Many university leaders know instinctively that labor makes up the biggest portion of their institution’s budget. In fact, research indicates workforce costs constitute 60-70% of the operating budget for universities. This equates to $600,000 on average per staff member across their tenure at the university, according to EAB’s analysis. And yet, higher ed leaders often fail to check in on or manage staff talent like their other strategic investments―despite it being their biggest one.
Gen Z, more than any other generation, demands employers invest in their career.
Underdeveloped performance management also has wide-reaching effects on other dimensions of talent strategy, like staff recruitment and retention. On one end, institutions with poor performance management may struggle to recruit Gen Z staff who strongly value performance feedback. On the other end, they may also fail to retain strong performers due to lack of recognition, as managers evade giving feedback and miss opportunities to develop and advance their staff within the institution.
There have been people at my institution who have been here for 25 years and never received a performance review."
Chief Human Resources OfficerPublic Research University
What performance management can do for you
Effective performance management crosscuts multiple talent issues and ultimately lays the foundation for other strategic talent initiatives. Here are four ways performance management can help your institution advance talent objectives:
- Inflect individual and institutional performance: By holding employees accountable for their goals and regularly checking in on employee progress, managers can help their staff grow and improve. Additionally, staff are more engaged when they receive feedback, and 96% of organizations see higher levels of engagement after updating their performance management infrastructure. Considering out-of-sector organizations have 21% greater profitability with an engaged workforce, developing an effective performance management infrastructure proves to be a worthwhile investment.
- Reduce turnover: When managers have frequent and consistent performance conversations with their direct reports, it can help lower staff turnover. Companies with a regular feedback system report a 15% lower turnover rate than companies without regular feedback.
- Facilitate professional development: Now more than ever, staff members demand that their employer invest in their professional development, and 88% of job seekers prefer employers who offer an abundance of career advancement opportunities. Performance management enables staff to understand the skills they need to advance their careers and ensures managers identify and develop high performers to fill critical roles in the future.
- Boost recognition: Performance reviews document employees’ contributions to an organization and help identify and assess high performers. Recognition is one of the top drivers of employee retention, and organizations with a high-recognition culture tout a 30% lower voluntary turnover rate. Yet, only half of current higher ed employees feel recognized for their contributions to their institution. Performance management can drive that upwards.
While colleges and universities have historically underinvested in performance management, EAB found that a third of higher ed institutions have made changes to their performance management system within the last year. This suggests campus leaders are starting to recognize that performance management is a powerful recruitment and retention lever worth investing in—and EAB is here to help.
Ready to start your institution’s performance revamp? Contact your EAB Strategic Leader to schedule an expert-facilitated session.
 EAB analysis, calculated by multiplying the average salary of a staff member in higher education (i.e., $60,000) by their average tenure (i.e., 10 years).
Caylie is a Research Analyst at EAB on the Market Insights team. On Market Insights, she conducts market research to identify opportunities for academic development in higher education, and evaluates existing academic offerings. She spends her free time running around DC, working on personal writing projects, and reading.