From ensuring you hire the right people for your team to making sure they have the appropriate knowledge and resources to perform effectively and consistently, assembling a team of highly effective admissions professionals takes a lot of time, money, and effort. Burnout, the lure of higher paying jobs, and poor performance are all realities enrollment directors face when managing an admissions team. The big question is – how can you make certain your admissions team members stay motivated and happy?
Motivation Comes from Within
Successful admissions professionals must be inspired by this work and should be able to use that inspiration to encourage prospective students to enroll at your institution. In other words, they must have an inner desire to want to help people and must feel a sense of reward by watching someone they helped succeed.
So, what does this mean to a busy enrollment director? Your professional development plans must include opportunities for your admissions staff to celebrate their successes by reflecting on the lives they are changing. This can be done by sharing student testimonials, not only internally during team meetings, but externally as part of your marketing and outreach to prospective students. When an admissions professional can see and hear the value of the life-changing service he or she provides to your institution’s students, great things can happen. Ensure your admissions staff has the opportunity to attend your institution’s graduation ceremony and be a part of your students’ journeys from beginning to end. Allow your admissions staff the ability to check in with their enrolled students on a regular basis after they start classes. Not only can this strengthen the relationship the student has with your institution which can lead to better student retention, it also allows for the opportunity to generate referrals, which can be motivating and gratifying for an admissions professional. What’s more, it allows your admissions staff the opportunity to see the success of their students in real-time. For those of us who have been in higher education for many years, we can say with certainty that we can’t think of a much more rewarding career than watching students who lacked confidence and belief in themselves choose faith over fear and complete their degrees.
Praise and Recognition
We all love to feel good about what we do and to be praised for our achievements. Learn what’s important to each of your staff members in terms of praise and recognition. Some professionals prefer public praise while others like to know they are doing a great job but prefer one-on-one recognition from leadership. Once you know what makes each of your staff members “tick,” reward them with praise and recognition and ensure they understand how grateful you and the institution’s leadership team are for their hard work and dedication. By nature, admissions professionals can be emotional beings and not only need to hear praise, but they need to see and feel it through action.
There are several ways to recognize your staff members. Consider weekly huddles where you and your team strategize and set goals for the week as well as recognize individual and team successes from the week prior. We recommend team huddles to positively focus on the goals ahead. They also present a great opportunity to allow your team to discuss any challenges or obstacles they may be facing and problem-solve together. In addition to huddles, send out regular team emails that include notes of praise, and copy key institution leaders when appropriate. Ensure you hold regular one-on-one meetings with your staff members and recognize them for their successes during those meetings.
Lastly, as you develop your plan to praise and recognize your staff, think of ways to make it fun. Have a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual “awards” ceremony where you treat the team to a meal, give out silly and serious awards, and perhaps allow time for a fun skit or two. Purchase a few trophies and give them out to the team members who have the most enrollments during a particular period of time or who bring in the most referrals for the month. There are many opportunities to be creative and foster an environment that builds enthusiasm and excitement for nontraditional admissions.
Let Them Lead
Successful admissions professionals have a wealth of knowledge and experience and can be your best motivators and teachers. Let’s be honest – while our work in admissions is noble and can be wonderfully rewarding, it can also be a bit monotonous. Day after day, we make phone calls, send emails and text messages, and have some of the same conversations with many prospective students. One critical way to break up that monotony and keep your staff members happy is to incorporate staff-led training sessions, workshops, brainstorming opportunities, and more into your professional development plans. Allow your staff to use their creativity and let their passion shine for their work through training sessions.
In addition to letting your staff lead through training, consider assigning each staff member as a “champion” on your team. For example, one staff member could champion your team’s referral strategy while another champions partnership initiatives and another champions your team’s collaborative recruitment activities with academic staff. The possibilities for your staff to take ownership of various aspects of your enrollment strategy are endless, and the more engaged and accountable your team members are, the higher their job satisfaction will be.
Your admissions professionals are the connection between prospective students and your institution and play a vital role in the success of your school. As such, implementing consistent and personalized ways to foster their growth and development as professionals as well as ways to ensure they remain motivated and happy should be a critical part of your leadership plan. Recruiters who are satisfied with their roles and the support they receive will enroll more students for your institution and remain in their positions longer.