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The Board’s Role in Campus Talent Management

Most higher education boards of trustees (or insert similar title here) take very seriously their role in overseeing the leadership of the institutions they serve and championing efforts to guide and support the needs of higher education. Most boards clearly see their roles relative to student success and campus finances … including the ever-popular building construction and renovation projects that are so visible on our campuses. While these roles are critically important, do our boards spend enough time discussing and evaluating our employee talent management strategies?

Having spent my entire career in human resources, and most of that career in higher education human resources, I will be the first to say that the last thing we need are boards of trustees who micromanage how we engage and motivate our faculty and staff. That said, if our employees are the ultimate creators of our campus culture and our ultimate success, should we not be more accountable to our boards for what we are (or are not) doing to develop and engage employees to ensure short-term and long-term success? Isn’t it important that our boards know that our workforce is strong? That there are areas of concern? That there are campus leaders who are being developed for future leadership roles?

To take this conversation a step further, shouldn’t people issues be part of the discussion of every board committee? Since the majority of every institution’s budget is people, most decisions will have an impact on people. And shouldn’t the chief human resource officer be the facilitator of many of these discussions? In a July 2011 report from Creelman Lambert Research, researchers “found there is no longer any question as to whether good boards take HR factors seriously. People issues are a major concern for most boards relating to the performance and development of the board itself, the top team, the succession and talent pool and the broader workforce … in good companies HR is no longer sitting on the sidelines hoping the board will start taking human capital seriously.”

What do you think the board’s role should be in the evaluation and oversight of campus talent management strategies? Is there a clear line to delineate the board’s role or does this fall into the gray area so familiar to most higher education institutions?

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