There is an old wisdom that the only wise decisions universities need to make are those related to recruitment – of staff and students alike. Success in these is likely to translate into success in general.
Last week, staff recruitment was extensively discussed between heads of faculties, departments and independent institutes in a seminar aimed at the UEF leadership. According to my understanding, there was a wide consensus on moving from recruitments that are based on curricula and academic subjects to those that are based on the university’s strategy and its thematic entities. If the strategy doesn’t guide our recruitments, then there is no need for it.
Heads of faculties, departments and units need to have access to the big picture about staff and funding in order to do real strategic HR planning. A mere review of annual vacancies is not enough.
Furthermore, our recruitment processes need to become increasingly flexible and faster. It is not likely that we are able to attract top players if it takes months or even years to make the recruitment decision. However, this is something that we can change by streamlining our own instructions and practices, and this is also something the Finnish legal framework allows us to do.
With a clear idea of the kind of expertise, orientation, social skills, etc., expected of the candidate, we are more likely to succeed in our recruitments compared to just publishing a public notice of vacancy and seeing what kinds of applicants it attracts. This calls for active recruitment: following the doings of potential candidates in several channels and over a longer period of time – and our own networks also come in handy. Furthermore, experts from outside Finland are not likely to venture to a new country and new university without any prior knowledge of the destination and people there, so communicating actively on both sides before the recruitment is essential.
Whether to invest in recruiting people from outside or from within the organisation is a topic of much discussion when it comes to recruitment. The fact remains that Finnish universities tend to recruit too much from within, and there is too little national and international mobility – which are essentially important. However, quality should be the decisive factor also here. No matter where the candidate comes from, we need to make sure that we hire the best and most committed individual.
Thanks to profiling funding obtained from the Academy of Finland and our own strategic funding, we are in a position to make a significant number of new recruitments in the near future. Succeeding in these will affect our success in the long run, so what we need now is an active, flexible and quality driven approach.