I was recently interviewed by a publication for higher education leaders about how staff satisfaction impacts student satisfaction. The full text of this article is available here.
Students today are more sensitive to service and support than ever before. Whether they’re 19 or 39, today’s students behave more like customers and expect to receive an experience from their colleges and universities that matches the kind of experience they receive from companies like Amazon, whose hallmarks are engagement and ease. Unfortunately, without delivering a great staff experience, institutions cannot achieve the level of service that students expect. In this interview, Senior Assistant Dean Amy Levine shares her thoughts on what it takes for an institution to deliver a great staff experience.
Interviewer (INT): How does the staff experience impact the student experience an institution is able to deliver?
Amy Levine (AL): Our students are perceptive. They are bright, mature, and extremely motivated. They are executives and professionals, and they pick up on the tones, attitudes, and the environment around them. This intuition is not unique to adult students, but it’s heightened by those who are also working and have competing priorities. When our students interact with staff, they have certain expectations that must be met. Of course they want their questions answered and problems solved, but they also expect a fair, equitable and professional environment—the same environment that matches the classroom.
INT: What are the characteristics of a great staff experience?
AL: Once an institution begins to prioritize the staff experience, leaders should look towards building an experience that is agile and flexible, has a culture of creativity, has an expectation of accountability, recognizes success, celebrates wins, and practices values and missions.
Staff members all have different priorities so you want to learn their personal values and experiences. These should be ongoing conversations, not just annual check-ins.
Like any strong professional relationship, a positive staff experience is going to take work from all parties. At Georgetown, we have our Jesuit values reflected in the Spirit of Georgetown that guide everything from our classroom curriculum to staff recruitment. But it does not stop there—we can’t just say that, we have to actually live it for our staff.
INT: What impact can IT have on improving the staff experience?
AL: Small investments in IT have the potential to vastly improve the staff experience. A solution that minimizes the burden or time for a simple (but time-consuming) task can enable staff to focus on larger, more thoughtful projects that have a greater contribution to students and programs.
Consider what is already available for free at your institution. Google products continue to improve and advance. There are also many new free or low-cost applications to help with time management, tracking to-do lists, and even to remind you to meditate. Wunderlist and Todoist are tools to keep tasks straight, prioritize responsibilities, and allow staff to feel focused, productive and satisfied. I also recommend asking your team and those around you for their suggestions at your next staff meeting.
INT: What first steps should senior leaders take in determining whether aspects of the staff experience need to be improved or addressed?
AL: The first step to determine this is to actually ask the staff! Visit their work stations. Say good morning before launching into a meeting. Identifying areas of improvement for the staff experience rarely happens in an organized working group made up of senior leaders (though that helps keep ideas and conversations moving forward). Foster a trusting environment where all staff feel safe and comfortable sharing ideas that will enable them to succeed. As the senior leader, you don’t have to fix everything over night, but you need to be working to improve something, every night.