. Use of Technology

Access to basic analytics, the ability to recruit and retain the best global talent and the need to streamline HR functionality and increase efficiencies are critical trends in the Higher Education sector, not to mention the annual HESA Report that’s such a vast undertaking for teams right across Higher Education institutions. It’s more crucial than ever for higher institutions to have the technology to handle the demands of complex organisational structures and to organise their data. It’s the best way to streamline functions like recruitment, talent management and data analysis.

6. Diversity and inclusion

With continuous superannuation, there is a viable scare of loss of intellectual capital, and the HR needs to be prepared for this unavoidable situation always. The demographic makeup of the university student strength needs to be capitalised. Also, institutions must reflect at the proportionate representation among the faculty and administrative employees. Greater diversity can be comfortably attained by this cyclical process. This process has to be initiated when the students enrol for their doctorates as some of them can be later hired as faculty members/future academics from this pool conveniently.

7. Need for a global approach

According to a recent Deloitte Report, more universities are now working on international strategies for a real international curriculum. Thus would be created an organisation’s international brand that could also be beneficial to their domestic approach. This can then help institutions to attract top global talent or to deliver programmes through partner bodies.

Adopting a global HR strategy is also another way to encourage greater diversity among the student body and employees. Developing an internationalized approach can ultimately generate revenue, improve corporate branding and sweeten the employee value proposition for top talent.

8. Striking right balance

The latest trends today is to strike a balance between recruitment and retention landscape. This can be achieved fruitfully by understanding the communication and psychology of the people at a given time.

Chiou Thien Ling (Michelle), Group HR, Tan Chong Group , appropriately explained that motivating people to communicate effectively and feel at home in the new environment they are unfamiliar with, is very important for the success of both the individual and the organisation.

Conclusion

We can comfortably conclude that Next-generation (next-gen) workforce management, also require excellent academics and brilliant people as it is at the core of the success of an educational institution. Paperwork is outdated and reducing them to the barest minimum possible is the goal by integrating new technology seamlessly. The staff and faculty members are responsible for driving critical academic and research success. Of course, these measures need to level up to the next-gen standard for the institution to grow effectively and retain talent as well. To attract diverse talent from the international arena, universities need to examine their hiring and appraisal processes. For achieving the goal adequately, all these measures are required for best talent development, mentoring and elimination of unconscious or conscious biases.

Modern HR software and advanced analytical insights enable next-gen HR departments to achieve targeted academic staff recruitment while seamlessly assessing and developing existing talent. Ultimately, Recent economic realities and trends have made higher education HR departments more critical than ever to the university system’s progress. They are charged with improving and applying organisational efficiency throughout the workforce, from teaching staff to part-time student workers. To truly transform the university’s workforce, HR departments must focus on the institution’s overall strategic efforts, provide insights into the work process and efficiencies, and minimize transactional HR activities. State-of-the-art HR software supports these goals.

The challenges of HR in higher education can be described in a nutshell as the challenge to create a culture and environment that everyone can thrive to their optimum capacity. Building the right kind of culture and environment that both academics and students can succeed in is not an easy task.

 

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The blog is presented by Ms. Ayushi Bhatnagar of Sharda University. Sharda University is one of the largest university in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) offering 120+ varied programmes.


Image 1 Credit to Andrew Neel

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