3 Ways to Create a High Performing Culture
It is a busy time of the year and enrollment professionals are attempting to craft their next class, but before you get too involved with file reading behind closed doors, you might want to ensure that you have a high performing team that is ready to provide the very best customer service to students and their families. While you are rating and reviewing you want to know that your team is performing at a high level for each visitor. Higher Education has become an increasingly competitive arena with many schools not quite making their enrollment goals either with the number of students or with the best students. What do you think you could do right now to ensure that your next year is a solid productive one? There are actually a number of things to ensure that your student visitors are excited to enroll and move into their residence hall.
Let’s dive into how you might create a high performing team that can ensure you are at the top of every student’s list in the college search. First and most important you need to hire the right people and keep them engaged. I am sure that you agonize sometimes over the hiring decision. We have all been there, but have you thought about really understanding and getting to know your job applicants. I recommend trying out assessments to compliment your interview process. Too many times, a candidate can “talk the talk” through an interview but after months of tours, will they still be able to “walk the walk?” A reliable assessment I like to use with my clients is the Profile XT. It will tell you about the cognitive ability, thinking style and interest level of your job applicants. For instance, don’t you want to be sure if you are hiring a financial aid professional that you know their analytical skills and mathematical competencies? And what about their organizational skills? You do want to create an efficient, streamlined operation, right? Also, are they really engaged in this position, or are they just trying to get a position at your college or university?
Thinking styles are also critically important. An assessment will give you data that rates your job applicants manageability, attitude, energy, independence, sociability and other behaviors that will be important when you decide how you want to train and onboard this new staff member. Also, will they fit into your team? This is critically important. You can customize your expectations based on your KPIs for the position in the job match dashboard and know that not only is this candidate your top selection but that they will match your expectations and if you ask for an assessment for all of your team members you will then be able to know who on your team is the role model for everyone else to imitate.
Also, as you work through the assessment you can compare the assessment of your top performers to others and then you will understand why certain staff members are successful, and you can begin to look for those thinking styles in your job applicants. Office efficiency and customer service can add value to your families visit. Families expect technology at its optimum and they demand a high level of service, and with an organized, efficient, engaged team you will experience benefits in enrollment. Students want to enroll at colleges and universities, on their short list that is designed well and respond to their wants and needs in a timely and efficient manner.
Secondly, After you assess the team, then you need to partner with a consultant, coach or trainer to ensure that your team is creating that magical day for students to visit campus. A variety of consultants can provide customer service training for your staff. They should be able to design the training based on your expectations and the needs of your team. Students are coached and they know what to look for when they make these all-important visits, and you need to live up to your promise statements on the website. If you advertise a customer-service, friendly admission team, then you need to deliver. Therefore, it is up to you to ensure that your team is excited and engaged in every student’s visit, every day. If you know you have social, assertive, enterprising team members, training becomes so much easier. When your team enjoys answering the questions posed by visitors, and realizes each student’s expectations, the tour can be customized to ensure that each visitor sees and learns about their path to their future. Give them what they want! The elevator speech is a great idea but today’s student sees right through the scripted admission counselor. They want to see what excites them personally. They crave customization. These students are savvy and they are looking for a “me” experience. Nothing is worse than a STEM student coming to your campus, in search of seeing the STEM lab that you have showcased on your website, and instead, they spend most of their time in your fabulous art gallery. We know the art program is glitzy and easy to show and that is why it is on the tour but this particular student needs to spend the majority of time on-campus talking to STEM students and faculty and spending time in the labs with their future classmates. In contrast, your visiting artists want to spend time in the theatre and the gallery and the STEM lab is a quick walkthrough. Each visitor needs to be able to visualize their future. If they can see it, they will want it, and then they will make certain that they attain it.
After the visit, wouldn’t it be great if they received a phone call from a recent graduate who is working in a research facility or as a physician or surgeon? And, it would be even more advantageous to your enrollment efforts if the recent graduate offered to host the student for a day and show them all that your college or university taught them during their 4 years on-campus. This is customer service the way this generation of students want it. It is about touch points and matching up students with team members that can create the vision. When a student comes to your campus, you need to create the vision that they have been dreaming about and if your team cannot set up that process then just know that someone at another prestigious college will. If your team is engaged they can create this experience, if not, they will underperform on visit days, and it will be reflected in your yield.
Lastly, and most importantly, you need to promote the training to create momentum within your team. A happy team that is engaged in the process, creates momentum and once they see their achievements the excitement becomes contagious with not just your staff of admission professionals but also the student ambassadors, the parents in the community and the alumni. You need the entire village to become excited and rally around the idea of creating the vision for every student that steps on campus, every time. Hopefully, they are up to the challenge, and if you motivate them with a great work culture and opportunities for continued growth they will step up to the challenge and actually appreciate the plan. And, because you completed the assessments, you know who your high potential staff members are so you can let them help you create the synergy.
You can do this a number of ways depending on your team. You can customize every tour, you can hand select your admission ambassadors so that you are employing students in each major you offer, and you can also hand select your parent community and your recent graduates. The parents might come from different areas of the city, state or country. They can be regional and national representatives for you, and the graduates can be willing and able to talk to students about their path directly out of your college or university to their current profession. They might even offer internships after they enroll at your school. How can a student turn down an offer like that? If your team is trained and engaged for this level of customization, you can appoint team leaders to employ each of these steps along the visit path. For very large institutions, you can appoint leaders by division and customize visits by major to ensure that students are seeing the way to their future. You will be surprised to see how creative a trained and motivated team can employ new ways to deliver individualized customer service. Eventually, the team leaders will create the plan and design the steps more efficiently and creatively than you could have imagined. This is real ownership in the plan. It is a lot of work in the implementation and design phase but once your team begins creating the visit days your job becomes so much easier.
It is really that simple. Let’s summarize the three ways to create the high performing culture for efficiency and customer service:
1. Assess the team for performance and appoint high potential staff to lead roles
2. Train, coach, and mobilize the community to create a vision for the visitor
3. Create momentum within the culture to deliver the plan
1,2,3 it really is enrollment by the numbers, and it works. It is all about ensuring that your culture is performing at their best so that they can create the vision that visiting students expect.