No matter the size or specialisation, FE institutions have complex and highly specialised HR requirements. The human resources departments within education used to be linked together loosely, with general admin staff picking up many HR duties and not as part of any kind of strategy; perhaps for some institutions this is still partly true.
In 2018, HR should be done differently. A new way of thinking is required as the challenges for higher education staff are now as diverse as their students.
Change in education management is happening. Between 2001 and 2008, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) invested £888 Million into modernising university HR services. If there has been a need to invest this much money into HR for universities, then colleges also need to invest enough cash to ensure that they are managed as effectively. Such contributions signify the ongoing need to invest in cutting-edge systems and ideas, to work in unison with the traditions of UK FE institutions, which is a crucial step, and one in the right direction.
Some of the biggest challenges for colleges are to build and maintain a good reputation, to stand out from the crowd and attract the best staff. Not meeting these goals because of past under-investment may have caused staffing issues, but a reluctance to move away from archaic strategies will continue to cause delayed progress and reduced efficiency – outdated systems mean mistakes, the wrong staff and bad press, which costs money and can destroy a hard-fought positive image.
These are not the only reasons to work with total efficiency – over the past twenty years access to education has increased, and with more people requiring education and training beyond school, making sure your staff can handle the footfall is essential; as numbers will only grow.
Efficiency is an obvious reason to re-think your HR department, but a less obvious benefit is control. It doesn’t matter if the solution you require is a more efficient in-house HR methodology, or an outsourced HR service, a controlled, straight-forward strategy for personnel management is essential, and being able to customise that to the needs of your organisation means you can manage your HR team the way you know works best.
At one time, having different HR methods in each department or staffing area may have seemed like a flexible, common-sense approach to HR. The complexity of work has changed, so now FE professionals need to work homogenously with a precise plan for hiring, firing and upskilling existing staff members; and for making sure students are on the right path to achieve their goals.
While creating a strategy, using the right software and having clearly defined roles for your staff all add up to a standardised HR methodology, there is still a need to be creative. Your HR staff know better than anyone the kind of people they need to get the job done, so rather than relying on just the data, staff can use their own ideas as part of a bigger system which identifies human resourcing needs. This in turn, will lead to a realistic rather than a dogmatic approach, a relationship between technology and the people it is designed to help; the whole is much bigger than the sum of any one part.
A clear strategy means the common sense and experience of your day-to-day staff can be used to implement coherent succession planning tactics, while sticking to an appropriate budget. As well as staff management and training, the combination of software and strategy means that staff who have to work to tight deadlines are still able to adhere to data handling laws, as well as processing student records without error.
As well as getting the right staff with the best skills, there are many benefits to diversity within your business. Creating an environment of inclusion is imperative if you want to build a brand that has longevity. Not only will this environment lead to a great mix of staff joining your ranks, but existing staff members will feel they can be accepted and grow, meaning the retention, and not just acquisition of staff; people who will inspire new students through their own experience of working somewhere with a great ethos - and a fresh mind-set.
Modern FE organisations know there are broad benefits to approaching diversity the right way. Not just a method for preventing discrimination, prioritising diversity in HR will build international partnerships and attract people from the flourishing global jobs market. By having the right data to identify your requirements, the appropriate staff can found no matter how far you need to reach.
Awareness of the skills your staff possess, and how efficiently your FE institution is running will set you apart from your competitors. If knowledge is important to you, then it is crucial to adapt the best data-handling technology and analytics services to compliment your HR strategy - providing you with all the information you need, when you want it. If you possess the data and dictate how it gets used, you can improve the education system by educating yourself.