Survey: Higher Ed Supervisors Are Also Joining the ‘Great Resignation’

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

As the higher education sector deals with the repercussions of significant turnover and staffing shortages, a new report out of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) found that supervisors in higher education aren’t just struggling with filling positions and maintaining morale — they’re also working longer hours and often looking for other employment themselves.  

The report focuses on five main topics, including: what percentage of higher education supervisors will likely look for other employment opportunities in the near future; the supervisors’ work performed beyond normal hours and duties; training and support for supervisors; power for supervisors to advocate for their staff; and current challenges higher education supervisors face. 

The CUPA-HR report analyzed data from the 3,815 higher education administrators, professionals, and non-exempt staff who responded to CUPA-HR’s 2022 Higher Education Employee Retention Survey. The majority of those respondents, 57%, were supervisors. 

Overall, more than one-third of supervisors said that they are likely or somewhat likely to look for other employment in the next 12 months. CUPA-HR in the report writes that turnover in any role can impact an institution, but the loss of a supervisor has “more far-reaching implications.”

“Supervisor turnover also impacts direct reports, who must adjust to a new supervisor and may need to adapt to new team priorities and vision,” CUPA-HR writes. “Loss of supervisors also equates to a loss of leaders who are key to succession plans. In short, the loss of supervisors impacts not only the current reality of a team or department, but also may shift an institution’s direction.”

The respondents of the 2022 employment retention survey belonged to different departments at an institution, such as 25.9% from human resources, 24.7% from student affairs, 8.7% academic affairs, 7.3% from fiscal and business affairs, and 6.9% from financial aid offices. The majority of respondents were white, at 82.7%. And females made up 73% of respondents,  compared to 27% of male respondents. 

The majority of all supervisors say filing empty positions is very challenging, at 63%, and about half of all supervisors, 53.9%, say maintaining staff morale is very challenging. That’s compared to only 14% of supervisors finding managing remote staff very challenging, with 45% indicating this is not at all challenging.

The respondents were also divided into three categories: area supervisors (1,642 respondents), other supervisors (1,171 respondents), and non-supervisors (997 respondents). 

When it comes to working long hours, supervisors are more likely than non-supervisors to work additional hours. Forty-seven percent of non-supervisors work more hours than what is considered full-time, but most supervisors (89% of area supervisors and 76% of other supervisors) work more hours per week than what is considered full-time at their institution, according to CUPA-HR.

Most area and other supervisors agree that it’s normal for them to work on the weekend, at 51.7% and 42.4%, and their job duties require additional time, at 78.7% and 64.8%, respectively. Additionally, the majority of both area and other supervisors agree that they absorbed additional responsibilities of employees that have left, and experienced an increase in job expectations. 

Other findings from the report include that a majority of both area and other supervisors have the power to advocate for their staff, at 75.4% and 64.4%, respectively. Additionally, 76.9% of area supervisors say they have the power to allow their staff to have flexible schedules when possible. However, most say they lack resources and support, and a significant percentage say they have not been provided with adequate management training — likely one reason they’re working longer hours and seeking other employment, according to the report.

“When supervisors have more resources and support in their supervisory roles, more power to advocate for their staff, more power to allow flexible schedules, and more power to allow their staff to work remotely, they are less likely to seek other employment,” the report says. “The most powerful predictor of seeking new employment is not being provided with resources and support in the supervisory role, followed by not having power to advocate for staff.”

CUPA-HR makes several recommendations that institutions can take to retain their supervisors. The first is to provide supervisors with resources and support in their capacity as supervisors so that supervisors fill empty positions and manage staff morale. Other recommendations include ensuring supervisors have the power to advocate for their staff and raising salaries for supervisors, but not at the expense of raises for non-supervisors. 

“Much like the general higher ed workforce, a key reason supervisors look for other employment is to gain a higher salary,” the report states. “In an environment where many institutions face budget challenges, distributing salary increases and adjustments as equitably as possible among supervisors and non-supervisors will be key for overall retention.”


Publication Date: 1/19/2023

You must be logged in to comment on this page.

Comments Disclaimer: NASFAA welcomes and encourages readers to comment and engage in respectful conversation about the content posted here. We value thoughtful, polite, and concise comments that reflect a variety of views. Comments are not moderated by NASFAA but are reviewed periodically by staff. Users should not expect real-time responses from NASFAA. To learn more, please view NASFAA’s complete Comments Policy.

Related Content

NASFAA Movers & Shakers


Certified Financial Aid Administrator® Program Registry


View Desktop Version