Key Takeaways from the 2023 CUPA-HR Higher Education Employee Retention Survey

What are they key takeaways from the 2023 CUPA-HR Higher Education Employee Retention Survey?

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) conducted a Higher Education Employee Retention survey in Spring 2023, with 4,782 higher-ed employees from 529 institutions. Some of the key highlights from the study are listed below:

  • The survey results point to instability within the industry, with a third of respondents that were “likely” or “very likely” to seek other employment. More than half responded, “somewhat likely”, “likely”, or “very likely” to seek other employment.
  • Employees in Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, and Academic Affairs departments are the most likely to look for another job with responses show that these careers face expanding responsibilities and limited resources that lead to staff being overworked and stressed.
  • 70.7 % of those likely to seek out new job opportunities are looking to other higher education institutions.
  • Fiscal/Business Affairs, Human Resources and Information Technology were the least likely to seek other employment.
  • Pay was the top reason cited for searching for a new job, although remote work opportunities pulled in second which isn’t a surprise considering the ongoing expectations of workplace flexibility in the post-pandemic atmosphere.
  • This difference in employee preference and current work schedules can cause unhappiness in employees and ultimately cause staff to search for other opportunities.
  • Per the CUPA-HR survey, 53.9% of those that work completely or mostly on-site are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with their current work arrangement.
The Advantages of a Hybrid Workplace in Higher Education

One way to add in some flexibility is to adapt to a hybrid workplace. This can be as simple as adding a work from home day once or twice a week, depending on the role.

This can especially help departments most at risk for retention (Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, and Academic Affairs), where roles can be performed remotely for the most part, although are mainly working on-site.

The survey also took a look at supervisors’ challenges, noting filling positions and maintaining morale as their top challenges, both of which indicate issues with employee retention.

The survey showed that supervisors are picking up responsibilities of unfilled positions or those that have left the institutions, and that 38.3% of supervisors agree that it is normal to work weekends and 63.9% agree that their job duties require additional time.

The Importance of Empowering Management in Higher Education

Creating an environment where management and supervisors have the ability to advocate for staff and make decisions on schedule flexibility, implementing adequate training for supervisors and providing adequate resources are all ways to better support management, and create a solid tone at the top to trickle down into overall staff happiness at the workplace.

Additionally, there are a few simple ways to increase job satisfaction and retention: regular verbal recognition for a job well-done, professional development opportunities/opportunities for career enhancement, regular salary increases, and taking measures to reduce overworking including distributing increased demands and responsibilities where possible.

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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