Understandably, employees in education – at all levels – focus on students’ learning. But employees in education also have a need for continuous learning and development, especially higher education employees. Academic institutions that invest in learning and development programs for both faculty and staff have more engaged employees, which can greatly impact the success of the students. According to Gallup, “Highly engaged faculty and staff members can make the difference between students who thrive and ones who fail to grow.”
Educational institutions are beleaguered with decreased funding, increasing regulations, growing public demand for accountability, and talent management challenges. A study conducted by Cornerstone On Demand shows that, despite 81% of respondents agreeing that faculty and staff have a great impact on student success, nearly half (47%) of institutions do not track or measure employee engagement. And, in the same survey of higher education institutions, 39% do not offer any form of employee engagement opportunities, such as leadership development, recognition programs or coaching. Another survey found that only 4 in 10 professors say that someone has spoken to them about their professional progress in the past year.
As a result, employee engagement in education is among the lowest in any industry with only 34% of university faculty and staff are engaged (compared to the average of 65% for all industries, from Aon Hewitt).
The Cost of Low Engagement
The education industry is paying a high cost for low employee engagement.
- 20% of teachers leave the profession in the first five years,
- 92% of teachers assigned a mentor their first year returned the next year, and 86 percent were on the job by the fifth year. However, only 84 percent of teachers without mentors returned in the second year, declining to 71 percent in the fifth year.
- In large metro areas, teachers are absent an average of 11 school days. In many districts, 28% of teachers were absent 11 to 17 days and nearly one in six (16%) were gone more than 18 days each year.
The impact of teacher attrition, absenteeism and disengagement falls not only on the financial side of education but more importantly on student success.
Increasing Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement must become a strategic priority for educational institutions. Specifically, these five steps will lead to the ability to identify weaknesses and initiatives for improving employee engagement:
- Measure current levels of engagement. A well-constructed employee survey will show you where you stand – and how you compare to others. Consider using a third-party provider to avoid bias and encourage employee participation.
- Set the tone from the top. Changes made at the workgroup level are important, but senior leadership must be seen to support and care sincerely about improving employee engagement.
- Select the right managers. Not everyone can be a good manager. It takes a unique blend of experience, talent, and personality to be a great manager. Selecting the right people to become managers is a critical element of employee engagement.
- Be accountable for engagement. All managers are responsible for the peoples’ engagement. Managers should be coached on and given effective tools for improving engagement.
- Bring Engagement to life. Employee engagement is not a once-a-year challenge – it must be the very DNA of the company and its culture.
“In higher education, innovation, differentiation, and high performance have all become universal requirements, driven by the urgency to become more competitive in the market and the fierce competition for funding,” said Declan McGrath, of MidlandHR. Improved employee engagement can be the underpinning for improvement in these areas – and more.