Becoming a strategic partner
3 ways technology can help higher education talent management teams engage leadership, supervisors, new hires and employees
To fully realize their potential to advance the mission of their college or university, higher education talent management teams must engage employees across all levels and departments.
“I think talent management teams in higher education are brilliant when it comes to processing tasks and policy management, but they have to find ways to simplify those in-the-weeds type tasks that will never go away,” said Heather Murray, director of strategic partnerships at PeopleAdmin and former associate director of human resources at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. “There’s a real opportunity to streamline those responsibilities and redirect that time spent to more collaborative work.”
Here are three ways technology empowers higher education talent management teams to take advantage of that opportunity to streamline complex, cumbersome tasks and workflows, engage institutional stakeholders, and advance their institutional mission.
1. Easily track diversity hiring and EEO data, and share actionable insights
“Data analytics really positions HR to be a strategic leader,” said Ricardo Coronado, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for human resources at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, adding that sharing insights offers talent management teams the “potential to be a resource to other departments.”
But that means accessing data and transforming that data into easily understandable insights, which is often challenging.
“Not every university has someone who can understand how to collect data and put it into a format that will be easily understood,” said Shannon Phillips, compensation analyst at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
To overcome this challenge, Shannon uses PeopleAdmin Analytics, which uncovers key insights into compliance, diversity and other complex hiring initiatives.
“On the Home dashboard, you’re able to see your population of diverse candidates within your applicant pool,” she explained. “So what we’re doing is taking that and drilling it down to the college level, and we’re sharing that information with our leadership.”
According to Sharron Gatling, assistant director of equal opportunity at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, being able to easily access and share that information is key to meeting diversity initiatives.
“Part of the goal of diversity, equity and inclusion is to get to a point where we can work together and thrive,” Sharron said. “There are often situations in which I can help you reach your goals and you can help me reach mine. Having that data gives me the opportunity to be proactive about what’s happening in our workforce and reach out.”
2. Make a positive first impression with a well-structured new hire onboarding program
“A lot of institutions struggle with early retention and engagement,” said Andrea Brown, director of HR services at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “New employees often don’t get enough guidance.”
What’s causing this problem? Too often, higher education onboarding processes require administrators to manage tedious tasks and complex workflows, while new hires spend their first several hours or even days buried in paper.
Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, overcame this challenge by implementing Onboard — PeopleAdmin’s automated onboarding solution.
“We replaced our paper-based new hire process with Onboard, where everything’s 100 percent electronic,” said Nancy Crowell, assistant HR director for employment at App State. “Our new hires love it. They keep telling us: ‘Wow! That was so easy!’”
By moving to an electronic onboarding process, Nancy and her team ensure new hires spend their initial time with the university focusing on important tasks, rather than filling out forms.
“We receive their new hire ‘paperwork’ before they actually start, which is a big plus,” Nancy explained. “It allows us to make sure we have the time we need to set up their access with other systems at the university.”
Onboard also allows Nancy to easily monitor the progress of new hires as they move through the onboarding process.
“We’re able to track who’s completed what, and the system allows us to send out reminders,” Nancy said. “We can also see when people haven’t completed all the required forms by a certain date — that’s been a big plus.”
Onboard even empowers greater intradepartmental collaboration at App State.
“We’ve added in certain forms — like parking and traffic and ID — to our workflows, so we can easily send that information to the appropriate offices,” Nancy said. “Onboard has really helped us bring other departments into the workflow.”
3. Facilitate meaningful performance conversations
“We’re really focused on more thoughtful, meaningful employee development strategies,” said Jennifer Derry, director of training and staff development at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. “We have found it useful to start with a conversation about the future. If people are asked how they want to grow in the year ahead, now suddenly they’re thinking about possibilities there, rather than just looking back at what they did over the past year.”
Using Performance — the higher education-specific performance management solution from PeopleAdmin — Villanova leaders can easily facilitate those forward-looking conversations.
“It’s really a planning tool that provides an opportunity to talk about how people can grow and develop moving forward in their roles,” Jennifer explained.
According to Emily Wilson, assistant director of learning and organizational development at Appalachian State University, setting those growth and development goals — and tying them to the institutional mission — is key to employee engagement and retention.
“Employees stay because they believe in the mission and want to contribute to it,” Emily said. “We encourage employees and supervisors to set goals related to the mission of the institution because it’s important for everyone to remember what we stand for, and doing so helps us retain mission-driven talent.”
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