While the rest of the world continues to embrace organizational approaches of the future, higher education institutions continue to operate with models that are decades, and in some cases, centuries old. Universities have roles, responsibilities and processes built around what they’ve always done well – engage, enroll and administer to a cohort of young people entering higher education. However, as with the rest of the world, things are changing. The “traditional” model of higher education continues to evolve, making it, well, untraditional.

Students today are different. The student body today is different. The way we engage them is different. There are more adult and part-time learners than we’ve seen in the past. Digital channels to market to, enroll, and teach our students continue to proliferate. This digital transformation is both driving the change and enabling solutions to address challenges. But technology alone is not the answer.

Changes to our customer base, and the way we interact with them, demand that we reimagine how a university operates, and how to best prepare its workforce to adapt. This doesn’t mean a wholesale change – but rather a marriage of what I would call traditional values with a modern mindset. Smart technologies enable us to still serve our students as we’ve traditionally done, but in a more efficient and insightful way. To serve our students best, our workforce must continuously train and sustain those technologies. That means, working with technology as a partner, one that enables your workforce to better execute traditional services.

To support this new “radically human” workforce, universities must adopt a culture that embraces change and innovation. And the workforce must see technology as a friend, not foe, always feeling confident that technology is used to improve and optimize user experience. Technology and people working together fundamentally change the roles of the workforce itself. As many of the routine tasks are taken over by technology, your workforce will be forced to adapt, with newer roles and divisions of labor. With that comes changes in how our people are incentivized and rewarded, as newer roles and expectations require a fresh approach on traditional compensation.

So how do we get there? How can universities help their workforces to achieve it? Accenture’s Strategy practice has identified 4 key recommendations to create an agile path. How should we apply these in Higher Education?

  1. Use technology to predict tomorrow. Education leaders have access to much of this data in ERP systems. Combine this data with the talent strategy and performance management data to better understand the skills you have now, and what is needed over time.
  2. Explore digital talent platforms. With technology moving so fast, campuses should look to extend their ecosystems to partner with vendors and freelancers for specific skills (i.e. digital marketing skills). Getting these skills are becoming far more important as schools look to attract and convert more and more students through digital channels.
  3. Cultivate development and reskilling as a currency. What better place is there to reskill your talent than on your campus? Leverage that unique asset and create a more agile organization that continuously provides the skills needed to meet the demands of today’s digital and online campus.
  4. Extend the employee experience. Many universities have recently or will be investing in a new Human Capital cloud solution. Leverage this investment in time and money to truly transform the employee experience.

I’d be very happy to discuss these recommendations with you, and how you can use them to help shape your adaptable workforce of the future.


Jonathan Fry

Managing Director – Consulting, Education Lead

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