Anjali Khanna

HR Can Empower Educational Institutions To Meet World-Class Standards | Anjali Khanna | VP HR | Jaipuria Group of Education

Anjali KhannaMany schools, colleges, and universities are incorporating HR to have a smooth flow of work

All educational institutions function by the power of a qualified human capital, and it is imperative for these organizations to have a strong core and culture of Human Resource Development.

Being considered a business is an evident change that has emerged for educational institutions today.

With globalization and the resulting diversification of workforce, the education sector has undergone several major changes. The education industry comprising of pre-primary schools to higher education institutes and related organizations contribute to the livelihood of 120-150 million Indian citizens, thus making education industry amongst the top 5 industries of our country.

The last decade witnessed a major transformation in the higher education sector. With the steep hike in the number of graduate colleges and private universities, the competition is getting big, firm and tough. The education industry, despite the massive IT transformation it is going through, is highly dependent on its human resources. The universities and colleges have to follow various compliances imposed by the affiliating bodies which are not too easy to meet. So, to function unhindered and sustain in this competitive world HR should be considered one of the dedicated partners with its deemed decision-making powers.

HR is a people-driven process, where the professionals learn about human behaviour and understand their needs and requirements accordingly. The HR function is responsible for every aspect of an organization that affects people, resources and their needs, from the moment the need for human resources is felt to the time human resource finally decides to move out. With the advancement and application of IT in institutions, one sees drastic changes taking place across all industries, including education.

The major function of Human Resource Department is optimum utilization of workforce by creating encouraging environment to work, so that the turnover ratio is low. HR strategies of an organization directly impact the way the workforce functions. It contributes to the quality, the top-line and the bottom-line of the organization. HR also plays a key role to manage and motivate staff performance, thus select, hire, induct, train and reward employees to stay committed and be productive for the organization they work for.

Teaching faculty is at the centre of every higher educational institution. In fact, it forms the learning hub. The effective functioning of the institute is highly dependent on the skills of the faculty it employs. The reputation and name of the institution drops if the institute is not able to attract high quality educational resource. However, being in a protective environment and getting exposed to competition at their own will, these institutes determine their growth also at their own will. Consequently, the authority and accountability extended to any function is also at their will.

Every higher education institute offers a course in HR, but practically speaking, the HR function itself is the last to enter the higher education sector. Despite education being a service industry and functioning primarily through its human resources, we are yet to see the organizations having the understanding of the basic learnings of human culture. The selective presence of HR in the institutions is more transactional than transformational in nature.

At the core, most of the deliverables in higher education institutes are the same as in the service sector, but the processes and systems are very different. They are more academically-driven than job-driven. The measuring criterion for all functions is more subjective in nature and can get biased easily.

The primary HR challenge for any organization is to attract the right talent and retain it too. For educational institutions it is a two-way act where they have to firstly attract high quality students who have been academically bright with great IQ and brilliant communication skills with near-perfect presentability. This enables the institutions to attract highly reputed organizations for campus placements thus increasing the credibility of the institution in the market and hence attract high quality admissions.

However, most of such talent in India prefers to go abroad for their higher studies and ultimately finds the most lucrative jobs to settle in the developed world or get their place in tier 1 & tier 2 colleges. The bulk of higher educational institutions which are making place for themselves end up struggling to find the right candidates. In the relentless pursuit to meet their bottom line they end up making heavy investments on advertising, attracting and compromising on quality of students. This directly hits the revenue margins and creates the big problem of compromising on the number and quality of faculty being hired. A vicious circle of promoting mediocrity emerges at the level of an institute, faculty, or student body.

Whilst the hiring is done as per the rules laid down by affiliate agencies, the job is not always in tandem with the skills, interests and qualification of the employees. Multi-tasking to the extent of compromising on the quality of work is very evidently visible in many institutes.

Typically, the institutes function as a Strategic Business Unit and the unit head takes a lot of decisions within the institution. HR function per se is restricted to managing attendance, maintaining records and arranging functions, which results in correct positioning of HR in the institutions. Amidst all highly qualified professionals, the HR finds it extremely tough to prove its worth and expertise.

In the absence of a structured approach to measure the faculty performance and identify their competency gaps, there is a severe need of a practitioner to create processes to identify top performers and define adequate training needs for the low performers. In the presence of an experienced and qualified HR person the basic training and development needs of the staff are comfortably met in-house. Further, it becomes much simpler for the HR person to translate the norms defined by the accreditation agencies and ensure that the institute is not restricted in its reach and expansion.

The HR department ensures that right information reaches the right people at the right time. With regular employee engagement initiatives by the department, the institution will experience a sense of camaraderie. And the motivation level of people improves manifold.

Many B-schools or universities are placing HR in their organization to have a smooth flow of work within the organization. The reason being that HR is more organized in terms of delegating roles and responsibilities to their employees. So, using those HR roles and setting up HR in higher education would benefit the whole academy to plan their education policy and frame the requirements as per the need of their students. The paramountcy of human resource development strategies for employees has already been acknowledged in the context of universities that have established special HR departments and their activities range from mentoring incipient employees to developing leadership skills of managers.
For the education sector to meet the world-class standards of learning and teaching in the 21st century, a prominent role of human resource is inevitable.