Enrollment and admissions has gotten more competitive over the last few years. Overall enrollment is declining, meanwhile, students are more savvy than ever before. They expect to see a return on their investment. In this tough climate, your advisors need adequate admissions training and development to succeed. Through continuous training, you give enrollment and admissions advisors the tools to build trust with students while also making your advisors feel competent and valued. With the right training, you can both reduce staff turnover and elevate enrollment numbers. Start by understanding where and why admissions training is needed.
For a deeper look at training enrollment and admissions advisors, watch our latest webinar: “Best Practices for Training Your Admissions & Advising Staff” presented by Presented by Chris Gilmore, VP of Enrollment Management at EducationDynamics.
Enrollment advising is a fast-paced job, and the majority of new hires have little or no experience in the industry. Many are freshly graduated from college themselves. Others may come from different professional backgrounds and have different levels of experience. Quickly giving them the tools they need is essential to the success of your institution.
Don’t assume your new hires have a particular skill set. Instead, assess the skills each advisor has against the skills you would like them to have. Then tailor their training accordingly. That doesn’t mean you have to create completely unique admissions training for every member of the team. It does mean that you look for areas of weakness and seek out training opportunities to address those weaknesses.
The biggest mistake that institutions make is assuming that new hires will learn on the job. Most people struggle to do this for two reasons. First, they don’t know what they don’t know. Second, nobody has time to teach them. Expecting advisors to learn by doing without any formal guidance is a recipe for poor performance.
To be successful, your on-boarding training should:
- Establish a working knowledge of the institution and its programs. First and foremost, your enrollment advisors and admissions counselors should be able to easily answer questions about what your institution offers and how students can best utilize these programs.
- Differentiate your institution or program. They also should understand what sets your institution apart from others that the student might be considering. If advisors can clearly articulate your value proposition, students are more likely to enroll.
- Build process knowledge. Enrollment and admissions advisors should have a big-picture understanding of the student enrollment lifecycle, from the first contact to the campus tour to post-enrollment. Advisors are most effective when they keep the big picture in mind.
- Explain tools and tactics. Having never done this job before, advisors may not know what tactics work well and which ones to steer clear of They may not know all the tools they have available to them or how to use those tools even if they know where to find them. Make sure that every member of the team has a toolbox of useful tactics for communicating with students.
- Provide tools for personalization. Different students have different needs. A post-traditional student is concerned about different things than a traditional student coming right out of high school. A transfer student might be focused on different criteria than someone returning to college after 10 years in the workforce. Modern marketing has trained students to expect a personalized experience. Enrollment and admission staff also need to understand the needs and expectations of different kinds of students and they need to be empowered to tailor their messages in answer to those needs.
Depending on the size of your institution, you may want to encourage your advisors to specialize in a particular program or area of study. That means you’ll need to provide specialized training as well.
Once enrollment and admissions advisors have the basics down, you can help them hone their skills and improve their results with ongoing admissions training. Continuous development improves retention by making staff feel valued and competent. It also maximizes results by giving advisors the tools they need to succeed.
Turnover rates tend to be high among junior-level enrollment and admissions staff. Since replacing an employee can cost around 33% of their annual salary, bringing in new staff every year or every semester can take a toll on your budget. Giving staff the training they need to stay happy in their job just makes good business sense.
The most effective ongoing admissions training is tailored to the needs of your staff. Survey your admissions and enrollment advisors to understand where they feel they most need improvement. If you make it clear that you’re ready to support them, advisors will happily tell you where they could use extra guidance.
Continuous training is also an opportunity to boost loyalty among enrollment and admissions advisors. Remember that while admissions is essentially a sales job measured with sales metrics, many enrollment and admissions advisors are driven by the desire to make a difference in the lives of students. Ongoing admissions training should help advisors see how the work they’re doing is tied to student outcomes. Share student stories and explore trends in areas like program enrollment and degree completion.
Some schools track the number of enrollments that each advisor gets. High enrollment numbers means they’re doing well. Low numbers means they’re doing poorly. But successful enrollment and admissions is more complicated than that. Institutions that focus only on enrollment numbers are doing themselves, and their students, a disservice.
The goal is not simply to enroll as many students as possible. The goal is to enroll students who will thrive in your program and complete their course of study. Students (and parents) see high graduation rates as an indicator of a good school, so enrolling the right students is as important as meeting raw number goals. Be sure you’re tracking the right results.
Measure the impact of your training as well. Survey your admissions staff to understand what worked for them and where they still feel they need improvement. Assess key performance indicators to spot changes. You should see improvement across relevant metrics after training. If you don’t, it might be time to reexamine your approach.
One training method that many institutions underutilize is mentoring. Pairing senior members of your admissions and advising staff with junior members who are still learning their jobs benefits both everyone.
The junior members build valuable skills. They feel valued by the institution because someone in a senior-level position is taking the time to build a relationship with them. Meanwhile senior members are exposed to new ideas and perspectives, they take more satisfaction in their jobs because they can see a direct impact from their mentoring role. Finally, the admissions and advising department as a whole benefits from the increased sense of camaraderie. They start to view themselves as a team that struggles and succeeds together.
Connecting junior advisors with senior mentors can build a stronger admissions and enrollment team without increasing your training budget.
If you’d like to learn more about training opportunities or get information about using an agency for enrollment management, please contact us here.]]>