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12 Ways to Keep Your Admissions Team MotivatedTuesday, December 22nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I want to start this week’s article by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! It sounds like those of us in the central and eastern states may experience record-breaking warm temperatures. Crazy, I know!

Over the next few months, admissions staffs everywhere will review mountains of applications looking for those students who best fit their institutional profile. Counselors will also be tasked with staying on top of their emails, making phone calls to inquiries, prospects and admits and meeting the additional, never-ending requests of what is commonly described as a grueling profession.

Working in college admissions is a demanding lifestyle where the pressure to achieve specific enrollment numbers increases stress and causes frequent frustration, specifically among the young professionals who are the face of most admissions teams. Their list of responsibilities on campus keeps increasing despite less funding and compensation. At the end of the day, you have a workforce that is stressed out, tired, and ultimately searching for daily motivation.

Motivation can be the determining factor for the amount of success a team achieves. In most instances, a successful group will have been motivated from start to finish. That doesn’t mean there won’t be days when it’s harder to drum up some enthusiasm and stay focused. When those days occur I encourage you to remind yourself, and your colleagues, that the objective they’re working towards is greater than any individual.

Here are twelve suggestions (in honor of the 12 days of Christmas) on how to create and keep a motivated and confident admissions team:

Be a leader that others want to follow. There are a wide variety of leadership styles.  However you choose to lead, I cannot stress enough the importance of being consistent. Your team will model your actions. If you’re unpredictable it’s going to lead to an unstable work environment. Keep your word if you say you’re going to do something. This cultivates an environment of trust. No matter what they think of you, it’s vital that your staff has faith that in the end you will make the right decisions. According to a study by Interaction Associates, 82% of employees say being able to trust their managers is crucial to their work performance. Let me also touch on your mood. Regardless of how crazy your daily schedule may be or what personal issues you might be dealing with, your staff shouldn’t have to walk around on eggshells because they have a moody boss. It will negatively affect productivity and staff morale.

Communicate clearly. Many problems and failures are a direct result of a breakdown in communication. If your staff is receiving mixed messages when it comes to expectations and performance, it will result in confusion and undesirable results. You can gauge whether or not your messages are being received clearly by asking specific questions during both staff and individual meetings. The responses will let you know if your directions or messages need to be conveyed through a different approach or even redesigned. Focusing on communication can be even more important when communication isn’t the problem. If a staff member makes an honest mistake, discussing the problem in terms of communication makes it nobody’s fault yet still addresses the fact that a problem occurred.

Productive meetings. Use that time wisely. Too often people have meetings just so they can say they had a meeting. These interactions need to be productive. For example, if there’s a push in your office to convert more inquiries into applications, open the floor up for feedback so as a group you can come up with a strategic solution that benefits each staff member and the overall team.

Remember that everyone is different. The worst mistake that I constantly see good managers make is treating each member of their staff the same way. As a leader it’s your responsibility to understand how to effectively manage the different members of your team. Getting to know your staff on an individual basis allows you to understand how they communicate and what motivates them. It will also help you to recognize strengths and provide high potential people with more freedom and decision-making opportunities. For example, some of your staff members will respond well to direct criticism while others will view it as an attack on them and lose focus. Developing different strategies will result in your entire staff working smarter and more confidently.

Goal setting with follow up. “Lack of clear direction” is among the most common complaints in a dissatisfied workforce. The team members don’t understand the framework or value of what they’re doing, so they can’t get excited about it. Successful leaders set realistic goals and clearly define them, both team and individual. This not only gives people something to shoot for, but it also allows you to rate their performance. Also, don’t forget to follow up periodically to see how each staff member is progressing.

Create a career path. We all know that many admissions counselors enter the field and quickly discover there’s a lack of information about possible career paths.  As a manager, it’s beneficial to designate time during the year to discuss professional goals both short and long term. Talk to them about the admissions career pyramid. Staff members who have a path set before them that may lead to promotion will create internal motivation. Plus, when an employee knows their boss has a genuine interest in them and their professional development, they’re more likely to perform well.

Mentoring. Setting up a mentoring program for your staff members who are new to the admissions field, or those recently promoted to a leadership position, is a great way to show you care about their well being. Mentors can transfer knowledge and help their mentees set and achieve career goals while also introducing them to different networks of people in the admissions field. Additionally, you will be giving the mentors ownership of something which demonstrates confidence in them.

Ask for input and listen to new ideas. One of the easiest ways to develop trust with your staff is to ask for their input when it comes to making decisions that will affect them. Your team is the “boots on the ground” for your office and their insight is invaluable. Even if you choose not to implement their suggestions, simply listening is a sign of mutual respect. Remember that when a staff member comes to you with an idea or a solution to a problem it’s a sign that they care.

Ownership. Motivation comes through ownership, and ownership comes from engagement. The most effective workers are those who take ownership of their work. If they feel that an assignment or task is theirs, they are more likely to demonstrate responsibility. Make sure that you delegate effectively. Clearly communicate who is the decision maker on a project. Giving your team ownership will create a more positive working environment.

Recognize professional achievements. Your team wants to feel that you as their boss value and appreciate their efforts. Talk is great, but public recognition is better. Numerous studies show that employees who don’t feel valued are unhappy and less productive.  Having a reward program in place or acknowledging them in a group setting is an easy way to show your gratitude. It doesn’t have to be a major achievement. Focus on even the small victories. We all enjoy receiving compliments.

Team building activities. Organizing a team outing particularly after a hard week is a great way for everyone to relax and let off some steam. It helps with work-life balance which is something your staff wants and needs. You will be amazed at how something as simple as a nice dinner will recharge their batteries and build team unity.

Take time to reflect. Each member of your admissions team has impacted the lives of young people. It’s useful every once in a while to take some time to reflect on both the successes and the failures because each can teach you about what works and what does not. It also allows people to see the fruits of their labor and may even result in some great ideas for the future.

If you’ve got a few extra minutes now or over the holiday break and want to learn how we can give your college or university enrollment team an INCREDIBLE EDGE with recruits, click the links below!

Admissions Recruiting Advantage Program

On-Campus Training Workshops

5 Valuable Recruiting Lessons From My Daughter’s Soccer PracticeMonday, April 20th, 2015

NewSoccer1by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I used to hear about it all the time from friends who have kids, and now I understand. Last week the Tiers taxi was busy. My daughter began playing youth soccer. Practices were Tuesday and Thursday, with a game on Saturday morning. Sandwiched in-between those practices was a gymnastics practice, Kindergarten registration and our latest shopping trip to the mall because she continues to “grow like a weed.”

One of the drills that my daughter’s soccer coach introduced at practice on Thursday was “snake.” Some of you may be familiar with it. At one end of the field two children link arms. At the other end the rest of the team members each have a soccer ball. Their goal is to kick the ball to the other end without getting tagged by the two children who are linked together. Each time someone is tagged they join the snake until everyone is out. Seems simple enough, right? Not when you’re dealing with 5-year olds and the rule is the snake must be one connected group for the tag to count. Needless to say it turned into organized chaos…albeit fun, organized chaos.

As I watched from the sidelines I was reminded of an important recruiting lesson that all admissions professionals should be applying. By the end of practice that night, one lesson had grown to five.

Here then are those five real life lessons. Applying them, if you’re not already doing so, will help you become a more effective recruiter:

  1. Consistent communication is a must. Early on during the “snake” game the first two kids were tagged with relative ease. After that confusion ensued. Some of the snakes including my daughter wanted to run in one direction, while another wanted to go the opposite way and decided to let go, as you can see in the above photo. Instead of communicating with one another the kids who were the snake spent most of their time running and pulling each other in circles. After about five minutes the coach had them stop, link back up, and talk to each other. This eventually yielded a new addition to the snake chain.

The inconsistent contact hardly ever worked for snake, and it will rarely yield prospects for your school. Instead make a plan that involves a consistent track of messaging every 6 to 9 days. That’s what today’s recruit has told us they want from you. Mix it up and make sure your content demands interaction and clearly states why they should choose your college. Infrequent communication will lead your prospect to question just how serious your school is about them and will likely create a feeling of pressure when you ask them if they’re closing in on a decision.

  1. Keep it simple. How you communicate your message, and the degree of simplicity in which it is delivered, is key to making sure it sticks with your next class of prospects. Each time my daughter’s coach had a teaching point during a drill he got straight to it and broke it down to a single thing for the kids to remember. Simple gets remembered.
  1. Being different is good. We consistently stress to our clients the importance of taking a creative approach and standing out when it comes to recruiting. It’s a proven fact – people are programmed to notice what’s different. That means you need to differentiate your messaging, your campus visit, and your phone conversations, among other things. During your campus tour get rid of the non-impactful meetings and instead have a discussion about something that matters in the eyes of your recruits like ROI. Separating yourself from the competition and the traditional way of doing something may sound risky. When schools are willing to do that however, we’ve seen it produce big recruiting wins.
  1. Demonstrate passion. My daughter’s coach is “all in” with the soccer team. He wasn’t just at practice going through the motions and checking his watch every five minutes to see if it was almost time to go home. He got there early. He offered to stay afterwards and answer any questions that parents had. And he even followed up with an email congratulating the team on their progress after the first week. Can you say the same thing when it comes to recruiting your prospective students? Do you tell them why you think they’re the “right fit” for your school and how those on campus will help them achieve their long term goals?   Do you smile and speak with enthusiasm and listen closely when they reveal an objection? Those who have passion are able to create meaningful long-term relationships with their recruits.
  1. Be okay with losing more than you win. Towards the end of practice the team had its first scrimmage. It became clear rather quickly that one of the boys (the league is co-ed at this age group) liked to dominate the ball and was a very good player. Whatever team he was on won, primarily because he scored just about every goal. None of the other kids complained. They were just happy to be playing the game as best as they could. The point I’m trying to make is you will lose recruits to other institutions – sometimes for reasons that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Be okay with that. It’s a fact of recruiting life. Don’t let it discourage you.

Follow these five rules that I’ve laid out as you develop your new recruiting plan for this next class of prospects, and watch what happens.

Our team of recruiting and marketing experts work with schools around the country helping them craft and deliver the right messages for their recruits.  Want to see what we can do for you?  Email me at jeremy@dantudor.com I’ll show you how we do it and pleasantly surprise you with how affordable it is.

The 7-Letter Word That Can Help You Win Over RecruitsMonday, March 16th, 2015

ncrc3by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Today I want to introduce you to what I consider to be the most underrated tool in admissions recruiting. You can’t buy it, it’s hard to teach, and most counselors don’t use it to their advantage.

When you’re trying to secure a commitment and obtain those deposits, one of the worst things you can do is give your recruit the feeling that they’re being pressured. I hear stories all the time regarding counselors who are so stressed out about increasing yield, that they push and push until they get the answer they want from their prospect. Here’s the problem with that scenario. Pressure might lead to an initial commitment, but that prospect will be a strong candidate to flip-flop at the last minute, or at the very least talk negatively to others about the way your institution recruited him or her.

Our ongoing focus group research with thousands of current college students reveals that when making their college choice, pressure from you is bad. On the other hand if you consistently demonstrate passion, it’s very likely you’ll achieve the same results that you would hope to attain by pressuring them.

Passion is an effective sales tool because it isn’t artificial. People can tell when you truly enjoy what you do and genuinely believe what you’re selling. A passionate recruiter sincerely cares about, and takes the time to understand, the wants and needs of their prospect and his or her family members. When you do this it creates a more enjoyable experience and generates excitement and other emotions that a recruit relies on to make their decision.

So, which approach are you using – the passionate pitch or the pressure sell? There’s a big difference between the two. Let me provide you with a few contrasting examples of “passion” versus “pressure” when recruiting your students:

Passion is when you tell your recruit why you like him or her, and what value you see them having as a member of your school’s student body. Pressure is when you bluntly tell your recruit what they will lose out on if they don’t hurry up and make a decision.

Passion is when you smile, speak with enthusiasm, and display pride because you’re that excited to explain to your prospect why your school is the “right fit.” Pressure is when you rarely make eye contact and look at your cell phone every five minutes, because you’ve got some other place you’d rather be.

Passion is surprising your recruit with a quick visit to the Office of the President or the faculty leader of the program they hope to get into. When you enter the office, the President or faculty leader already knows their name because you’ve been raving about them and the impact they could have as a student on your campus. Pressure is sitting with your prospect cooped-up in your admissions office talking only about your school’s history and why they’d be crazy not to come here.

Passion is when you consistently communicate with your prospect from the beginning to the end of the recruitment cycle. You use different methods of communication, make your messages interesting, and always keep in mind how your messaging is important to that prospect. Pressure is when you infrequently touch base after a recruit submits their application, and then when admitted, call and ask if they’ve chosen where they want to go.

Passion is being prepared to start the conversation about paying for college early in the process. You understand it’s a stressful subject and you want to ease everyone’s minds as much as possible. You effectively communicate how the process works and the value your school offers. Pressure is the feeling that parents have when their son or daughter really likes a school with a high cost of attendance, and they have no idea how they will be able to afford it.

Passion is when you listen to your recruit reveal an objection, get clarification, and become a problem solver. Pressure is when you try to move the recruitment process forward without acknowledging a problem or concern exists.

Passion means you never make a recruit feel bad for questioning something you say or indicating that they’ve heard something that’s causing them to have concerns about your institution. On the other hand, if you rely on pressure as part of your pitch, you seem to always make a recruit feel bad when they seem to be leaning towards picking another school. In short, you turn up the pressure.

Passion is involving the parents in all aspects of the recruiting message, which is what most prospects want according to our research.  Pressure is what that recruit feels back at home when you don’t do that, and they want to pick your college but don’t feel like they can because mom and dad never really got to know you as well as a competing school that they’re going to settle on.

That’s a short list, but an important list.

Those who have passion are able to create meaningful long-term relationships with their recruits. If you don’t display that 7-letter word during the process, your recruits won’t either.

So, I have two questions for you now. What are you going to do with this information? And, how will it change the way you recruit this current class of prospects?

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