EXSITE! What do our stakeholders want?
What do the "stakeholders" in higher education want? There is a shift in the expectations of today's college student from those of the past. No longer is "learning" simply enough. Aspiring high school graduates are often thought of wanting "an education." However, as education has become more experiential, so have the expectations of those attending college. Today's student wants a positively memorable experience!
Are stakeholders really referring to the experience associated with becoming educated? For students, this includes leaving home, living on their own, assuming personal responsibility, staying up late, socializing, attending parties, and meeting new people as well as traditional learning. Similarly, faculty seek an environment that promotes critical thinking, camaraderie, academic freedom, and tenure. Staff seek a fair and an equitable work place with career advancement opportunity. Parents seek value for their tuition dollars. Alumni want a sense of nostalgia and institutional pride. The community at-large seeks an employer, a revenue source for local businesses, a community partner, and civic pride. All seek recognition and appreciation for their efforts. When properly delivered, they reward it with institutional loyalty.*
"Stakeholders" (students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, visitors) are the new "assets" of colleges and universities. Preserving and developing these assets means not only meeting their needs, but exceeding their expectations. Stewardship of these assets entails not only creating the ideal campus environment but also managing the relational experience.
This relational experience can be formulaically viewed as the sum compilation of both academic and nonacademic activity (Exhibit I). The academic side remains the primary reason for attending college and is central to a student's education as well as institutional program. However, the nonacademic operations, historically thought of as "support", is an equally crucial component in the creation of the learning and living environment. Together, these functions define the relational experience. The challenge for higher education, as for other industries, is to harness these functions and define, create, and manage the experience of its stakeholders.
What do students generally want?
- Professional services, facilities and learning support activities;
- Friendly, approachable staff, both academic and administrative;
- High standards and a desire for improvement;
- Close link between the university and the 'real' world.
What do students dislike?
Students find the following aspects of university life annoying and obstructive:
- Being given the run around by complex and confusing instruction;
- Piecemeal, incomplete, unclear or conflicting advice or information;
- Failure to deliver promises.
While all of the above factors are important, the 'human factor' should not be underestimated. In many cases, people will tolerate a system failure if they are treated with courtesy and empathy.
What do employees generally want?
- Two of the most common issues in employee management: (taken from the book "First, Break All the Rules.":**
Not making time to provide feedback to employees—positive (in public setting and private) and negative (in private) on a regular basis. Do your employees know how well they are doing? Do they know if they are meeting expectations vs. exceeding them? Do they know if they are on track with what you need from them? Yes, it's a two-way street and they need to make the effort to seek you out, listen and ask questions, but you need to talk, share, and provide teaching moments.
- Most employees want to do their best, but don't always know how you feel. Don't hold out for annual or semi-annual performance reviews. I like to say that you shouldn't be surprising an employee during a performance review; they should be hearing things you have mentioned before. Another note on performance reviews: they need to focus a good chunk of time to the future—pointing to where the employee should focus, discussing their goals for the next six months and listening to what they would like to learn. Not keeping employees "in the know" about the organization or department orientation, goals, strategies and key differentiators. The speed of change is so great that it can be hard to spread the word, but the effort needs to be made.
This communication can start in group meetings, but they shouldn't end there. It's important for employees to hear reinforcement and restatement of new strategies and direction, and how it will apply to them (on a small group or individual basis). For example, how will workloads change with new direction? How should employees change their priorities and approaches with the new direction? How can employees support the new direction in their daily responsibilities? Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Employees want to hear what's going on. They want to feel a part of the overall effort of your organization. Managers are communicators, not just doers of certain tasks, and we need leaders who will constantly talk and share and listen.
* Adapted from: Customer Experience Management: Competing Successfully in Higher Education, prepared by ARAMARK Education November 2005
** First, Break All the Rules, Buckingham, Marcus and Coffman, Curt, May 1999, Simon & Schuster
Adapted from 2004 Monash University ABN 12 377 614 012 Last updated: 23 May 2005 – Maintained by firstname.lastname@example.org