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Three Challenges Faced by Higher Education (and Their Solutions!)

Sep 13, 2022

Survey Results: How Businesses Are Addressing Negative Employee Experience
Higher education institutions are in a unique position when compared to other industries. Their “customers” are students, purchasing an educational experience, knowledge, and a chance to increase their individual value in the marketplace. These customers can also be employees, in the form of student workers, a type of employee you’d be unlikely to find in any other industry.

Higher education also faces unique challenges. Challenges that will require unique solutions. Let’s look at three major trends and challenges affecting higher education to see how digital workforce management solutions are helping these institutions operate efficiently and support their employees.

Increasing Compliance and Pay Complexities

Pandemic restrictions gave rise to the remote worker and the virtual classroom. While many of these conditions have been lifted, the option to work and learn off-campus has proven to be a popular one that many wish to continue. The circumstances of COVID-19 also led to more employment choices, which has made talent retention a larger factor for institutions to consider, in addition to a rise in collective bargaining agreements.

While all these factors have created new considerations for HR, payroll, and compliance, an adequately sophisticated workforce management solution, such as the WorkForce Suite, would be fully capable of handling the complexity. Designed for optimal customizations, these tools can handle the most restrictive collective bargaining agreements, maintain balance in scheduling among different employee groups, and sustain consistent and accurate payroll without leakage.

Even aside from pandemic-related changes to the employment environment, higher education can benefit from modern workforce management. Oregon State University (OSU) was dealing with the challenge of managing over 12,000 employees of varying statuses and roles when they decided to implement the WorkForce Suite in 2012 to better handle employees. WorkForce Software has continued to evolve its solutions to meet the changing needs of institutions like OSU. One issue they encountered was maintaining compliance with protected leave rules (such as FMLA), with the university seeing an average of 300 protected leave cases each month. Tools like our Absence Compliance Tracker help institutions such as OSU nimbly adapt to changing regulations while accurately and consistently tracking leave.

Cost Management and Budget Pressures

Current market conditions have also led many prospective students to postpone or forgo a college education. Nationally, undergraduate enrollment has fallen by over 5% (1 million students) from 2019 to 2021 due to high tuition rates and student debt concerns. College costs have ballooned for decades and are becoming a significant obstacle for people who would otherwise be pursuing an education. As a result, higher ed budgets have shrunk, and educators are being pressured to keep expenses under control.

Workforce management for higher education helps reduce payroll leakage and unnecessary overtime expenses by using labor forecasting and optimization to control predicable variable costs. These savings can be spread throughout multiple departments to reduce budget pressure or passed directly to the students themselves through reduced tuition. WorkForce Software was recently lauded by Gartner Research as No. 1 in their 2022 Value Matrix for our ability to enable employee engagement, avoid fines with sophisticated compliance tools, and optimize labor with our labor forecasting solutions.

Keeping, Attracting, and Winning Top Talent

Remote work positions exploded in the aftermath of the global pandemic. Though many institutions are trying to bring workers and students back to campus and the classroom, remote work has proven so popular that many employees demand at least the option for occasional virtual work. This has led to issues in attracting and retaining talent who have more career options than ever. For education employees, turnover rates have reached 15% for non-exempt part-time staff. Another survey found 39% of higher education employees plan to quit their jobs if they are unable to have a flexible schedule that allows them to work remotely.

Modern workforce management places a heavy emphasis on employee experience for every worker—including all the moments of interaction an employee has with their employer from beginning of their first day to the end of their last. This consists not only of daily duties but also of the hiring process, training, and the relationship and interaction with management, HR, and colleagues. Research has proven that workplaces which aim for a positive employee experience report their workers are more satisfied with their roles, more engaged, more likely to feel their voices are heard, and less likely to leave for other opportunities.


An education is one of the single best indicators for future success. Higher education institutions provide a valuable service to their “customers” (that is, students), delivered by a wide variety of staff—faculty (including adjunct instructors), maintenance techs, part-/full-time workers, and graduate/student workers. To deliver the best education experience possible, those diverse workers need to have their unique needs met. WorkForce Software has the solutions you need. Please take a look at our Higher Education Industry Resource Center to learn more about how WorkForce Software can help with scheduling, labor optimization, employee experience, and more.

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