The Role Technology Plays in Solving Higher Education Staffing Challenges

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In the CUPA-HR Higher Education Employee Retention survey, 56% of higher education employees nationwide said they are at least somewhat likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months. And having more than half the workforce planning to depart isn’t the only staffing challenge higher education is facing. What other staffing obstacles are colleges and universities coming across, and what are institutions doing to overcome these?  

Employee retention is just the tip of the staffing challenges iceberg; there’s also funding. 60% of university budgets go toward paying employee salaries and benefits, and these budgets are shrinking, making it difficult for institutions to offer competitive salaries and fill vacancies. Less dire, but equally important is the fact that, with consistent employee turnover, vital projects are becoming stalled, making progress difficult to achieve. The good news comes from technology companies, many of whom advertise the means to ease staffing concerns. But exactly what role can technology play in a problem that is human in nature? 

Can Higher Education Technology Help Improve Staffing Retention and Fill Gaps?

When asked why they’re considering leaving higher education, employees said seeking salary increases was the primary reason. But employees are also looking for opportunities to work remotely and more opportunities for advancement (a main reason many faculty leave the field). Can technology address these issues?

While technology might not be able to create career advancement opportunities, modern tech can make it possible to improve pay and provide remote work options. Institutions that use integrated systems and engage in analytics initiatives can optimize processes and improve decision making, potentially saving institutions hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars which can be reinvested in employee compensation. Similarly, new cloud ERPs, student information systems, and learning management systems make it possible for institutions to create hybrid work environments. Increasing pay and creating more opportunities for flexible work could go a long way toward convincing faculty and staff to remain on board.

If staffing gaps persist, can technology help fill those? Absolutely. Modern technology automates previously manual processes, making it possible to do more work with fewer people.

Can Higher Education Technology Help Institutions Save Money on Salary and Benefits?

As addressed above, part of the reason employees are leaving higher education is because they’re seeking more compensation. Using technology to find ways to pay them less might help ensure your staffing gaps persist. But that doesn’t mean technology can’t help institutions save money.

The first and most obvious way modern technology can help institutions save money is by optimizing and automating campus operations, eliminating the need for redundant staffing. In addition, using modern technology to collect and analyze data can help institutions determine which programs are performing well and which are under enrolling. By eliminating course and staffing redundancies and improving program portfolio decisions, institutions can better allocate resources.

Can Higher Education Technology Help Address Issues That Arise From Employee Turnover?

As mentioned above, modern technology can reduce turnover by unburdening staff, freeing up resources to improve compensation, and offering more flexible work environments. But if staffing gaps persist, how can technology address those issues that arise with turnover?

With an increase in faculty turnover comes an increase loss in institutional knowledge, especially when it comes to systems management. It can take a long time to train new faculty on technology systems. And if there’s turnover during a system implementation or in the middle of a tech-related project, progress on these projects could stall. But modern technology has made great strides in UX design. Many newer systems have incredibly intuitive user interfaces, meaning that even if there is a great deal of faculty turnover, learning new systems doesn’t have to be an issue that impacts institutional progress.

Which Systems to Invest in When Looking to Solve Staffing Challenges

While HCM and student systems are critical to an institution’s operational efficiency, cloud finance systems may well be the most important systems to invest in when trying to address staffing challenges. Why? The information gathered by the business office (How much does it cost to educate a student? How much revenue is this program generating?) can help institutions make decisions that greatly impact employee compensation and retention.

Institutions looking to invest in a cloud finance system should look for one that integrates seamlessly with an institution’s HCM and student systems, allowing it to analyze student data alongside human capital costs. This will give intuitions the information they need to make smart programs decisions, increase employee compensation and benefits, and provide a more flexible working environment—all of which can help solve whatever staffing issues are arising on campus.

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