University Commercial Services – The Road to Recovery

In light of the CUBO 2022 conference this week, there have been a lot of conversations about the road to recovery, ahead of the new academic year. The cost-of-living crisis and the rising cost of energy means many universities are looking towards their commercial teams to drive additional revenue. With some universities beginning to recover back to pre-pandemic levels of business, there is lots to be positive about. This summer the University of Birmingham and University of Warwick are hosting the Commonwealth games and the University of Brighton will be hosting the Women’s Euros. Major events continue to be attracted to campuses and I am sure we will see more coming up in the foreseeable future.

Now is the time for higher education institutions to be inventive in how they generate income services through catering, accommodation, and events.

Identifying new opportunities needs new ideas and new talent with experience from private sector businesses. This is especially key in commercial services where customer services and commercial skills are high on the agenda when considering desirable traits for new hires. Against a backdrop of a shortage of talent in the marketplace, an international job site remarked that the application rates in the UK had dropped by the following rates:

Average application per role:

  • Between 4.3 – 8.2 applications over the last 15 years
  • 1.1 application in the last 12 months
  • 0.8 applications in the past 2 months

When looking at the typical character traits of candidates working in commercial services, we are looking for individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence and emotional regulation. This can be seen internally with stakeholder management but also because of the ‘customer facing’ nature of the day-to-day role, where managing facial expressions in tough moments is of utmost importance. Having good self-control is a key part of this but can also suggest secondary traits around the decision-making process where candidates that score highly in this area are more cautious to change, a trait that needs to be carefully managed in the transition into a university role. Universities are unique in terms of the way they operate, and it can often take candidates from outside of the sector up to 6 months to a year to understand some of the intricacies of stakeholder management.

We have worked closely with Thomas International on personality profiling (PPA Assessments) and Emotional Intelligence Assessments (TEIQ) as a tool to support in identifying these traits. This enables us to look beyond a traditional CV. Personality profiling is also able to assist with the onboarding process enabling individuals to hit the ground running more quickly.

We have facilitated a number of successful permanent and interim appointments within the sector from outside education and are really excited to see the new ideas they bring.

For more information about our Commercial Services Practice and any advice on upcoming assignments, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Senior Practice Manager – James Gregory.

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