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Transform Your Staff into "Retentioneers"

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An effective retention plan begins with empowering your faculty and staff. Learn how to start fostering a culture of retention at your institution today.

For academic leaders, recruiting and solidifying the right students is top priority. But what happens after they arrive on campus? Two million first-time, full-time students who begin four-year colleges each year drop out before earning a diploma.

Do you have a comprehensive retention plan to keep your students engaged and help them reach their academic goals? Your faculty and staff play a critical role in creating a culture of retention. What if you could transform them into "retentioneers" for your institution?

retentioneer noun \ri-ˈten(t)-shən¦i(ə)r

1 : the architect and engineer of retention strategies to facilitate the matriculation of students

2 : a sworn adversary of attrition and student success obstacles

Here are five ways academic leaders can foster a culture of retention among faculty and staff, leverage digital tools to increase engagement at every stage of the student life cycle, and empower students to reach their academic goals.

1. Define Success

Develop long-term goals for retention—where do you want to be three to five years from now? Determine what success means on your campus. Your retentioneers should include IT, data analysts, advisors, faculty, and all student services. Each person will share a different perspective, and their collective influence will result in action items targeted to specific populations on your campus.

Pro tip: Don't set goals in a silo. Your definition of success should represent your entire institution's needs.

2. Analyze Data to Identify Dropout Drivers and Success Indicators

Data is your most important asset, and a trusted retentioneer is your data analyst. Examine subsegments such as courses with high fail rates, degrees/majors, and financial planning. Your data will tell your institution's attrition story. Identify what makes a student successful—profile positive indicators of successful students. Determine success strategies and replicate them across campus.

Pro tip: Assess national trends and review your institution's historical data to identify dropout trends and success indicators.

3. Encourage Cross-Department Collaboration

Share your findings with all stakeholders: staff, faculty, administration, and students. Encourage them to work together to assign a committee and develop an action plan. Create student focus groups to collect feedback and pressure test your action plans along the way.

Pro tip: Most importantly, know your technology and what can be automated. Robotic process automation automates repetitive tasks, lifting the burden of these mundane tasks from staff and elevating staff impact with more fulfilling work. Software can follow logic, but retentioneers provide judgment and engagement.

Learn more about robotic process automation in episode 95 of the sgENGAGE Podcast, What the Heck Is Robotic Process Automation? (and Why Your Organization Needs It).

4. Equip Your Team with Effective Engagement Tools

Empower your faculty and staff to engage with students the way they expect—digitally. Today's students are accustomed to information and communication tools (email, text, social media, mobile app, online community groups, etc.) at their fingertips. Equip faculty and staff with tools that will facilitate and track every interaction, whether digital or face-to-face. By leveraging technology, faculty and staff will have more time for one-on-one engagement.

Pro tip: Be intrusive! You will never read results of a satisfaction survey with comments like "My professor cared too much," "My professor called me if I was gone from class," or "My professor remembered my name and emailed me about my homework."

5. Measure Your Impact

It all comes back to your data. Analyze it to understand what strategies were most effective and rinse and repeat. With more engagement channels than ever before, what worked last year might not work today. Constantly measure your impact to identify where and when to shift your focus.

Pro tip: Retentioneers are the sworn adversary of student obstacles. The most important action step of all: celebrate your retentioneers' contributions in all your initiatives, implementations, and victories.

Watch our full on-demand webinar to learn more about how to start fostering a culture of retention today.

Michelle Clifton is Senior Product Marketing Manager of Higher Education Solutions at Blackbaud.

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