The Five Secrets for Marketing and Enrollment Growth: You Can’t Scale Without Appropriate Staffing (The Fourth Secret)
To set the stage for this secret, we’ll assume that your institution has internal enrollment personnel and hasn’t outsourced this function. We will also assume that your institution, at least on some level, proactively reaches out to students to tell them about the benefits of your institution. Then again, maybe your institution has never had to recruit students before. But even they are coming to terms with the reality of enrollment decline and are swiftly moving toward a defined recruitment strategy.
So, how do you decide how many enrollment staff members are appropriate based on your levels of student interest? This is a fundamental question for any administrator involved with managing enrollment and there are a number of ways to answer the question. There are some models out there that use a staff to overall population number. For example, for every 100 students my institution needs one enrollment representative. We’ve seen other models based on the level of student inquiries submitted per week. For example, enrollment representatives can only handle 25 new inquiries per week – my team is now averaging 40 inquiries per week per representative, so we can add another person. These are just a few examples of how institutions can strategically manage staffing, but there isn’t a model that works for all institutions. This is due to the number of variables such as; online or on ground programs, program mix, marketing budget, availability of appropriate talent, organizational culture and executive leadership – just to name a few. Here is a simple model to follow that, at the very least, allows you to begin the conversation from a point reference.
For this model to work, you have to understand and monitor 4 areas:
- Overall Enrollment (OE) increases or decreases, over time, by enrollment representative;
- Inquiry to Enrollment (IE) conversion percentage, over time, by enrollment representative;
- Inquiry to Enrollment Cycle Completion (ID) meaning the number of days it takes to convert an inquiry to an enrollment, over time, by enrollment representative;
- Team Morale– gut check!
When OE and IE are increasing and ID is decreasing, move swiftly to add another representative. Your team has hit a point of efficiency, and without many hands making light work, IE will eventually decline which will negatively affect your overall acquisition cost.
When OE and IE are decreasing and ID is increasing, you are either overstaffed or your staff is incredibly inefficient. Consider investing in specific enrollment representative training, take a look at your marketing strategy, and consider investing in some outside expertise to help you identify the issues.
If either OE or IE are increasing with the other remaining flat, as long as ID continues to decrease, hold off on making any staffing additions or subtractions. In other words, 2 out of 3 of these key areas are in the right spot so initiate specific training to positively affect the third area before adding on more staff.
One thing we have come to realize is that any staff change can dramatically affect the staff morale. For example, enrollment representatives love working with students. If adding a staff member reduces the number of interactions current enrollment representatives get to have with students, there will be an overall decline in production even though all signs pointed to staff expansion. We suggest having an initial conversation with the current enrollment team about adding a staff member before initiating the process. Gathering their feedback, making them self-assess their workload and sharing the business implications with the current team will make them a part of the process.
- Increase or decrease staffing so that you are maximizing your marketing spend—enrollment staff, no matter what type of institution you work for, can only handle a certain number of inquiries over time.
- Being overstaffed without enough student inquiries to sustain a busy culture can create huge lulls in enrollment.
- Being understaffed with incredible inquiry flow creates havoc on your key performance metrics.
Once you have tested and measured your current model, work on increasing the quality of your student inquiries while driving quantity down to maximize your cost per metrics. This should happen simultaneously while you optimize your staff size.
Our plea to you is to never underestimate or undervalue your enrollment personnel. No one knows more about your students than your enrollment representatives. Too many times we have seen administrators exclude their enrollment representatives from key institutional decisions—because there is a start coming up, or more contacts need to be made, or there wasn’t enough activity this week.
If you are hiring enrollment representatives and excluding them from key decisions (and yes, we mean the really big decisions), you may deeply regret it in the long run. If you want a sense of the competitive landscape, the viability of your programs, anecdotal student feedback, thoughts on process improvement or any other information to help make strategic decisions, depend on the thoughts and advice from the individuals that help ensure that you can continue to deliver your quality education to students.
Though there may be general dissonance within the academic community whether a student is a consumer or not, speed to contact is a real thing. There are a number of data analytics organizations out there that have noted that around 60% of students will highly consider the first university that contacts them. If your enrollment representatives are not able to keep up with the amount of outreach necessary to contact potential students quickly, those students may already be considering another institution.
Author Perspective: Administrator