Lessons from the Universities Australia Conference
This year’s Universities Australia Conference focused on disruption in the Higher Education sector. Disruption in how universities improve services to students by ensuring appropriate academic and administrative support models are in place. This covered the need to improve processes, clarify roles and responsibilities and implement technology, as ‘business as usual’ will be no longer be usual in the coming years.
The Federal Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Simon Birmingham, put all universities on notice – become more efficient or lose further funding.
Having worked alongside the middle management of universities across Australia, helping them to drive change, implement technology, minimise bottlenecks and improve processes, we can often find resistance in upper management and a lack of understanding around the urgency of implementing these change projects.
This conference was quite refreshing in that it brought these issues to the forefront and showed senior leaders the importance of innovation and digital technologies, which will hopefully make the task of pushing these projects through easier for middle managers.
To help you further, I thought I would share with you the key takeaways that I believe are crucial for the university sector to take on board.
Students require new skills due to the gig economy
There was a lot of talk about the gig economy and the rise of temporary positions and short-term engagements of independent workers. This change in working style will require students to have new skills, and if they need new skills then the teachers, courses, delivery of information and roles throughout the university need to change alongside it.
New technology is the answer to greater efficiency
There was a big push towards workplace and process innovation and the need to drive greater efficiency with technology, something DVE Business Solutions has been passionate about for the last ten years.
We heard a lot about UBER universities, chatbots and utilising technology to improve communication, streamline processes and collect data. Chatbots, for example, in addition to answering student requests on your website, can also store large amounts of data that can give insight into the website behaviours of students and illuminate what information is missing that students need available.
Restructure doesn’t equal redundancy
There were two brilliant case studies shared that proved the point that a restructure doesn’t need to equate to layoffs. Unfortunately, in the sector, one has often been linked to the other, so it was refreshing to hear a different take on this issue.
First, we heard from Ahmed Fahour, the previous CEO of Australia Post who gave the perfect example of the positive outcomes that can be achieved by informing and including people in change programs. Realising that changes needed to be made in the delivery of Australia Post’s services, he made the bold move to turn the organisation on its head by increasing online package service income.
Despite roles no longer existing for many of his staff, he was able to maintain 10,000 jobs by upskilling his team, realigning roles and finding new ways of working.
We then heard from Annelle Haytens the Vice President of Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China, Cisco Systems who spoke about digital disruption in her industry, and how she discovered that out of 20,000 employees surveyed, only a third were ready for a digital way of working.
To better prepare her staff she also changed staff roles and provided additional training to help her team become more skilled and agile. Annelle also spoke about how the university sector needs to focus on skilling the next generation of the workforce for digital and shared the following three areas of priority for universities to focus on:
- Conduct a mass reskilling of workers.
- Develop a talent pipeline for the gig economy.
- Accelerate the benefits of digital for economies of scale.
Take your team’s temperature through change
This little gem was also shared by Annelle. As she was making changes within Cisco Systems, instead of waiting for the annual review to check in on her team that is quite standard in universities, she surveyed her team monthly.
This quick temperature check allowed her to see how they were doing and to quickly make changes or provide support when needed to keep her team performing at their best.
All in all, it was an informative conference that brought home the idea that disruption is both required and inevitable. Universities do have control over what they choose to disrupt, but they need to be willing to do it now.
Want to find out how you can start implementing some of these lessons in your university or educational institution? Contact us today on 1800 870 677.