Keene State Human Capital Inventory
High Level Executive Summary
Background and Context
Keene State College (the College) launched an initiative in the fall of 2014 to conduct a human capital inventory to ensure its workforce is effectively aligned to its vision for the future and evolving strategic plan. As part of this initiative, the College commissioned an external review to assess and evaluate its overall workforce and identify opportunities for improving human capital strategies and plans. The external review was conducted by Sibson Consulting, a nationally recognized higher education consulting firm, between December 2014 and March 2015. Sibson reviewed a wide range of College documents and data and conducted interviews with approximately 90 campus leaders, faculty, and staff in order to assess current workforce trends, structures, competencies, organizational effectiveness, roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, performance, learning and development needs, and overall culture.
Human Capital Strengths
The College has strong potential from a human capital perspective to meet its vision and aspirations for the future and effectively implement its strategic plan. A dedicated and committed core of faculty and staff that has served the campus for many years provides solid knowledge and expertise across the institution.
The College is also entering an exciting time in its evolution, with dynamic and talented new leadership that is poised to elevate the performance of the College and leverage its full potential. An emerging aspirational strategic plan will establish a new vision and roadmap for the College’s future, and the human capital inventory will help guide human capital decisions and investments needed to support that vision and plan.
Staffing Levels, Organizational Structure, Competencies and Skills
The human capital inventory revealed a number of particular areas where current staffing levels may not fully support future needs and objectives. Distribution of faculty resources also appears to be uneven, as faculty growth has not kept pace with sharp increases in student enrollment in some areas, and this imbalance should be addressed in a long-term academic plan. The appropriate level of adjunct faculty, with corresponding support and development of adjuncts, should also be determined as part of the larger academic plan to provide the highest levels of quality teaching and learning.
There are also pockets of the workforce that are aging, and significant turnover from retirements should be anticipated over the next 5-10 years, particularly among the faculty and in several specific academic departments. There currently is no formal long-term hiring or succession plan to support these anticipated retirements, creating future recruitment challenges and placing effective transfer of institutional knowledge at risk. A clear succession strategy and plan should be devised to prepare for these significant shifts in the workforce in the coming decade.
Several organizational structure changes over the last year have been positive moves toward supporting a strong framework for the College. There remain opportunities to make additional organizational structure improvements to better position the College to meet its future vision. Among the academic enterprise, providing greater incentives to serve as Chair, as well as establishing greater authority and empowerment of the Chair role should be considered in order to enhance levels of overall accountability and performance across departments.
While the College has many areas of strong faculty and staff competencies, there are areas where critical skill gaps exist and service levels are viewed as needing improvement. Targeted strategies to address these gaps through recruitment and effective performance management efforts will be necessary. Bolstering institutional skill development by providing training and development options to the campus will be necessary to equip faculty and staff with the right skills and competencies. In addition, current leadership strengths and capabilities are varied, and comprehensive leadership development should be a significant focus of future training and learning efforts to provide consistently strong and effective leadership of the College’s faculty and staff.
Culture and Morale
A culture with high levels of faculty and staff commitment and engagement will be important in positioning the College for long-term success. However, there is evidence to suggest that morale and levels of trust in many pockets of the culture are low, which is likely resulting in lower levels of engagement and performance. Building higher levels of respect and civility among faculty and staff, improving communication, increasing faculty and staff collaboration, and effectively recognizing and rewarding contributions of faculty and staff will be critical to enhancing the culture. A formalized initiative around enhancing the work culture and becoming a recognized great college to work for would also help establish a culture of excellence and sustain a more positive and productive work environment.
Strategic Human Capital and Workforce Strategies
Targeted human capital strategies will be required to support key strategic priorities identified by the College. Effective plans to support the strategic priority of achieving a truly diverse workforce and genuinely inclusive work culture will be necessary for achieving successful outcomes. A diversity strategic plan focused on recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff and building cross-cultural competencies among leaders, faculty, and staff should be developed.
As the College moves forward with implementing its strategic priority of enhancing academic rigor and student success, targeted human capital efforts to bolster advising and other student support functions, and establishing a clear vision and strategy for enrollment management, will be critical to ensuring high levels of student success and increasing academic rigor.
Employing the broad range of necessary human capital strategies to support the institution’s overall vision and goals, and that mirror leading practices, requires the leadership of a high performing, strategic HR organization. A historical focus on the necessary operational and transactional pieces of HR have left little time for providing more strategic and value-added programs and services. Transforming HR through a targeted effort to reduce cumbersome processes and functions that exist today will create capacity to build more strategic services within HR that will support a premier 21st Century Workforce.
The College’s human resources are its competitive differentiator, and a strong foundation that supports the College’s faculty and staff will be critical to supporting its future vision and achieving its full potential. Instituting key human capital strategies and plans will be fundamental to building and sustaining a strong organization and culture that supports a pre-eminent public liberal arts institution of the 21st century.