At NACUBO’s 2022 annual meeting, the theme of “The Power of Together” was a fitting message. Colleagues from across the country were able to be physically together again and share ideas during this time of transformation for higher education.
Sessions throughout the conference made it clear that bold changes need to happen in higher education, an environment that is sometimes resistant to change. The conference revealed transformation is needed in three main areas: staffing, communications and digital transformation. Here are our top three takeaways.
1. To attract and retain talent, institutions will have to compete with rising salaries, remote work and flexible schedules.
With wages increasing in the private sector, the higher education market has been unable to keep up and compete due to budget constraints. According to an article on Inside Higher Ed, attendees lacked confidence in their institution’s strategies for attracting talent, as well as their ability to offer flexible and remote schedules.
In the session “The Evolving Investment in Our Higher Education Workforce,” 24 percent of attendees noted that their IT department is most impacted by staffing issues. The changing compliance requirements for cyber insurance, for instance, require investment in cyber security that needs people, processes and technology to implement, with people being the most difficult to come by. Institutions need to review all options to allocate – or re-allocate – resources but are finding it difficult to determine how to invest in both compensation/benefits and culture/purpose.
The presenters noted that shared services are a way to get employees excited about their career paths as they allow employees to stretch their knowledge in other areas – and, we would argue, can lead to even higher paid career opportunities if they are shared outside the campus by working with a technology management partner.
Another session, “The Great Realignment: How the Future of Work is Driving Changes in the Higher Education Workforce,” focused on rearchitecting the work, elevating the workforce and adapting the workplace. However, higher education as an industry is struggling to catch up to workforce best practices. There was consensus among the presenters that the workforce is looking to be more remote, hybrid and flexible. The session explained there are a variety of issues with this, but – overall – staff are looking for positions to support their individual schedules.
2. Data silos must be removed to create a more productive campus that better serves students.
The “Accelerating Analytics in Higher Education: Managing People, Processes, and Technology” session revealed that 89 percent of session attendees cited disconnected data silos as a moderate or serious problem at their institution. Fragmented data and technology causes departments to look only at one aspect of the student instead of allowing for holistic communications that contribute to student satisfaction – and success – along their journeys. For example, a student with an account hold who wants to register for classes will have to go to the business office to settle the bill and academic advising for class registration. This leads to a student having multiple conversations with multiple departments simply to be able to register for classes.
Connecting data not only makes it easier for students, but also allows institutions to more quickly identify trends and opportunities. We believe that doing this enables institutions to make smarter decisions, which is particularly important in times of change and upheaval. At NACUBO, several institutions presented on the success they’ve seen capturing and effectively utilizing data across decentralized business units.
Unifying divisions across the campus requires strong communication and adhesion to institutional goals. Each team has strong expertise in its area but works most effectively when bringing this knowledge to the table to collaborate and communicate with experts in other areas. Communications can be strengthened by bringing subject matter experts together to learn how each understands the audience.
The session argued that the more diverse perspectives there are, the greater an institution’s message can become. Cross-campus partnerships provide a clearer view of the communications journey, which can ultimately lead to a comprehensive strategy that better fits the audience’s expectations and needs.
3. Digital transformation is an expectation.
Staff and student expectations for transformation were apparent in “The Evolving Investment in Our Higher Education Workforce” – a session that reported that 96 percent of organizations indicate they need intelligent workplace technology to improve environments. The session suggested that institutions need a partner with agility to manage forward movement and that also understands what is happening both in the industry and on the campus in order to prioritize, communicate and collaborate effectively.
Transformation projects should be addressed by looking first at their mission, then the market and lastly the margin. One of the essential elements to supporting transformation in this urgent environment is a shared future vision. To optimize effectively, resources need to be reallocated with that vision in mind.
One presenter asked: How do you expect institutions that have been around 100 years to change because of events of the past two years? This led to informing the audience that higher education will need to be more strategic in the implementation of hybrid work and consider ways to reenergize the campus community and foster connections. Data must also inform decisions, which begs the question: Are you collecting the right data? Read our blog post for seven ways to prioritize data management at your institution.
Higher education is changing, and schools must adapt and innovate.
At Collegis, we understand that it’s tough to change institutional culture, but the sessions at NACUBO have shown that institutions across the country are experiencing the shift to remote work, the need for smarter technology and un-siloed data. In other words, there’s no going back to how things have been done in the past, and institutions need to start making changes that will propel them toward future success.
Luckily, Collegis Education’s technology management services can help you transform your institution by addressing your staffing, optimization and transformation challenges with your mission in mind, which is what moves higher education to its next phase. Take a look at this case study to learn how we developed a strategic technology roadmap for Saint Francis University while identifying efficiencies and technology upgrades that led to a 14 percent cost savings in the IT budget.