Employee Engagement and Strategic Onboarding for Higher Education

Helping institutions of higher learning onboard and retain a muti-talented, multi-skilled workforce

Higher education HR professionals face daunting challenges: paper-based processes, communication with multiple constituencies, and coordinating with distributed locations. Strategic needs include attracting top talent, leadership development, and succession planning.

In a survey of 80 colleges and universities, most HR leaders reported that their institution does core HR functions well (benefits, retirement, core data). However, they saw “significant opportunities to improve service delivery and shift investments to the areas that improve effectiveness,” including employee and manager self-service, automated workflow, and centralized support. The one dark cloud in their response rests in the lack of investment in technology to support talent management practices.

It’s clear that higher education talent management professionals see the opportunities to impact key challenges through new approaches and the use of technology. The latest talent management practices can bring relief to an institution’s financial pressures, succession concerns, and more.

Here’s everything needed to transform your program: finding top talent, onboarding processes, employee engagement, blended learning, social recruiting, and other important topics.

Best Practices in HR Automation for Higher Education

Institutions of higher education face many challenges today. Keeping the institution financially viable and sustainable is the challenge most frequently cited in surveys. Shrinking funding sources, pressure from parents, taxpayers and government to keep tuition affordable, and the lingering recession have forced colleges and universities to make difficult decisions.

To address these challenges, more colleges and universities are embracing new talent management best practices. A recent article in University Business defines it this way: “Talent management refers to the overall process of developing, managing and retaining employees, including recruiting, learning and training, compensation, employee performance management, and succession planning.”

Top Tips to Streamline and Simplify the Recruiting Process

Although approaches may differ based on the institution, higher education recruiters agree on the basic value of recruiting and applicant tracking systems.  
Benefits shared at a recent conference include:

  • Flexibility to support evolving needs
  • Easier candidate interaction
  • Simplified processes
  • Stronger communication tools

These solutions deliver larger scale benefits for higher education because of the greater length and complexity of the hiring cycle, especially for faculty positions. The use of technology can reduce the time to “touch” a new hire by as much as 200% and reduce administrative processing by up to 60% through automated workflows and real time reporting. Recruiting solutions also eliminate agency fees (which can equal 40% of the new hire’s annual salary), so they are a favorite cost-cutting tactic.

New Approaches for Onboarding and Engagement

Some colleges and universities reach out to engage new employees before they even arrive on campus through an onboarding portal. It keeps the incoming employee enthusiastic before the start date and communication consistent for everyone internally. It also clears the “administrivia” out of the way so that the new employee’s first day starts among colleagues, not filling out forms. In addition to a great first impression, automated onboarding cuts administrative costs and frees HR time for more productive uses.

How to Prepare for Succession and the Future

One researcher predicts “at least a 50% turnover rate among senior higher education administrators within the next five to ten years.”

While succession planning ranks as a top priority for colleges and universities of all sizes, Aon Hewitt survey respondents rated this function as either ‘somewhat ineffective’ or ‘not effective at all’ (61% and 48%, respectively) in their home institutions. Planning a leadership development strategy and automating succession planning directly addresses a big HR challenge facing higher education today and offers a high potential return-on-investment.

What’s the ROI for a Higher Education Institution?

Talent management is a top-down strategy that must become part of the institution’s DNA. Launching it takes whole-hearted executive backing; embedding it in the culture requires substantial, sustained commitments of time, energy, and resources by many people. A reasonable question to ask is whether this investment will pay off, both in financial return on technology and results for the institution.

Research by Bersin & Associates consultants quantifies the value to be obtained by integrating various talent management processes. They found that “organizations that were highly effective at integrating L&D (learning and development) with performance … were three times more likely to report good employee results, 55 times more likely to report strong overall talent management results and 100 times more likely to report strong business results.”

This great resource tells a results story:  Lord Fairfax Community College Case Study.

“Employees don’t spend their first days signing a hundred things. They can start working with colleagues on day one. That makes a positive first impression.”
— Lord Fairfax Community College

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