Talent Retention in Education: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Over the holiday break I came across a reprint of the first edition of the publication Campus Review, which was published some 25 years ago (August 1991), and then called Australian Campus Review Weekly.  Although the publication had a different name and somewhat less stylish layout, the most striking feature was that the topics covered were remarkably similar to those dominating the higher education press today. 

The subjects of the articles included university funding (particularly research funding), secondary school education standards, gender equality and diversity, quality and fees. All of these remain topical in 2017.

Twenty-five years ago a substantial section of Australian Campus Review Weekly was also devoted to advertising higher education academic and executive positions.  Clearly talent attraction and retention within the sector has been another constant. Paper based advertising has now largely given way to more sophisticated methods of candidate identification such as executive search supported by technological innovations including on-line advertising.  In addition, the increasingly global nature of academia and ease of movement has meant that the talent has also become more mobile and more competitively sought. 

The success of Australian Universities in lifting their global rankings coupled with the growth of the sector in Asia and the Middle East, has resulted in more active poaching of Australian academic talent. As a result, the retention of talent is a major challenge facing all Australian Universities and research institutions.

As academic leaders and managers review their own Faculties, Schools, Colleges, Institutes and Divisions, how can they ensure they are best placed to meet the retention challenge?

We suggest preparing a simple talent checklist addressing the following:

  • Do you have a long term talent plan based on expected demand?
  • Do you have a good understanding of the global trends that might be affecting your specific discipline or area?
  • What are you doing to develop your best and brightest?
  • Do you have a talent retention strategy in place?
  • Are you having regular discussions with your key talent to understand what motivates them?
  • Is diversity a key focus of your institution?

A regular assessment using the above questions may go a long way to helping improve long term sustainability and performance via improved retention. The impact on organisational culture may also be significant.

Rohan A. Carr
February 2017

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