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Articles: Human Resources

Colleges and universities are experimenting with strategies—from financial incentives to life coaching—aimed at coaxing veteran professors into starting the next chapter of their lives.

Faculty members finding exciting new directions once they retire from their tenured professorships. But data suggests that faculty members are waiting longer to retire than they once did, with sometimes problematic implications for their institutions.

Under age-discrimination laws, college professors, like most American workers, can’t be forced into retirement. Congress ended mandatory age-70 faculty retirement in 1994, after the National Academy of Sciences predicted the change wouldn’t increase professors’ average retirement age.

Are universities hiring non-tenured adjuncts—who now make up two-thirds of the faculty workforce—because their tenured veterans won’t retire?

Delayed retirement is a contributing factor in the proliferation of adjuncts, says Brian Kaskie, associate professor of health policy at the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health. Employees who can’t be fired and won’t retire are a burden administrators don’t want to assume.

In an era in which every college or university expense must be scrutinized, tuition remission policy details may be worth analyzing. (Click to enlarge)

Almost 90 percent of colleges and universities offer tuition remission benefits to their employees and employees’ dependents. And with college tuition costs skyrocketing, that benefit has become increasingly sought-after—but expensive for the institution.

While many institutions that examine their tuition remission spending wind up reining in spending in this area, some schools are actually increasing the benefit to better recruit and retain top-notch talent.

Last year, leaders at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, increased the tuition benefit for employees’ spouses and children from 75 percent to full coverage. Employees themselves already received 100 percent remission.

Like many employers, higher ed institutions are reaching out to military veterans to fill skilled positions. Military service offers rich opportunities for individuals to develop a wide variety of skills that translate to well-paying jobs in the civilian world.

The impacts of unionization by teaching and research assistants can be seen at several U.S. public universities ( Daniel Vilaneuve)

Leaders at private colleges concerned about the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling allowing Columbia University teaching and research assistants to unionize can look to their peers at public universities to prepare for coming changes.

All higher education institutions offer employee training and skill development in some form or another. Workshops. Webinars. Mentoring. Coaching. It’s the same-old same-old—but does it have to be?

Besides freeing up IT to handle other tasks, new systems allow HR to be more efficient because data is located in one spot rather than spread through multiple systems that require multiple sign-ons. And new HR apps allow employees to use mobile devices to check benefits, complete a course or even schedule vacations.

Carol Patton specializes in human resources issues.

Employee benefits at higher education institutions are generally robust and truly hard to beat. More than ever, job candidates are attracted to employers that offer choice or the ability to customize benefits that cater to their individual lifestyle.

Carol Patton: HR professionals should help employees better manage information.

It’s so easy to hit “send.” But experienced human resources professionals know better and are implementing creative strategies to share important news with employees while preventing them from overdosing on information.

Although employees are responsible for reading and acting upon messages they receive, some HR professionals are helping them better manage that information.

Colleges and universities now expect employees to take action, change behaviors and make decisions that positively impact their health, finances and lifestyles.

Wellness benefits have transformed into all kinds of unique offerings, ranging from on-site vegetable gardens to fitness centers. Meanwhile, traditional “do-everything-for-me” benefits have disappeared.

The skill set required for today’s top jobs in higher education has never been more extensive or demanding. Boards of Trustees are looking for leadership in several areas: academic authority, fundraising ability, public relations and media savvy, legal and political sensitivity, as well as ease of movement between constituent groups—alumni, students, faculty, parents, donors, business leaders, government—all with significant claims on the president’s time and attention.

Carol Patton

Earlier this year, CUPA-HR—an HR association for higher education—conducted its 2015 Employee Healthcare Benefits in Higher Education Survey. Of the 525 public and private institutions that responded, 70 percent offer healthcare coverage to same-sex domestic partners.

 Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who specializes in human resources issues.

Cluster hiring of faculty is an effective strategy that has been around for at least 15 years. Ask universities that practice it and they’ll tell you it strengthens faculty diversity and promotes new research opportunities. So why aren’t more higher education institutions practicing it?