Unlocking exceptional student experiences – are staff the key?
  • March 14, 2019

Unlocking exceptional student experiences – are staff the key?

Since before the introduction of higher tuition fees in 2012, we have been working closely and collaboratively with universities across the country supporting their strategic approaches to providing outstanding student experiences.

In our work with universities we engage with students directly to capture their thoughts and feelings on the issues that are most important to them. One of the most significant themes from our work is the importance of staff in shaping the student experience. Engaged and committed staff really do have the power to contribute to deep and enriching experiences for students, in both the  virtual and the physical environments. Equally, our evidence indicates that poor interactions with staff have a detrimental and amplified impact on students. There is much talk about communities of staff and students and yet recent insight captured through our Library Life Pulse shows that over 40% of students don’t believe their students’ union or library helps them to feel part of that wider community.

What about staff surveys?

Staff have the working knowledge and practical experience of how you can create and sustain a student-centric culture acting as a powerful driver of change when involved in the process of developing and improving services. Many institutions conduct university-wide staff surveys, often driven by human resources departments. From the surveys I have encountered they are often designed as a means to support employees around their career and development; to understand their relationships with colleagues and leaders; and to investigate the employee’s views on and understanding of the university’s strategy and policies.

Based upon our extensive work with students and our experience of running staff surveys, we believe there is an exciting opportunity to engage staff through a different survey, one that focuses on staff-student interactions, the services they work in, their institutions and, critically, the students they work with. It is important to stress that we are not advocating replacing staff surveys, rather, we are recommending implementing a separate employee engagement initiative that changes the lens from staff to students, with the focal point being to generate insight from your staff that will enable you to provide outstanding student experiences.

Mission, culture, strategy and student experience

We have worked with staff at all levels in universities and most of them share the same belief and sense of purpose in wanting to make a positive difference and be involved in shaping and delivering exceptional student experiences. Inspired by those staff and our detailed knowledge of the student experience we have developed a new research solution to support the full engagement of staff in the development of a student-centric culture – The Culture and Engagement Pulse.

Our Culture and Engagement Pulse has been designed for university departments to fully understand their team’s wealth of knowledge, experience and ambition in determining and shaping their contribution to a student-centric culture. You will be able to find out if your strategy is on track,  identify what is working well and the areas that can be improved and also determine the levels of engagement. It provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of staff involvement by creating an opportunity for them to influence and be an active part of your strategic approach.

If you are interested in the process of defining and redefining your student-centric initiatives, of understanding team alignment to your vision and mission and engaging your staff in the development of your library’s culture then please email me at ben.hickman@alterline.co.uk or call me on 0161 503 5760 to discuss how our Culture and Engagement Pulse can support you.