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Articles: Human Resources

Universities and colleges are struggling to compete for high quality senior administrative leaders. Tight budgets compound the challenge, since recruiting, selecting, and relocating candidates require significant investments.

The higher education chief information officer role has origins that date back around three decades. This relatively nascent position is evolving at breakneck speed, adapting to the rapidly changing information technology landscape and a higher ed space also undergoing unprecedented change. Research conducted for my dissertation reveals that major IT industry developments such as IT consumerization—the bring your own device (BYOD) movement—cloud computing, and the information security suite of issues are all impacting the CIO role in profound ways.

Over the past 10 years, tenure at colleges and universities has come under fire from a variety of sources, especially legislators and politicians, most of whom have little or only tangential experience within the academic community. A recent pro and con about tenure by those more connected to the academy also appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Most surprising among recent attention to this issue is a survey of university presidents, a majority of whom would do away with tenure if they could.

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Pennsylvania State University has announced a program of performing background checks on all new hires. It’s just one of a number of penalties imposed on the university since the sex abuse charges came to light.

Let’s take a second to review some of the damage wreaked by that scandal. It led to the conviction of Sandusky on 45 counts of abuse, the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno for not acting on information he had, and the dismissal of university president Graham Spanier—to say nothing of the victims of the crime.­

You might not know it when you recall all the faculty and staff layoffs of recent years, but according to a new report, the number of jobs in higher education continues to grow faster than overall U.S. employment. An analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data by finds that the number of jobs in higher education grew 2.1 percent during Q2 2012, compared to growth of 1.4 percent for all U.S. jobs. A year earlier in Q2 2011, the number of higher education jobs grew 2.2 percent, compared to overall job growth of 1.0 percent.

Those at colleges and universities who have helped implement moneysaving safety programs offer some tips on how to begin persuading officials to get serious about safety. First, talk to all decision makers, including campus risk managers all the way up to vice chancellors.

Erike Young, director of Environmental Health & Safety at the University of California Office of the President, says whether the institution is self-insured like UC or part of an insurance pool, the institution’s insurance premiums can be reduced by working with its actuary.

For years, Kevin Confetti would perform a metaphoric scratching of the head. Thousands of work-related injuries were reported at the University of California’s 10 campuses and five medical centers, costing the system $25 million annually in workers’ compensation claims. As a workers’ compensation specialist for UC, he was responsible for payments to injured employees while they were off their feet.

Micki Meyer, director of community engagement, with David Lord, the donor of her endowed chair position

Rollins College (Fla.) recently hired a director of community engagement. While the position is not unusual, the funding for it might be. An alumnus gave a $1 million donation to endow the position. Donations from David Lord and his family helped establish and support the community engagement office through the years, so he knew the next logical step to expand the program was hiring a director, explains Joe Monti, director of foundation relations. This is the second endowed staff position at Rollins, the other being at their Cornell Fine Arts Museum.

Are the processes of recruiting, employee performance appraisals, recognition, and succession planning at your institution in separate pieces like a jigsaw puzzle? Or are they linked, forming one clear picture about your campus’s talent resources and needs?

Talent management software is helping campus HR professionals connect the pieces to develop a more accurate picture of employees’ abilities and skill gaps­—and in some cases even changing the way HR operates.

In June, 15 colleges and universities were recognized by the American Council on Education and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for innovative practices in supporting faculty before, during, and after their retirement transitions. The awards focused on efforts to support the development of a legacy for retiring faculty, help them transition into retirement, and keep faculty involved in the academic community during their retirement years.

Examples of the measures recognized include:

Administrators, faculty, and staff at Ohio U could opt to begin their "twilight years" early.

It’s an increasingly common move by campus officials during challenging economic times: voluntary retirement. Offering these incentives to faculty and staff provides a ready means of reducing personnel costs while not being seen as severe and traumatic as layoffs, salary reductions, and furloughs tend to be.

Although the details of such plans vary from one college to the next, they all rest on the potential for shrinking the workforce during times of static or declining budgets.

The fact that every campus has a human resources department could lead to inefficiencies within large university systems. Or at least that’s how officials at the University of California saw it. The system is consolidating routine payroll, benefits, leave management, and workforce administration functions from across 10 campuses at a single location near the Riverside campus.

Today’s financial aid director wears many hats: counselor, manager of budgets, supervisor, implementer of regulations, and keeper of data, to name a few. As the role of financial aid director has become increasingly complex and challenging, so has filling this position. A job posting could read something like a hybrid circus performer: juggler/tight-rope walker/magician with excellent communication, supervisory and financial management skills, and at least five years of experience in financial aid.

How much are your employees worth? The struggling economy has prompted many institutions to make serious changes in how staff and faculty are evaluated. While politicians claim education is the key to attracting quality jobs, millions of dollars have been slashed from higher education appropriations. Every budget dollar spent must be justified more than ever. Campus leaders have begun scrutinizing employee performance, and at some institutions uniform salary increases have been replaced with thorough evaluations that link pay to job performance.

The only consistency about cell phone policies for campus employees is that there isn’t any. Likewise, the level of human resources office involvement is as different as the kinds of cell phones or data plans that are available today. In some cases, cell phone policies are developed and implemented by IT or the business office. Other times, HR helps create the policy, then stands on the sidelines. Some schools don’t even have a policy, or don’t request HR’s participation at all.

What should HR leaders do? Should their department even have a role?