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Ensuring Institutional Success with Human Resources and Executive Search Firms

Why are top HR roles more important now than ever?
Human Resources leaders in today’s higher education landscape are key to an institution’s success, with the primary responsibility of developing and managing a comprehensive talent strategy that advances the organizational mission. The pandemic continues to put an incredible strain on higher education institutions, thus a strain on faculty and staff. HR leaders are tasked with identifying the most effective ways to support large, sometimes dispersed teams under very challenging circumstances.

Human Resources departments are not only responsible for supporting hiring processes and administering compensation and benefits, but they also must continually evolve performance management and organizational engagement strategies for employees. HR leaders play a significant role in building the culture of an institution, including providing leadership in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), building pathways for connections with the organization’s values, and offering guidance in the optimal ways to manage teams.

What are some key challenges facing HR executives today?
Today’s higher education HR leaders need to be prepared to handle myriad challenges. From vaccination protocols to remote work to engendering a culture of belonging on campuses, HR is a critical function that can provide strategic guidance to the institution in achieving its talent goals.

One of HR’s key objectives is ensuring that faculty and staff are supported and empowered to do their jobs well. This includes exploring ways to facilitate executing job responsibilities. For example, during the pandemic, campus closures and social distancing required the support of HR leadership to ensure employees had the tools and resources to do their work remotely, while still feeling connected to their colleagues and students.

HR leaders also must contend with the toll that events of the last couple of years have taken on the employees’ mental health. HR can advise institutional leadership to increase communication, transparency and flexibility as a way to support faculty and staff. Likewise, HR should advocate for the establishment or expansion of mental health services for institutional employees.

How can executive search firms assist HR executives in their role? Explain how search consultants work with HR executives to fill senior roles?
Executive search firms are essential partners to higher education HR leaders. Search consultants assist with managing the search process, building diverse candidate pools and providing guidance to institutional search committees and hiring authorities in navigating this complex undertaking. They work with a wide variety of institutions and thus possess a valuable perspective on best practices and the expectations placed on leaders in an evolving workforce. They assist with conducting listening sessions to ensure all stakeholder voices are heard, and those sessions inform the development of the search profile. And, search consultants manage comprehensive ad campaigns, as well as leverage deep professional networks, to develop customized pools of strong and diverse candidates.

Some search firms provide valuable services in addition to executive search. For example, AGB Search offers compensation evaluation service (CES) to help clients establish appropriate and effective compensation levels for top institutional leaders. The firm also provides interim search services to ensure that institutions continue to move forward while maintaining a sense of stability during leadership transitions. Anti-bias workshops are a key offering of the firm as well, providing guidance in addressing bias and implementing “selection safeguards” in the hiring process.

Often, executive searches take several months to complete, and they can involve multiple stakeholders who expect to have an important voice in the process. Search firms bring real-time knowledge of the competitive landscape, and they provide the support HR leaders and institutions need to execute a well-run search and build consensus around appointment decisions.

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