University understaffed as effects of pandemic linger – The Colgate Maroon-News

It’s been a month since students returned to campus and the 2022-2023 school year is in full swing, but many university offices are struggling to keep up due to a campus-wide staffing shortage.

As of Tuesday, September 20, Colgate’s career opportunities website had 101 posts. Because one position can represent multiple openings, the actual number of vacancies is even higher, said Director of Talent Acquisition and Development Cherie Ball. She said The Maroon News that this level of understaffing is far from normal.

“We may have had the same number over a longer period of time, but they weren’t at the same time,” she said. “We didn’t have 100 openings in one period.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, human resources could expect to receive up to 40 applications for a position — now, according to Ball, it might only receive two. Recruiting and hiring a new candidate for a position took approximately 45 days. The current timeline can range from six to eight months.

The University is not alone in experiencing staffing difficulties.

“What’s interesting is that we’re battling the same structural issues as the whole country,” President Brian Casey said. “There are universities that have asked all of their faculty and staff to volunteer to staff cafeterias because they can’t staff their dining halls – we’re not going to do that.”

When the pandemic began, Colgate halted the dozen or so ongoing searches for financial reasons, according to Ball. But, as campus life approached a “new normal,” these delayed opportunities were reopened alongside new positions.

“That’s when we started to realize, one, we have all these openings, but two, our candidate pools don’t look like they did before the pandemic anymore,” Ball said. “Around the fall of 2021 has been the biggest year [for vacancies], and now we can’t catch up. We can’t fill positions fast enough because we don’t have candidates waiting to fill them.

The pandemic changed where, how and when people worked. In what has been dubbed the “great quit,” millions quit their jobs after the pandemic and remote work began. But more generally, there has been a shift in the way professionals think about work.

“I don’t see Colgate as outperforming nationally for what appears to be a demographic shift in the nature of work,” said vice president for administration Christopher Wells.

Ball explained this change, explaining how professionals now have different job search priorities.

“They quit their jobs. Now, when they search for jobs, they’re not necessarily looking for the things that we traditionally expect of people, like salary, title, or career advancement,” she said. “They are looking more for work-life balance, work that is meaningful to them, work that gives them the opportunity to maybe spend more time with their family, to work from home.”

Wells also described how the increase in remote work opportunities has reduced the University’s local position as an employer. As remote jobs became more common, professionals could expand their job search nationwide. For example, he said, working remotely could allow a computer specialist in Hamilton to earn a salary in New York without paying rent in New York.

“There was a time when, from as far as you could see or drive in 20 minutes, Colgate was the best employer available,” Wells said. “Our competitive advantage there has deteriorated during the pandemic.”

According to Ball, the University lost potential applicants because its pay rates were not competitive enough, which further reduced an already small applicant pool.

In response, the University invested about $650,000, Wells said, to increase the pay scale for employees earning hourly wages.

“If there are fewer workers for everyone, the people who will have them will be the ones who will pay the most,” Wells said. “To stay competitive, especially for entry-level positions, we’ve had to put more money into our compensation.”

This is not the only action taken by Colgate and its human resources department to fill vacancies. Ball listed numerous initiatives, including encouraging internal promotions, expanding job qualifications, hiring temporary staff, leveraging social media, attending job fairs, increasing working hours and location flexibility and promoting well-being.

Still, Ball said the desperate need to fill vacancies will not come at the cost of the quality of applicants.

“It’s always important for us to make sure we’re trying to broaden our pools and diversify our pools, so we do our due diligence and take the time to hire good quality candidates rather than just getting bodies. in seats,” she said.

Human resources themselves are understaffed. Ball and his team are hoping to hire an additional member of his recruiting team to help fill the positions.

“Part of the challenge is that there are two of us right now,” Ball said. “We have all these openings and you can’t do the same, and so we’re not as responsive as we’d like to be able to help research move faster…the capacity isn’t there.”

Career Services, Advancement, Residential Life Office, and Information Technology Services are some of the offices on campus that have the most “critical” need for additional staff.

“These are the areas that we consider critical because they have one, so many vacancies and two, many of them are for students,” Ball said. “Obviously our students are the most important asset here and so we want to make sure students have the right experience and a lot of these vacancies could potentially impact the experience they have.”

The staffing shortage is limited to university staff, Wells said, noting that university faculties and departments have not experienced the same problem.

“The core of the student experience here is our faculty and that’s a whole different ball of wax,” he said. “We have had no difficulty recruiting professors on campus, our faculty remains world-class.”

But students still feel the effects of an understaffed campus.

Senior Gilly Orben was hoping to make a follow-up appointment with Guidance Services staff after meeting with them on September 7. She said she was told she would have an appointment every two weeks, but the fastest possible availability was in mid-October.

“I couldn’t schedule my next appointment until over a month later,” Orben said. “It was like four and a half weeks later because they didn’t have enough staff and they didn’t have enough appointment slots.”

Orben graduates at the end of this semester, which means his job search schedule starts much earlier than many other seniors.

“It was really, really frustrating because since I graduated early, I’ve been trying to apply for jobs because it’s a bit earlier than others,” Orben said. “So it’s really frustrating because I want my CV to be complete and reviewed before I start applying for jobs, and it’s delaying that process by about three weeks. So that really makes me feel unprepared.

After losing staff members this year, Career Services currently has four vacancies for which it is looking to hire full-time staff.

“Higher education is an area that naturally has a good turnover. However, this spring and summer, several colleagues have stepped down,” said Teresa Olsen, assistant vice president for career initiatives. The Maroon News in an email. “We have successfully hired a few talented new teammates, but some of our hiring processes are ongoing.”

Even after adding the maximum number of appointment hours to current counselor schedules, Olsen said career services still struggle with wait times for appointments.

“Overall, the students have been kind to our schedule,” she said. “I think they appreciate how hard our team is working to try to be helpful. But we understand that everyone will be in a better place when we get back to full roster.”

Ball and Wells agree that things are looking up.

According to Ball, larger pools of quality applicants are being built at an increased rate, and the University’s administration is optimistic about their ability to be filled.

“I think we’ve turned the corner and now we’re quickly getting to a place where we’re really dealing with vacancies in a way that’s more like the old normal,” Wells said.

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