Tim Tai

Employers around the nation are facing heightened turnover and retention issues, and Yale has not been exempt.

According to vice president for human resources John Whelan, the University currently has around 900 open staff positions across over a dozen operations, including information technology, facilities and hospitality. These turnover trends fall in line with economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw low retention rates in most major industries. But in spite of this pattern, administrators are confident that numbers will return to normal levels as the University prepares for a post-pandemic age.

“I’m not sure I’d call what’s happened here at Yale ‘the Great Resignation’,” University Senior Vice President for Operations Jack Callahan ’80 said. “But we’ve definitely seen a step up in our turnover.”

University President Peter Salovey told the News that he believed that this is largely due to two factors: the COVID-19 pandemic and a robust job market.

According to Salovey, the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed people to reflect on their lives and convinced them that they either want to retire or “do something different.” Second, Salovey said, a strong economy “at least up until now” has provided opportunities for people to get a job elsewhere that they might prefer.

Callahan also attributed a dynamic job market and new remote work offerings as options which make it easier for some people to change jobs in the short term.

John Whelan, vice president of human resources at Yale, told the News that staff turnover has increased by approximately three percent since pre-pandemic years. He added that, regardless of the uptick in Yale’s turnover numbers, he believes the University is in a “better situation” than other companies and organizations across the country.

The number of vacant staff positions has “remained high” according to Whelan, with around 900 open spots as of now. Yet the administration seems to be making headway — in the last fiscal year, Whelan said that the University has filled more than 2,500 open staff positions, and they expect employee retention to return to pre-pandemic levels soon.

Whelan also noted that the University introduced “meaningful benefits” for staff during the “uncertainty” of the pandemic, which included new retirement incentives and an annual childcare subsidy program. He noted that these incentives “partially contributed” to an increase in staff turnover.

Both Whelan and Callahan also stressed that the current turnover trend is beginning to slow, and that it is not “unusual” to have a high number of open staff positions.

“I’m not concerned at all,” Whelan said. “I don’t see any red flags at the University.”

While staff turnover has had impacts on University operations, the range of such challenges varies across departments. Administrative officials don’t view recruiting and turnover as an “average issue” across all of the University’s units, Callahan said.

At Yale Hospitality, Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications Christelle Ramos told the News last month that shortages in staff numbers have affected services at dining locations.

“The unique staffing shortage is not news to our team members, hospitality workers in general, and throughout the nation,” Ramos previously wrote in an email to the News. “They continue to be on the front line of this situation and the shortage is visible and tangible when they come to work each day.”

Ramos directed the News to Whelan for further comment.

On the other hand, Vice President for Information Technology John Barden told the News that he doesn’t see “any major challenges” in his department in terms of delivering on projects, but that the pace by which such projects can be completed can be impacted by whether the department is “fully staffed” across all projects.

“How we manage the [department’s] priorities and staffing can get challenging when there’s lots of vacancies,” Barden said.

Barden also expressed hope that changing dynamics in the hiring market as well as economic measures would mean that uncertainty would slow down in the coming days — particularly in the IT market.

The most significant expenses of Yale’s spending budget are salaries and benefits for faculty and staff, which account for $3.19 billion for the 2023 fiscal year and is almost two thirds of the University’s budgeted expenses.

William Porayouw covered Woodbridge Hall for the News and previously reported on international strategy at Yale. Originally from Redlands, California, he is an economics and global affairs major in Davenport College.