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04 May 2021 Martin Higgs, Communications Officer
For many years in the UK, the Higher Education sector has considered Human Resources or Human Capital Management departments to be subservient to the big administrative functions of Finance and Registry, writes Nick Gibson, Head of Education & Research UK&I, NTT DATA Business Solutions. This has often been reflected in the investment that institutions have made in administration systems.
This has now become an outdated notion within Higher Education as it is starting to follow the commercial world, which has stormed ahead in terms of HR growth. HR departments are now finding themselves responsible for company wellbeing, talent attraction, talent acquisition, management accountability and inclusivity within c-suite recruitment. In the last year, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have further increased the importance of HR within Higher Education due to the increasing reports surrounding mental health. 2021 and beyond will require new capabilities in the world of HR, with the extra focus being put on mental health and the understanding of behavioural changes caused through increased remote working.
A priority objective for Higher Education in previous years has been attracting the best and brightest by focusing on employee benefits and increasing the budget for international recruiting, as this drives research funding and quality student recruitment. Recruiting talent will continue to be important for these institutions, but it will be matched with the same amount of focus being put on staff welfare and supporting the culture shift of both campus and remote working.
Institutions are already looking for HR professionals with new skill sets that meet the new requirements of future HR departments. This covers areas such as:
Mental Health and Behavioural Science
It is still unsure as to what percentage of employees have suffered from mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic but according to a survey carried out by NIHR in 2020, 27.3% of participants reported an increased level of mental distress compared to 18.9% which was recorded pre-pandemic. This percentage increase indicates that HR departments need to increase the safeguarding of their employees as well as offering support to facilitate this escalation. The cost to an institution managing this transition will be substantial as there will be a surge in demand when recruiting the right talent, as they will need to be qualified in providing the workforce with current and inclusive administration support. Having new systems in place that are able to manage these new requirements will be vital, especially when ensuring the correct procedures are being followed.
Another trending factor is bridging the gap between in-house and remote working. Many employees are currently getting ready to go back to the office and so focus has shifted to trying to make that cultural shift as holistic as possible. Getting the balance right between safeguarding employees at home and in the office is a key objective for many HR departments as well as managing employees productively.
Randstad’s COVID-19 Surveillance Report revealed that 78 percent of companies found that remote work was more effective than they thought it would be and that productivity has remained the same or has even improved as employees have worked from home.
It is interesting that with so much new responsibility, HR professionals within visionary institutions are looking to new HR administration systems to deliver transformation across the institution rather than better functionality and self-service. The same market leading Human Capital Management systems that have been doing well in the commercial world like SAP’s SuccessFactors are being selected by universities as part of major transformation programmes.
It has also been interesting to see some recently combined tenders for new systems that have come out for HR and Finance solutions rather than Finance and HR solutions. This slight change in terminology could potentially represent a fundamental change in focus in these institutions.
To find out more about the sort of talent based systems being considered by other universities join the NTT DATA Business Solution session “Leveraging the latest digital technology to improve Employee Experience” at the UHR conference at 11.45am on Tuesday 11th May 2021.
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