Human capital has in recent years achieved its rightful recognition as being possibly the most treasured resource of an organization. Equipment, finance, processes, and technology are all important, but in the end, it is personnel who get you there.
For this reason, developing and implementing a good talent management strategy with effective succession planning is critical. It allows the organization to develop the necessary talent and skills in its people so they work for their employer for an extended period and do not let critical positions fall vacant.
That being said, let us look at higher education institutions and the role of talent strategy in this sector.
A higher education institution is a unique organization, whose main purpose is the provision of higher education services to students and to the community. Its purpose is not profit as for business institutions. Given the critical role of higher education institutions in developing human capital, their leadership talent replacement is an important aspect, as poor succession planning can undermine the quality of the institutions.
Managing talent is very important for higher education institutions. Competition between these institutions is up, and they need to map the talents of their existing workforces along with addressing future leadership talent issues. There is also the challenge of recruiting and retaining talented people as well as managing their shortages or utilizing their talents fully. And the changes in demographics and external labor markets cannot be underemphasized.
Take a look at the following trends to understand why a paradigm shift is needed in talent and succession planning at higher education institutions:
It is hard to manage talent better without the requisite support. Senior officers serving as advocates, mentors, and program facilitators are a must, as is a strong connect between strategic plans and the need to manage talent. Talent must be developed holistically at all levels of the institution, and coaching and other growth opportunities at work serve as key fillips to these endeavors. Practices must take note of the fact that HR managers at these institutions deal with more “constituencies” – administrators, faculty, and operations staff – each of which has its own practices for employee recruitment, compensation, and evaluation.
Here are the best strategies to manage talent effectively:
Decision-makers in these institutions are fast approaching retirement. Of the total workforce, over a quarter is near the retirement age, with the share being higher in leadership roles. Some estimates suggest the likelihood of at least a 50 percent turnover among higher education administrators in the near future. Turnover at this scale is a threat to institutional continuity.The following numbers illustrate this further:
Clearly, higher education institutions need to do more to develop their leadership talent. Their talent pipelines appear to be weak, with less than a third of all sitting chief academic officers looking toward chancellorships or presidencies. Even tenure-track faculty members are not looking for administrator roles. And those in leadership positions often do not have previous executive experience or leadership preparation, as well as an inadequate picture of their role. Some of these institutions teach their students the importance of talent and succession planning, yet unfortunately they themselves are unable to implement these well.
Higher education institutions educate and develop not just students but future leaders and thinkers for their nations. However, their strategic talent plans often eschew succession matters by not developing leadership talent in their own administrative staff so that they are prepared for future demands and challenges.
The following is what respondents to an Aon Hewitt survey on succession planning at higher education institutions said:
This then has a bearing on the achievement of academic program vision and missions, and affects the identification of training and development needs for managers and the institution as a whole. Talent strategy can make succession effective only by involving all people in the organization – staff, top managers, and executives – and bringing in systematic performance management and a strong human resource information system (HRIS).
The need for succession planning is clearly not in dispute. Here are what higher education institutions can do to achieve this:
Talent and succession planning can scarcely be ignored by higher education institutions. As sources of top-notch human capital, these institutions are the gateways to business and national growth and success. Stronger processes offer better insights into the competencies, knowledge, and skills of staff members succession candidates, and accordingly can guide the actions required and talents needed to be developed for the future. As Betsy Rodriguez and Mark Coldren, respectively the VP Human Resources for the University of Missouri System and associate VP Human Resources for Ithaca College, said, “developing leaders from within may be the single-most important exercise for the sustainability and future of your institution.”
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