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Amplifying Michael Fried’s Letter ‘Turnover Isn't Just a Problem at EdTech Companies’

Inside Higher Ed in conversation.

January 10, 2021
 
 

Last week, Ithaka S+R researcher Michael Fried wrote a letter to the editor that I hope to amplify by reprinting in full.

Turnover Isn't Just a Problem at EdTech Companies

January 9, 2021

Those who live in glass towers should not throw stones.

Joshua Kim’s recent opinion piece “Ed Tech’s Turnover Problem” offers several critiques of for-profit educational technology (edtech) companies in developing and retaining their staff. However, the faults found in these companies read like a summary of the employment experience of many faculty and staff members working in higher education.

While edtech employees may be "at risk" of burning out, higher education employees are actively burning out right now, both as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and from the more typical experiences of faculty, student affairs staff, and librarians, among others. For instance, attrition of staff from the field of student affairs has been estimated to hover between 50% and 60% within the first five years. Similarly, previous research also found that slightly over 80% of librarians had changed jobs within their first five years of work in the field.

The solutions Kim offers to the edtech companies, including the allocation of resources for professional development and a clear path for career growth, should also be sought by the institutions using their services. As much as institutional leaders should be encouraging their vendors to be concerned with employee “flexibility, sustainability, and growth,” those same leaders should be demanding the same for their own employees.

Turnover at edtech companies may be a problem for higher education institutions, but turnover among those institutions’ own employees is an even greater problem and something over which institutional leaders have much more direct control.

--Michael Fried
Ithaka S+R

Thank you, Michael, for extending, expanding and clarifying the issues around retention and productivity with your letter.

While I’m certainly aware of the growth of layoffs for adjunct faculty, and the growing rate of burnout across the higher ed workforce, I had not known about the high attrition numbers among librarians and student affairs professionals.

Inside Higher Ed is best when it is a conversation, and I am grateful to Michael for taking advantage of the opportunity provided to write this letter to the editor.

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