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Five Questions Every Higher Ed Leader Needs to Answer

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Small to mid-sized colleges and universities are being squeezed. There is pressure to maintain enrollments in shrinking markets. Inflation is driving up your costs. Talent is leaving higher ed for other industries. And on top of that, your board wants to know what you are going to do about it. We also know that higher education is a people business. Everything depends on the people you have working for you. So, let me suggest a few things for you to think about.

Do you have the right senior leaders to execute your strategic priorities?

Ultimately, four to six individuals run every organization. They set the tone, make the most significant decisions, and lead the organization (hopefully) toward the goal. So, the question is, do you have the right people in the right jobs? Do you need to replace someone, or can you wait for them to learn how to do their job?

Smaller schools are about relationships and experiences. Do you have the academic talent and staff reputation that attracts and retains enough high-caliber students to stabilize and grow enrollment?

If you have the right people at the top, what about the next level? Do you have the right faculty and staff to help you attract and retain the number—and quality—of students you need to maintain or grow the institution? Is your faculty the reason students choose to attend your school? Do you offer an outstanding quality of student experience that attracts students to your campus?

Does your strategic plan include a roadmap for identification, attraction, and retention of critical talent?

How do you know who in your organization is good at what? How do you measure, monitor, and advance talent so that you can fill the gaps? What are you doing to bring the right talent to your institution; and once they are there, what are you doing to keep them there?

Do you have the ability to flex the organization and shift resources to match demand?

Are you nimble? Have you figured out what you can stop doing so that you can reallocate those resources to what you need to start doing? Are you looking ahead far enough to anticipate what you’re going to need so you can find a way to meet that need?

Do you have someone you can talk to when issues like this come up?

Do you have a trusted, objective advisor who can help you talk through these issues? Someone who can tell you what you really need to hear, not just what they think you want to hear—someone whose sole purpose is to help you and your institution thrive?

In the end, it’s all about people.

These are easy questions to ask, but often hard to answer. Unfortunately, failure to make these questions top-of-mind and to search for answers can make it impossible to address any other questions or problems that assault you on a daily basis. In the end, it’s all about people. Make sure you have the resources you need to find the answers to these questions.

Roger Dusing, PhD, is a Senior Consultant and the Higher Education Practice Leader at OMNI. He previously served as Chief Human Resource Officer at Park University for eleven years. With over 40 years of HR experience, including 30 years in C-suite level roles, he looks forward to reflecting his passion for higher education in his work to bring affordable, high-quality HR services to small- to medium-sized colleges and universities. 

Roger holds a PhD in Business Management, with a concentration in Human Resources from Northcentral University, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University. He also authored the book “I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable About the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another.”

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