Since CUPA-HR began tracking employee turnover in 2017-18, this year’s Higher Education Employee Retention Survey (ERS) shows that the higher education retention rate isn’t improving.
Turnover has increased by 81% for full-time, exempt staff and 62% for non-exempt staff across three academic years, now totaling 14.3% and 15.2%, respectively.* Among the nearly 4,800 current higher ed employees who responded to the survey, over half responded that they are at least “somewhat likely” to consider other employment opportunities in the next 12 months. Nearly a third responded that they are at least “likely.”
Employees interested in new opportunities were by far most likely to report that the main incentive motivating them was better pay or a salary increase. As more institutions are likely to be bogged by tighter budgets in the coming years, simply boosting salary pay across the board at once can seem like a tall task.
However, a deeper look into the data shows that some of employees’ biggest gripes with their institution can be more easily remedied. Specifically, the highest predictor of retention across all institutions and job types was job/satisfaction and well-being. Ultimately, it comes down to instilling in employees a decent sense of belonging and purpose.
“Although employees are most likely to say they’re looking for other opportunities to receive a pay increase, it turns out that receiving recognition for one’s contributions, being valued by others at work, and having a sense of belonging are far more important than fair pay in predicting whether employees will look for other job opportunities,” wrote the report’s authors.
Here are a few ways your institution can increase job satisfaction, create a better workplace environment and increase retention without simply having to dip into the bank.
Recognize employees’ good deeds
Only a little over half (55%) of employees agreed that they are recognized for their contributions. Employees who feel a genuine sense of belonging demonstrate a higher sense of higher job satisfaction.
Open the gates for remote work
Employees who got a taste for hybrid or fully remote work during the pandemic don’t want to let it go. However, employers don’t seem to be listening; nearly 70% of respondents said that most of their duties can be performed remotely, but only 35% are granted at least hybrid work. This may explain why 44% of employees seeking new opportunities are motivated by the chance to work outside the office.
There also seems to be a correlation between remote work and job satisfaction. Nearly half of all employees who work hybrid report that they are satisfied with their job, while only 26% of those who work entirely on-site report the same.
Job satisfaction among employees dominoes to supervisors
Supervisors (those with at least one direct report) believe that filling empty positions and maintaining staff morale are their two biggest challenges. By improving employee retention rates, supervisors are immediately less bogged down.
Additionally, four factors improve supervisors’ likelihood of not seeking employment elsewhere: the power to advocate for their staff, resources and support, adequate management training and the ability to make decisions about their staff’s schedule flexibility. The latter can be easily remedied by allowing employees to work in a hybrid setting.
*Note: A correction was made on the percentage change for full-time, exempt staff and full-time, non-exempt staff.