In the beginning of my 30+ years serving Higher Ed Enrollment, I quickly determined that attracting and retaining effective enrollment teams is much like the old “Chicken and the Egg” debate: Which comes first? Should we attract and hire the ideal person already in possession of the necessary character and work ethic? Or should we value, fashion and invest in the current employees to create an effective team that others would want to be a part of? I believe it is both, which makes crafting an enduring, effective enrollment team a cyclical endeavor. In no particular order (WINK), let us begin with your current team…
Value the current team. You are competing with other employers, so think outside the proverbial box—average salary ranges, opportunity for promotion and yearly reviews won’t cut it. However, salary ranges are only one of many ways to show you value your team, and according to studies, not the most important. To attract and keep a team full of effective people, abandon the one-size-fits-all approach and get to know your team.
- Start by knowing your current people: what motivates them, their family circumstances, and their personal goals and challenges. Make sure your team managers do the same.
- Learn the personality styles and how to communicate with each style. Tailor extra benefits to each personality style and empower team managers to bestow as desired. For example, one person may benefit more from coming in to work later in the morning while another might benefit more from trading a couple of hours of work in order to utilize their hard-earned Master’s Degree to teach an undergrad class.
- In our Value Based Enrollment Methodology (VBEM) curriculum, using the DISC temperament model of human behavior, we assess each person’s blend of four personality styles for the dual purposes of knowing yourself and your team, as well as to identify the relational preferences of our prospective students and their constituents. This has proven highly effective and enlightening as we instruct how to utilize this knowledge.
- Balancing and setting enrollment and personal goals: Come alongside your people to empower them to discern and work through this process. By doing this, you demonstrate consideration for achievement in their work balanced with a fulfillment of personal aspirations.
As a Dean/Director, I made it part of our mission as a team to care beyond the work it would take to get our “numbers” to encouraging and supporting one another in our personal aspirations: Grad school, marriage and family, personal health, a new home, etc. This proclamation started with me! As I would share my personal aspirations and they would share theirs with me and each other, it was immediately clear that this openness not only bonded us, but it made working for and with each other to achieve our enrollment goals much more of an empathetic effort! (For our blog post on how a leader can impart purpose to their enrollment team, click here.)
- Manage with trust. Show your team members how critical trust is to you by demonstrating trust in them and your colleagues. Getting to know each team member will serve as a foundation to this trust. Encourage conversations on values, family, and hobbies. Discourage gossip and cliques—whatever you do, never ask for the scoop about another employee...EVER.
- Many HR thought-leaders advocate adding additional reviews instead of the staunch yearly reviews. I suggest scheduling reviews around key “seasons” but making sure the reviews are pertinent to the season through which the team just passed. For example, don’t review their phone skills right after the travel season ends, instead revisit their presentation effectiveness and/or travel planning implementation. Also, have regular “One-on-One” meetings throughout the year. Depending on your staff size and the number of middle managers you have supporting the team, these can be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but never longer than monthly.
- Example pending staff size: As a VP, schedule these with your Deans and Directors. Deans/Directors schedule these with the Associate(s)/Assistant(s) Deans/Directors and the Associate(s)/Assistant(s) Deans/Directors schedule these with Counselors and support staff. Ultimately, everyone would “report up” their findings.
- Verbalize appreciation. According to some studies, positive praise made employees seven times more likely to stay and eleven times more committed. In my own experience, I have found that when necessary, my own team were willing to work harder and for less pay if real, authentic compliments for catching them doing great work is a part of the culture.
- But make the compliment count: learn how different types of personalities need praise. Using the Four Temperaments model, a choleric needs to know their leadership or insights are on target, while a melancholic needs to know their highly detailed spreadsheet is appreciated and influencing decisions.
- And make the compliments regular: studies show they should be weekly.
- Lastly, clean out the dead weight. This may seem like an odd way of valuing the current team, but it’s an important part. In my opening remarks, I used the word “fashion”. I meant this to be used in two ways: Empower people into their most effective roles (reference to Good to Great by Jim Collins) AND move on from people that have demonstrated this is not the profession for them. It is likely that at least one or more team members do not pull their weight. You know it. And more importantly, the team knows it. Allowing this to continue suggests that those who do pull their weight do not matter as much as the person who doesn’t.
Start off right. According to a recent Gallup study, 30-40% of employees leave in the first six months, which results in the loss of around 200% of their salary. In the Admissions and Enrollment world, it is a common belief that the average shelf life of an Admissions Counselor is 2-3 years!
- Start with a good application process. The latest HR statistics share that if the application process is more than ten minutes long, you’ll lose half the applicants. Don’t settle for dry descriptions of office work as a job description. Understand the persona of your ideal team member and use that in the description. Examples like “This person loves this...does this naturally…” make sure the (right) potential person sees themselves working there.
- Onboarding is also key. Don’t rely on a PowerPoint to cover the necessary points, rather, tell the “why” of the department, team, and school. Share stories of how the team impacts students.
- Avoid mission-muddle by ensuring everyone on the team can share (and demonstrate) how their daily work impacts the mission of the team.
- Create plenty of reachable milestones for new team members and celebrate when they reach each one.
- Equip highly effective employees to mentor new team members. Not only can they ensure a new member feels connected on day one (which is key to their longevity), but an HBR study revealed that team members who help others (as little as 10 to 30 minutes per day) feel more capable, confident, and useful. A feeling of accomplishment and value breeds more accomplishments.
- Don't be afraid to stretch exemplary team members with work assignments that will expand their knowledge and sharpen their skills as this makes them feel valued. Additionally, allow them to explore opportunities to learn something new, such as joining a cross-departmental project, picking up another skill, leading or participating in a "lunch and learn."
This is particularly true of millennials. According to research, a key value for millennials is the ability to control their future by engaging in educational opportunities.
- Create a learning environment. Invest in the entire team by investing in ongoing, professional training.
- One Admissions Counselor told us that in his professional life, which included several professional development training engagements, VBEM was the first one to primarily emphasize his development─to empower and enhance his productivity and creativity, in turn leading to greater institutional productivity.
- Ensure employees have what they need to be successful at their job. This encompasses the point above but also includes tangible things like good equipment, the right software, and plenty of technical support. There’s nothing so demoralizing as “stupid work” or knowing, as an employee, that you’re doing something the old-fashioned way or through “work-arounds” because the department can’t afford the right software.
With 30+ years having served Higher Education Admissions and Enrollment, I have experienced much and learned more. Now with Value Based, I have the opportunity to share what I learned through the peaks and the valleys. One important lesson I coach is the benefits of taking the point of view of “pouring into my job” versus “getting out of my job”. One is selfless, the other selfish. It’s my belief that as we pour in, and see the results of our effectiveness and achieve satisfaction from it, we naturally and organically “get” from our work. With that perspective in mind, as a leader of people, seek to pour into them versus drain to get out of them. They will recognize your desire to see them thrive in their work!
Vance Pascua has served Secondary and Higher Education since 1987. A graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, he has served all the way up the ranks, from Admissions Counselor to Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid. He’s also spent significant time leading Athletic Recruitment and Retention efforts from the Admissions and Financial Aid side. Currently he serves colleges and universities by coaching and training enrollment teams with Value Based Inc.'s Enrollment Methodologies to maximize their impact and results. He enjoys musing and writing on topics like team building, innovation, and the college search and planning process. He lives in Roseville, California with his wife, Diane, and their beloved dogs, Buster and Willie.