The Changing Workforce in Higher Education

How is the higher education industry preparing for a workforce ready to retire?

From the great resignation to quiet quitting to quiet hiring, the past few years have coined several terms to describe the different trends in the American workforce. But what about the great retirement?

This is a question that the higher education industry may be facing soon, as it has one of the greater shares of older workers in the U.S workforce.

With 30% of higher education staff being 55 or older, many are either beginning to think about or planning their retirements, events which pose several challenges beyond simply hiring a replacement

When an older employee leaves, their institution loses the years of knowledge and connections that they provided and built. This tribal knowledge and expertise, as well as name value for many high-profile institutions, leaves a void that isn’t easily replaced.

In addition, the higher education industry is noticing that younger employees are leaving at a higher rate, both due to the competitive labor market and non-monetary issues such as ESG or DEI initiatives.

While workforce attrition can pose issues for any organization, the higher education industry workforce shift poses several unique risks and challenges, including:

  • Potential for greater risks to operations and internal controls at university institutions
  • Challenges to meet compliance and other reporting requirements
  • Concern with the ability to bring in or recruit new resources and employees to fill the void left by the leaving workforce
  • Challenges of hiring a more diverse workforce and meeting the new workforce’s demands
  • Department turnover causing reporting and operational issues due to lost knowledge
How Can Higher Education Manage the Shifting Workforce?

Faculty and staff retirements will happen. And it should be celebrated when any professional can retire to enjoy the rest of their years. That’s why the focus shouldn’t be on this life stage but rather on creating a talent pool ready to take over, ready to stay and ready to recruit new contributors. Some key steps the higher education industry can take to manage high retirement levels include:

  • Prioritize inclusive hiring of employees, which includes providing opportunities for older employees to continue to work if they so wish
  • Actively recruit a younger and a more diverse workforce
  • Establish well documented policies and procedures within individual institution departments to better facilitate onboarding and training of new employees
  • Address pay equality and salary compression in order to implement better employment retention strategies

If you have any questions surrounding the changing workforce in higher education, please contact the Schneider Downs Higher Education Industry Group at [email protected].

About Schneider Downs Higher Education Services

The Schneider Downs Higher Education industry group is a dedicated team of experienced professionals specializing in serving institutions from high schools to universities. Our experience in audit and assurance, tax advisory, technology and data and more allow our professionals to stay ahead of the latest trends, developments and challenges within the education sector and provide timely and practical solutions to our clients. 

To learn more, visit our Higher Education Industry Group page. 

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The Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog exists to create a dialogue on issues that are important to organizations and individuals. While we enjoy sharing our ideas and insights, we’re especially interested in what you may have to say. If you have a question or a comment about this article – or any article from the Our Thoughts On blog – we hope you’ll share it with us. After all, a dialogue is an exchange of ideas, and we’d like to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].

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