Higher education institutions face significant workforce challenges due to an aging workforce, budget constraints and changing demographics. Colleges and universities risk losing half of their current employees in 2023, according to a 2022 employee retention survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).1 Some 35% of higher education employees are likely or very likely to look for a new job this year, up from 24% in 2021, according to the association. Another 22% are somewhat likely to leave, up from 19% in 2021.2
The good news is, your organization can stem the tide. Higher education institutions require a clear understanding of their workforce needs and appropriate strategies to attract, retain and develop staff. Workforce planning and succession planning are two critical processes that employers can leverage to ensure they have the right people in the right roles at the right time.
Workforce planning: Retain talent, save costs
Leaders use workforce planning to identify current and future workforce gaps and to address those gaps. Such planning enables employers to align workforce needs with their mission, vision and strategic goals for better overall organizational wellbeing:
- Attract and retain talent. Identifying the skills and competencies your organization needs to create a culture of learning and development can help retain high-performing employees.
- Reduce costs. Leveraging opportunities to reduce labor costs and optimize staffing levels can help reduce costly turnover.
- Address skill gaps. Training and development programs, recruitment strategies and succession planning can help close skill gaps.
- Increase diversity. Using targeted recruitment strategies, training and development programs, and succession planning can increase diversity and inclusion.
Succession planning: Build strong leaders, maintain continuity
Succession planning involves identifying and developing employees who have the potential to fill key leadership roles in the future. The process involves identifying critical roles, assessing the skills and competencies required, and developing strategies to ensure a pipeline of qualified employees who can step into those roles when needed. Benefits include:
- Continuity of operations. The risk of disruptions due to unexpected departures is lessened.
- Leadership development. Strengthening leadership development can help to retain high-performing employees and improve the overall talent pipeline.
- Cost savings. By reducing the need for expensive external recruitment, succession planning reduces costs and can decrease the time to fill critical roles.
- Fewer skill gaps. Similar to workforce planning, succession planning helps identify workforce skill gaps and guide targeted training and development programs for potential successors.
Workforce planning and succession planning aren't the same things
While workforce planning and succession planning both support organizational wellbeing for higher education institutions, they call for different strategies:
- Focus. Workforce planning identifies and addresses workforce needs across the entire organization, whereas succession planning focuses on identifying and developing employees who have the potential to fill key leadership roles.
- Time horizon. Workforce planning addresses current and future workforce needs, whereas succession planning addresses primarily long-term talent development and leadership continuity.
- Scope. Workforce planning identifies and addresses workforce needs broadly across all levels and functions of the organization; succession planning targets critical leadership roles.
- Implementation. Workforce planning involves ongoing data analysis and strategic planning, whereas succession planning addresses talent development programs and initiatives.
Stem the turnover now
Workforce planning and succession planning can help higher education institutions to attract, retain and develop talent. While workforce planning focuses on identifying and addressing workforce needs broadly, succession planning focuses on developing employees with the potential to fill critical leadership roles in the future. Each process differs in focus, time horizon, scope and implementation.
Use these processes now to ensure your institution puts the right people in the right roles to achieve strategic goals and maintain operational continuity. Leaders who prioritize workforce planning and succession planning help to ensure they have the talent they need to succeed in a rapidly changing environment.
Gallagher can help
Contact Gallagher to learn more about how we can help your higher education institution leverage data and experience to put the right people in the right roles at the right time.