Changes happening now in higher education as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are undoubtedly having a major impact on students all across the country. The way they engage with classes and benefit from various services will undergo sweeping changes as social distancing becomes more normalized into every day human behavior.
There have been hero-like efforts by many who have conceived and delivered short-term solutions; these are the people in IT who have had to integrate systems, build custom apps, and generally drive a completely new face of the university in record time. But their solutions are helping with changes that affect more than just students.
What many may not realize is this: for schools to remain viable and adhere to their mandates, they will need to change their HR practices in order to create a workforce that can deliver the next phase of higher education. To do that will require HR processes that enable them to hire, reassign, and manage the right people to deliver solutions for the new world of higher education.
Agility to meet changing HR needs in higher education
Higher education strategies for HR have typically been built around hiring that’s mapped to long-term growth plans. But in the face of COVID-19, these plans are largely thrown out the window while schools move rapidly to adapt to their new and changing needs. As a result, a new HR playbook must be created.
Some schools have established hiring freezes. Others have reduced staff who were performing outdated functions. Others recognize that they need people who can turn their campuses into innovative engines that can recreate what a university is going to be in the post-COVID world. For some, that means hiring for these roles, while for others, it means reassigning existing staff and faculty. For each of these situations, schools need to develop effective workflows for smooth transitions and ensure they have the staff they need to limit disruption.
All of these situations require some form of organizational orchestration which can be driven by effective workflow automation. At most schools, the goal is to do whatever is necessary to finish out the school year and maintain the effective delivery of classes. But forward-thinking colleges are not only delivering for the short-term. Long-term strategies can wait, but limiting disruption by deploying the right staff is a priority. But it takes more than a checklist to ensure that goals are met.
Using workflow automation to meet immediate and long-term needs
Staffing changes involve many organizational and personal data. In order to create smooth transitions, these changes must be supported through data from HR information systems and financial applications. This enables a title change or reporting structure to become officially recognized and creates a clear view into an employee’s job description and responsibilities. It means that schools can reallocate employees where they can most be beneficial in meeting new challenges and sets up the college to be agile once a “new normal” begins to take shape. This is clearly important for the college - the HR team is able to quickly adapt as needed. But it also takes into account the issues of privacy of individual staff information.
To make this all happen requires a variety of forms, documents, requests, and decisions to be reviewed and acted on. In a normal environment, the reliance on paper forms and manual intervention for decision-making milestones might be tolerated. But with massive pressure to conserve money and be highly efficient during this time of great change, HR and IT teams have to pull together all these things into an integrated, rapidly moving set of workflows in record time.
Many BP Logix higher education customers are already using Process Director to handle these types of issues. Schools like the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and Davis Applied Technology College (DATC), near Salt Lake City, cite their ability to be flexible and quickly develop new processes as major advantages of using Process Director’s workflow automation capabilities as core to their foundation.
With a limited budget and vague goals, all college HR and IT teams need to be able to innovate to hire, reassign, and perform other essential tasks related to having an efficiently operating workforce. Process Director delivers capabilities like workflow automation and lightweight application development functionality that enable higher education HR teams to do the following:
- Rapidly build processes and create forms to collect new and existing HR information housed in existing applications, and to be able to integrate that with updated information from the employees themselves.
- Create time-dependent milestones that use automated communication and workflow to ensure that the right decision-makers are included.
- Efficient approval handling.
- Insight and visibility into all aspects of processes.
Workflow automation can intelligently apply relevant data from various applications and documents into a shareable profile of each employee. This case management approach provides clarity for all workflows that touch each employee so that important decisions that impact their working situation can be achieved faster and with greater context. Process Director also has native integration with popular HR systems like PeopleSoft and other enterprise apps which makes it easy for non-developer to build workflows with the full complement of various application modules that are relevant to employee management.
COVID-19 has clearly changed all aspects of higher education and will test the ability of university leaders to maintain the viability of their schools. When they are able to build the right school with the right people, colleges and universities will be prepared to meet the demands of the new normal. Through the application of workflow automation, colleges will be equipped to meet both the short-term changes and long-term HR demands required in our changing world.