Top-of-Mind HR Issues
Do you think your institution's compensation structure could use some tweaking to make it more flexible and more competitive within the marketplace? If so, you're not alone. Improving performance management was one of the hot issues raised by the participants in the Human Resources Roundtable held during NACUBO's 2007 annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Anthony Brantley, chief executive officer of College & University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) and Margaret F. Plympton, a NACUBO board member and vice president of finance and administration at Lehigh University, facilitated the group discussion. The 50 HR professionals and business officers who are concerned with HR issues who participated in the roundtable identified their top concerns and then brainstormed potential improvements to implement.
These five topics emerged as the primary concerns for HR professionals on campuses across the country.
1. Reward structure. Many HR professionals believe managers are not well-trained in performance management. They'd like to institute a flexible and market-competitive compensation structure that more closely links performance rewards and development with the competencies and skills most valued by the institution. In addition, they typically view compensation as being disconnected from the reward and see few or no options for rewards outside of the performance management cycle.
Potential solutions: Institute "on the spot" recognition; help develop a manager's skill in performance management by giving employees the opportunity to provide feedback; offer non-financial rewards aimed at increasing the work-life balance.
2. A push toward shared services. Limited state budgets are driving more HR departments to use shared services. This limits "in person" contact and can create distance management issues. Related concerns include increased competition among peer institutions, effects of institutional versus governmental politics, and confusion arising from different institutional missions.
Potential solution: Place HR representatives at satellite campuses to provide an on-site presence; use a salary differential for different jurisdictions.
3. Culture changes within HR. Many campus HR departments are led by very few administrators who end up contributing to major strategic HR deciscions. Ultimately, those decisions influence the overall HR culture within the educational institution.
Potential solution: Develop HR-related training for university administrators. Topics could include preparing for the future demographics of the workplace, workforce forecasting, and establishing an HR mission as the framework for the HR department.
4. Conflicts of interest. Specifically, HR professionals report dealing with nepotism/favoritism between faculty and staff throughout their institutions.
Potential solution: Intervene as soon as HR learns of the conflict of interest, asking the parties involved to assess whether the situation passes the "newspaper test." In other words: "Would you be willing to see a story about this in tomorrow's newspaper, with your name and our institution's name highlighted?"
5. Job transitions and succession. As campuses face a growing number of retirements, the need to train and mentor potential successors increases. To align with the institution's current business strategy, these new hires require different competencies compared to 10 or even five years ago.
Potential solutions: Before the retirement occurs, identify how the position has changed and what implications those changes have on the competencies needed. Develop a training system to determine-and close-the gaps between the competencies desired and the competencies exhibited by potential successors. It was pointed out, for example, that the U.S. military offers a solid example of promotion from within.
Does this list of concerns resonate with your experience? What else would you add to it? Please send your comments to Tadu Yimam, policy analyst at NACUBO; e-mail: email@example.com. Also let her know if you'd be interested in participating in a NACUBO listserv dedicated to these and other pressing HR issues.