The Top 4 HR Challenges in Higher Education

A college professor lectures to students

Human resources professionals in many industries are spending too much time on tasks that could be eliminated with the use of efficient software solutions. The challenges seem to be the same for HR professionals in higher education.

In September 2022, UKG surveyed (via a third-party) 150 HR leaders and decision-makers at higher education institutions across the U.S. to gain a deeper understanding into the greatest challenges they face on a daily basis. What we discovered was not surprising—inefficiencies and integration challenges are high on the list. But the findings validate what our UKG human capital management (HCM) experts have been saying: There are major benefits to implementing a full-suite HR, timekeeping, and payroll solution. Here’s what the research tells us:

The top 4 HR challenges in higher education

1. 75% of higher education institutions have upgraded their HR systems within the past one to three years but they’re still identifying shortfalls.

Three out of four of our respondents have upgraded their human resources systems, perhaps investing a hefty sum, but they are still not able to seamlessly complete all the HR functions necessary to properly do their jobs. This leads to inefficiencies and mistakes.  

2. 32% of HR leaders say their HR and payroll processes are not aligned with operational or strategic goals.

A full-suite HCM solution would give these institutions the tools they need to develop a culture that prioritizes employee engagement and overall satisfaction. Additionally, a full HCM suite would provide tangible data and insights into the campus workforce, which would allow HR professionals to make decisions based on analytics rather than emotion.  

3. At two-year colleges, 40% of HR leaders say their department devotes at least 50% of working hours to tasks that could ideally be handled by campus employees themselves.

Relying on manual processes to complete core HR, finance, and payroll processes limits opportunities to harness valuable data and leaves room for costly errors and inaccuracies, while outsourcing can prove inefficient as third-party costs add up.

HR departments are spending too much time on tasks they say could be eliminated with the use of employee self-service applications. This strain is particularly prevalent at two-year colleges.

4. 96% of campus leaders say an all-in-one HR, payroll, talent, time, and scheduling system would create more efficiencies for their institutions.

While current processes these institutions have implemented may be useful for managing many aspects of campus operations, our findings reinforce that there is no substitute for investing in an HCM system for administering the human side of the organization. It is vital that campus leaders invest in back-office HR technologies in higher education environments, emphasizing opportunities to automate, centralize, and simplify processes, to ensure a more streamlined at-work experience for faculty, staff, and students. (Research shows the same advice goes for K-12 districts.)

Campus administration often focuses on what they can do to enhance the student experience—after all, that is the purpose and mission of higher education. However, prioritizing staff and faculty needs also benefits the student experience. By implementing a full-suite HR, timekeeping, and payroll solution, campuses can enhance the employee experience and increase retention and satisfaction, which will positively impact the student experience.

Learn more about these findings and solutions in our full report: Technology: Higher Education’s Strategic Partner in HR.”