The many benefits of working in HE need to be better understood

By Roshan Israni, Deputy Chief Executive, UCEA 
19 July 2022

It is clear that the pandemic has changed the face of most of our working lives forever. Whether the Great Resignation and/ or the Great Relocation will last or not, employers continue to see a big shift in how employees are now making choices about the organisation they want to work for based on so much more than pay. Of course pay is vital and more so than ever in the current inflationary environment, but what value employees place on different components of their reward package is fast changing. The pandemic has driven flexible working up the list as so many people experienced first-hand just how their working lives could be transformed through a non-financial benefit.

In my March blog, Enhancing the HE employee experience, I emphasised just how important it is for our sector to embrace an approach that looks at the whole employee journey. Our new Benefits of Working in HE report should be viewed in the context of UCEA’s upcoming work on the employee experience, as benefits form just one part of the employee value proposition. The report evidences the good HE practices by benchmarking these benefits against those that are offered in other sectors. 

Benchmarking the employment benefits that HE institutions provided showed the sector as a highly competitive employer with annual leave allowances, closure days, maternity provision and defined benefit pension schemes all more generous than in other sectors. The report shows that flexible working was one of the top three areas that employees value, followed closely by providing a good learning experience for students. Around seven in ten institutions reported that staff valued the environment in HE institutions, working with like-minded people. Similar rates reported holiday provisions and pensions as being highly valued. There was consensus amongst respondents regarding what their staff value about working in HE / for their organisation, with a high proportion (86%) reporting it is a “Sense of pride in the HEI’s values”, the “Nice working environment” (84%), and feeling the “Work is worthwhile” (81%). 

These results are heartening, especially when the public narrative of the sector is often one which fails to highlight how much employees value these benefits. There is a need to channel the voice of the wider workforce in helping design their overall employee journey, of which reward is but one aspect. As the HE institutions resources are finite, employees can help prioritise what matters most to them. After all, employee choice can only be a good thing as the sector looks to further enhance the employee journey.