3 Keys for building a case for talent management

In Higher Education

There are more pressures on higher education institutions today than ever before. Between high turnover, health and safety concerns, and budget cuts, ensuring the wellbeing and productivity of faculty and staff has become a whole lot more complicated. At the same time, it’s also never been more critical. Your institution’s HR department must respond to these pressures by creating safe, stimulating, and professionally engaging working conditions. It must also offer people opportunities for personal growth and career development while equally fostering an inclusive and diverse work environment. And most importantly, it must be able to promote and support employee wellbeing—and resilience.

Getting this right takes a specialized set of tools; your HR department needs the right talent management solutions in place to retain, nurture, and develop the best people in the market. And yet, leadership, IT, and finance departments rarely prioritize these needs. In fact, they often fail to allocate the necessary resources to deliver on these important objectives. So, why the disconnect?

In recent years, colleges and universities have had an increased focus on improving administrative operations, especially around talent acquisition. However, as McKinsey notes, many institutions fail to adequately define the business case for talent management. Instead, they tend to lead this charge with a simple goal: reducing the administrative burden faced by HR. While this is a valuable goal in its own right, it doesn’t reflect the potential for a talent management solution to enhance an institution’s reputation and performance and also safeguard the productivity and wellbeing of its faculty and staff.

Making the business case for investing in talent management

One of the biggest barriers for investing in the right talent management solution is the lack of an urgent and compelling business case. While leadership might support the idea in theory, you need to make a clear case highlighting precisely why a talent management solution is the path towards promoting inclusivity, resilience, and employee wellbeing.

To be truly convincing, you must frame your business case in a way that closely aligns to the goals and mission of your institution.

In other words, you must:

1. Create a compelling story

2. Align HR priorities to institutional outcomes

3. Seek out allies

1. Create a compelling story

What will actually move people to act and invest in the right talent management solution? A story that is relatable and compelling. While it might be accurate to say that a reduction in administrative work will also lead to improved efficiency, it isn’t a strong enough argument on its own.

In many cases, your leadership and decision-making teams will be reluctant to allocate extra budget just because the HR team is drowning in manual work. However, if you can show how these tools will contribute to employee growth, performance, and resilience, while also strengthening the reputation of your college or university, you might just get their attention.

Here’s how you can create a compelling story that illustrates the value of this solution:

  • Start with what’s happening in your institution. Paint the picture of your existing talent landscape. Are staff and faculty engaged? Do they feel equipped with the support and training needed to thrive in the face of constant change and uncertainty? Do they have access to the help they need to maintain their wellbeing? Do they feel their culture supports diversity and inclusivity? Are they satisfied with the steps your institution is taking to address social inequities such as systemic racism and sexism?
  • Share what needs to be done. Will your institution have to hire, retain, or retrain staff to meet the needs of a growing online student body? Do you need to offer more learning opportunities to improve staff productivity, engagement, and retention? What are the specific steps you need to take to help your staff be more resilient? How can you help people manage these difficulties?
  • Explain the organizational objectives at risk with the resources you have. Campus leaders will want to know why the status quo places your strategies at risk. Like every other institution, your college or university is experiencing funding challenges and risks right now. What makes HR a smart investment to help alleviate those risks?
  • Make a proposal for additional investments. Does your institution need to offer more engaging courses and career development options for staff? Are there other ways you could be supporting wellbeing? Are there recruiting tools that could help HR engage top candidates even faster? What technology do you need to make this happen? How much will it cost?
  • Show the financial impact in terms leaders will find meaningful. Show what inaction looks like as your bottom line. Instead of simply saying that “losing a high-performing professor or administrative head costs four times that employee’s annual salary,” share the real business consequences of losing that employee in specific detail. You could point out, for example, that for the ten highest-performing staff members your institution lost last year, you faced over $2,500,000 in associated costs. This helps paint a clear picture about why employee happiness and satisfaction is really so important.

2. Align HR priorities to institutional outcomes

In higher education, leadership often starts the discussion about how to nurture and safeguard staff with a pre-determined solution in mind. In fact, as McKinsey points out, many organizations jump ahead to a decision before they fully align their priorities and outcomes. They often fail to understand how HR priorities—improving culture, ensuring employee wellbeing and productivity, and promoting diversity—relate to broader institution-wide goals. They also miss out on opportunities to build effective collaboration with key stakeholders.

All too often institutions tend to focus on just one piece of the puzzle rather than looking at the bigger picture. For example, instead of identifying talent management solutions that can offer staff the resources and support they need to thrive in changing circumstances, some institutions may only approach their decision-making process from the perspective of expected cost savings. While cost is typically a key factor in decision-making, it is only one part of the story.

The goal, therefore, is to find a way to draw a straight line between your HR department’s priorities and your institution’s key outcomes. For starters, make the case that a talent management solution will boost the engagement and productivity of faculty and staff, campus-wide. While this will help to retain your people, it will also have the added benefit of creating a better overall experience for your students, too.

3. Seek out the right allies

McKinsey suggests that making the case for new investments via a cross-functional business case team (or ‘change team’) can make it easier for an institution’s leaders to measure the cost of those investments as a function of the impact they can make.

By involving faculty, staff, and administrators in building business cases, you can tell a more compelling story—one that demonstrates the value of the investment you’re trying to make—and also reduce time-to-implementation once decisions are made.

Being successful here requires partnering with the right stakeholders and allies just as much as it requires layering on the right data, insights, and analytics to make your case even stronger. You need to be able to connect the dots between the perceived gap in not having a strong talent management solution versus the benefits that can arise from having one in place: a stronger institutional culture, significant reductions in costs, and happier employees overall.

McKinsey found that this collaborative approach can streamline the procurement process by as much as 57% making it possible to implement new solutions more quickly.

Reach out to us to learn how Cornerstone can help your institution build a stronger case for talent management.

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