The College Workplace: How to Deal with Workforce Changes

October 14, 2015 by Ed Weirauch

Colleges are facing declining enrollments, which in turn is causing some significant workforce changes.


Some of this country’s largest organizations are colleges and universities which can employ as many as 10,000 faculty and staff.  In Boston, Philadelphia and many other cities, the combined numbers of employees make colleges and universities the largest employers in their respective regions.

But a challenging trend has come to higher education over the last few years: declining enrollment.  Within the Pennsylvania state college system, enrollment has dropped ten percent over the last five years.  One small school recently reported a 50 percent drop in enrollment over this same period.  Both Bloomberg and the Census Bureau are reporting enrollment declines.

This may not surprise higher education human resources leaders.  The challenge has become managing their work forces at a time when, often for the first time in 50 years, fewer employees are needed to respond to fewer students.

Since 2008, managing workforce declines has become a common task for human resources leaders throughout the economy.  University leaders can draw on these successes, failures and lessons learned by knowing the following:

  • Being as open as possible during change is crucial.
  • Employees can sense what’s happening.
  • Not addressing changes will feed rumors and fears.

Consider all the alternatives: early retirement, voluntary separation, hiring freezes, etc.  And certainly consider providing staff with outplacement services during times of workforce changes.  In particular, providing higher education employees with a 21st century approach to outplacement will be important because this group may already be rather familiar with online courses and training.  If they have been learning and teaching this way on the job, they’ll expect a similar approach to help them land their next job.

Here’s what should be on your checklist of expectations:

eLearning Lessons and Integrated Tools

Look for an extensive e-Learning component to outplacement that uses two-way interactivity among tightly integrated tools, resources and content.  Just as a university system draws on a variety of services from learning to housing, so should outplacement. Resume writing, networking strategies and effective online resources should be well integrated within an outplacement program.

Higher education workers have grown accustomed to such an approach so taking a step back could prove to be discouraging.   Online guidance will ease the process and allow each worker to proceed at a pace that works individually.

Career Coaching

Even with a full online program, many job seekers benefit from time spent with a career coach.  Coaching sessions should complement online learning to reinforce skills and strategies learned in the online lessons..  For some, a coach provides an additional layer of accountability.

Convenience Factor

Services should be available aytime, day or night. In days past, outplacement services were provided in an office during traditional 9-5 business hours. Life doesn’t work that way anymore.  People will use the service more when they can go to it any time that works for them.

Tracking and Reporting

A component that allows for outreach to participants can keep them on track.  To keep people engaged, look for automated participation alerts.  Even highly motivated job seekers will benefit by an extra push or reminder that staying engaged with the program will ultimately lead to its effectiveness.

As an employer in a university setting, outplacement services are not just a perk you’re offering.  Making outplacement services available is part of your business strategy as a good (sometimes very public) employer. You have a reputation as a quality higher learning institution and workplace to protect. Make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to secure and insure yourself even in times of transition and workforce changes.



Ed Weirauch

Ed Weirauch

Resume Writer | Career Transition Coach | Public Relations | Career Assessments

In need of outplacement assistance?

At Careerminds, we care about people first. That’s why we offer personalized talent management solutions for every level at lower costs, globally.

Speak with an Expert

Log In Contact Us