Why companies should behave more like universities

Why companies should behave more like universities

Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

People throwing graduation caps in the air.

Source: Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

I have spent more than 30 years working and studying in universities. During this time, one external criticism has remained constant: colleges and universities need to start behaving more like corporations.

No matter how you think about it, everyone can benefit by learning from other models and structures. And there’s one thing higher education can and should be really good at, as we all do the work of management: the continued and conscious practice of building a group of unabashedly enthusiastic and loyal fans known as alumni.

It’s no secret that many people are leaving or contemplating (or have already done so) their job for something they think is “better.” According to the World Economic Forum, 20 percent of workers plan to leave their current employer in 2022, with higher pay and finding meaning at work cited as the top two reasons for leaving.

According to Gallup, “Only 20 percent of employees agree they enjoy what they do every day. And even more feel chronic burnout: 28 percent of US workers say they often or always feel burned out at work.” And one of the main causes of this burnout, according to Gallup, is a lack of managerial support.

If you’re a human resources manager, you know this: your people will leave one way or another. Either a new opportunity arises, a life situation forces a change, or there is an internal promotion or a role change. Or they will leave because you, their manager, are negatively affecting their health, well-being and future prospects.

Your employees are your most important marketing tool. So consider this: if your people left you now, would they do so as ardent and loyal fans of you and the organization, or as bitter and angry ex-employees relieved to have escaped?

What would happen if you started thinking of every person on your team as a future alumnus? How could you change your management strategies? Here are four to consider.

Strategies to turn your employees into alumni

  • Create intentional career plans together from day one. Not every member of your team aspires to advancement or future leadership roles. And that’s okay. But each individual has an opportunity to learn and grow while on your team and reflect on how this position fits into a lifetime of future work.

Be an active participant in this journey by creating targeted career plans together with each individual in your team. Ultimately, their growth is their responsibility. But you make it okay for them to get that work done when you intentionally engage in conversations about it and let them know that you support any future career decisions they make. Be a partner with them on this journey, not an obstacle on the way.

  • Create continuous engagement opportunities. People want meaning and purpose from work, which means finding ways to connect work to their meaning and purpose. One benefit of creating career development plans together is that you gain insight into their meaning and purpose, which can help you find ways to build that connection.

It may ask them to serve on a committee or lead a project. Maybe it’s shifting a responsibility or supporting a professional development experience. Not everything will or needs to connect, and sometimes people have to leave to find that connection.

But they will do so with gratitude and loyalty, knowing that you have done everything to help them find what makes their hearts sing.

  • Conduct residency interviews. Organizations love an exit interview. And often the staff do too, especially the most disgruntled ones, because it finally feels like a safe place to burn down a place. But really, what’s the use? It rarely fixes what the problems were, and it certainly does nothing for the employee who leaves the company (other than a temporary vengeance gratification).

In order to turn your employees into future alumni, you need to conduct regular residency talks. And that means being willing to ask for feedback and really listen to it. It means making people safe and comfortable telling you where you’re lacking and how you can improve things. And then you have to actually act on that feedback.

This is not a one-off exercise, nor is it a once-a-year performance appraisal conversation. It is active, ongoing work. Universities always ask for feedback from their alumni, and so should you. These are your most experienced and shopped consumers, and their voice matters.

  • When they leave (and they will), be their biggest fan. your people will leave. I imagine one day you will too. So think about how you want to shape this experience for yourself. Do you want your boss to yell at you, embarrass you and tell you how disappointed they are in you? Because that happens far too often with young professionals.

And at that point, her attitude is, “I’m so glad I never have to think about this place again.” It’s okay to be sad, disappointed, or mourning the loss of someone. This is completely normal. But how you act in that moment will make the difference between someone thinking, “I’m pissed I have to go, but I will recommend everyone I know to apply for this job,” rather than “I am so glad it’s me”. out, and I’ll make sure no one I know applies for a single position here.”

Be their biggest fan. Leading someone to their next career opportunity is an asset you should be immensely proud of. Remember, these are your future alumni. Will they cheer from the sidelines or lead a boycott? It’s entirely up to you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.