Preventing a Case of the Mondays: How to Engage and Retain Staff in the Face of the Great Resignation

There are thousands of movies based on the lives of workers and the workplace. One of my favorite workplace movies is Office Space, a clever comedy written and directed by Mike Judge in 1999. We all love a good story about a talented employee that Eurosteps their boilerplate job description and asks more from leadership in the name of career development. 

As the Great Resignation continues to impact higher education offices across the nation, leaders need to get creative and innovate new ways to engage and retain their staff. Managers have more access and visibility with staff, giving them the advantage to effect real change as they can sense the developmental needs of their staff members. According to a study conducted by Zippia, the average admissions officer “enjoys” staying at their job for one to two years.  

How do we stop the Michael Boltons or Samir Nagheenanajars of Admissions from walking out of the Office Space and from setting the place on (metaphorical) fire?

Some might say one to two years is not enough time to develop and retain staff.

I respectfully disagree. 

“Remember, Next Friday is Hawaiian Shirt Day!” (Expectations for Leaders)

While I do own a red Swingline stapler, I do not condone arson or theft in the workplace under any circumstance. However, I do condone ideology that places the responsibility of creating an office culture that promotes generative employee experiences in the hands of leaders. Generative leadership translates to knowledge-sharing through collaboration and scaffolds your internal leader pipeline. 

Employee development initiatives can be a challenge, but you can start by engaging your staff in knowledge-sharing opportunities. In Overcoming the Fear of Search, Dr. Amanda Sale, Senior Consultant for Enrollment Management at RHB, and Chris Gray, Dean of Enrollment at Lasell University, discuss the surprising benefit of collaborating with staff in building an in-house search strategy.

“… bringing search in-house gives you an opportunity to bring more of your team into the process…there is more opportunity to share knowledge and collaborate on the process. This allows staff to be part of the discussion, brainstorming ideas, themes and even specific tones in messaging to broad and narrow populations that they are invested in. While all their ideas may not be implemented, the inclusion in the conversation creates a culture of buy-in and exposes more members of your team to new, celebrated professional experiences to add to their resume.”

Collaboration allows your staff to participate in creating strategy and contribute to the decision-making process, promoting a culture of empowerment and innovation while adding more tools to your employees’ toolbox.

“Just a Moment!” (Break the Monotony)

Leaders are in a unique position to drive staff retention and engagement. A LinkedIn Study in 2019 shows that 94% of employees would stay with their employer if their employer invested in their individual career development. In Reckoning with the Great Resignation, Ken Anselment, Vice President for Enrollment Management at RHB, writes:

“What we really want, it turns out, is an elevated value of the profession itself, one where institutions not only recognize the importance of recruiting students (most already do), but the immense value represented by the people who do the recruiting.”

How do you engage staff, develop leaders and implement measures to retain your superstars?

Break the monotony.

Exposure to and experience in different roles housed in Admissions and Enrollment Management creates a sense of autonomy, opportunity, trust, equity and reward for staff. Rotational programs offer staff development opportunities by cycling your talent through different roles or in-depth experience in one specific area in Admissions for an established length of time. 

For example, let’s say that one of your institutional goals is to promote awareness of diversity efforts by creating events that support diversity-related recruitment and retention. In a rotational program, managers share institutional goals and build teams based on interest and potential to oversee initiatives with their staff–all staff members. While representation is meaningful and very important, do not miss the opportunity to engage every member of your team in diversity initiatives. As a manager, acknowledge your employees’ intersectionality, worldview and tacit knowledge.

With any new opportunity, assessment is key. Collect feedback, assess the impact on the real work and discuss the success of the experience. Did staff grow from the experience? What did staff learn? Did staff discover their niche?

Leading and Managing

Leadership and management are not the same–a leader leads and a manager manages. It can be hard for managers to encourage busy and overworked team members when they themselves are overworked. Leaders must play an active role in the development of their managers to improve retention and career mobility. Leaders can support their managers by designating time and space for in-depth discussions where managers can voice their concerns, identify training opportunities for their own career development, offer feedback and discuss engagement initiatives for staff members.

There is no universal definition of “leadership” or “leader.” Here are some examples of how different definitions can be:

Forbes: “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

Padmasree Warrior: “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

Bill Gates: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

What is universal is that leaders must do more to develop a path where all employees see a vision of their future within the institution. 

If your institution is interested in empowering your most important resources–your people–RHB is ready to have a conversation with you about Team Assessment and Training to help you effectively meet your goals in a way that aligns with your institutional values.

  • Spread the word