Those of us who work in financial aid understand the challenges of engaging students in communication with us, and getting and keeping their attention. Is it so surprising that good things come from a highly engaged workforce? Learn more about engagement, its positive impact, and how to achieve it.
Are Happy and Engaged the Same Thing?
It may be a revelation to you that being "engaged" is not the same as being "happy." For example, your staff may be happy, but not necessarily engaged.
Engaged staff truly care about and have an emotional connection to their work and the institution for which they work. For that reason, they're less likely to leave for greener pastures and are more likely to devote discretionary time to making sure their job is done—and done well.
Benefits of Employee Engagement
The key to activating a high-performing workforce that positively impacts your institution begins with engaged employees, with one benefit leading to the next.
Engaged employees lead to:
- Higher employee retention, improved service, and increased quality and productivity levels, which lead to
- Larger admissions class because prospective students feel a sense of belonging, which leads to
- Greater customer satisfaction because students feel you care, which leads to
- Better retention rates, which leads to
- Happy alumni, which leads to
- Greater alumni contributions.
Getting Employees Engaged, and Keeping Them That Way
While there are numerous ways you can entice employees—with excellent pay and benefits, a beautiful campus, or a great office with a window—how do you keep employees excited about what they do, motivated to keep giving their best, and content with the mission they live on the job? Consider these tips.
- Set clear expectations. This reduces confusion, increases efficiency, and sets a standard employees can aim for.
- Empower your team. If your staff feel respected, are invited to offer input, and experience receptiveness to their ideas, they're positively conditioned to continue doing so. This is a foundation of engagement.
- Be honest. When your staff don't know what to believe, or they stop believing what you tell them, morale and engagement suffer.
- Invest in professional development. Employees who are expected to do more with less are much more willing to stretch to the limit when they're given support, training, and tools to do so. Even if the job stays the same, new perspective from professional development is helpful.
- Recognize staff for their accomplishments. We all have things at which we excel—and it's great to be recognized for them. Even if you're unable to do something to reward an employee's achievement, recognition—either in a private note, public email or other technique—can go long way.
- Reward staff for their endeavors. If pay increases and awards aren't possible, find another way to reward staff who overcome unique challenges or complete tasks that are generally unrewarding. Even when things don't go as planned, acknowledging sincere effort and improvement creates a win-win.
- Remind them of the difference they make. During peak processing season, make sure your employees who handle timely loan disbursements get some of the credit when a student provides positive feedback and thanks for a job well done. It's a team effort, and people behind the scenes sometimes get overlooked when praise is handed out.