Priorities for University Recruitment Efforts

As new college and university students from fall 2015 settle into their classes, student recruitment offices have already shifted their efforts to recruiting the fall 2016 class. To help with these recruitment efforts, I annually highlight the fantastic e-Expectations report that Noel Levitz has conducted for the past ten years (by the way, Noel Levitz is now called Ruffalo Cody).  2015 E-expectations

This research project examines the expectations of college-bound high school students as well as how their expectations have changed. While a full read of the report is highly advisable (you can access it by clicking the graphic to your right), today’s blog provides a quick list of ten insights which should influence your recruitment efforts in the year ahead.

  1. Your college website is your most valuable recruitment tool. When prospective students need answers to their questions 71% of high school seniors go to your web site (and 58% of juniors). The next most important ways they gets answers are by emailing or calling you and contacting their High School counselor. Together, the non-website categories add up to 35% which highlights the paramount importance of your web site!
  2. Your website is also your most valuable advertisement! While we tend to think of advertising as something we pay for, I encourage you to think of your web site as your most effective ad. Are you investing in the resource appropriately?

E Expectations 2015 Web site

3. The value of print materials is declining and is being replaced by…..your website! Students want more information on the web and less information by mail.

4. About 7 of 10 high school students search for colleges on their mobile devices. Is your web site built for mobile? If not, your web site experience is likely frustrating for your potential students!

5. Search engines are your best friend. About 85% of students find college web sites by using search engines. Is your website search engine friendly?

6. Programs matter most! You must prioritize your web site content based on what students want to know! The chart below reveals what is important!

E Expectations 2015 Web site2

7. You must clearly communicate the value of a degree. To today’s students (and their parents!), a bachelor’s degree is an investment. You need to prove it!

E Expectations 2015 Web site3

8. Colleges must become social media friendly to get students attention! The top five social media channels juniors and seniors use (in descending order) are YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter. Snapchat and Twitter use is increasing when compared to previous years while Facebook use is decreasing

9. Text messaging is acceptable! A sales text messages on my phone isn’t OK but it is on my kids phones!

E Expectations 2015 Web site4

10. Conversations count! While marketing reinforces your key messages, it is conversations that really impact your audience. Which areas of your campus are engaged in these conversations?

E Expectations 2015 Web site5

Twenty-five years ago I sat behind a table welcoming freshman and their parents to my college. At that time we did not have a web site, Facebook was not invented and we were impressed by cell phones that were the size of a brick! However, in a mere quarter-century it is these relatively new tools that dominate the student recruitment landscape. Imagine what it will look like in the next 25 years!

I wish you every success in your recruitment efforts this year!


Jeff Head Shot 3.jpgDr. Jeff Suderman is a lifelong learner, consultant, professor and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



Ruffalo Cody (2015).  2015 E-Expectations Report: The Online Preferences of College-Bound Seniors and Their Parents. Available at



The WOW Factor: Increasing Employee Engagement

If you read my blogs you know that I have been spending too much time watching baseball lately. However, while watching the Blue Jays and Royals play yesterday I observed a leadership lesson which easily justified my sports-infused afternoon. Perhaps the most amazing part of the lesson was its simplicity and the ease by which it can be duplicated. Allow me to set the stage of what occurred.

The Toronto Blue Jays were down three games to one in a best of seven series. They must win or their playoff run would be over. The Jays pitcher for game 5, Marco Estrada, has pitched very well in the playoffs. However, as a young and inexperienced pitcher, you are never sure what will occur in a high pressure situation. So what happened?

In short, Estrada pitched brilliantly for seven innings before he was replaced with relievers. When the somber faced  Blue Jays Manager, John Gibbons, walked to the pitcher mound to tell him his work was done, the camera zoomed in on Gibbons face. While you could not hear what was said, the picture was so clear that you could easily read his lips as he greeted Estrada. So what did he say?

He uttered one simple three-letter expression: “Wow!“. ‘Wow’ was an incredibly smart thing to say! ‘Wow’ was an incredibly powerful thing to say. ‘Wow’ was also an incredibly easy thing to say!

I can think of few things I would rather hear from my boss (and I suspect I am not alone).

  • I just read your report – Wow!
  • I saw how you just handled that difficult customer – Wow!
  • I know that you put in long hours for our company – Wow!
  • I never have to be concerned about your ethics at work – Wow!

We spend a lot of time looking for ways to increase the engagement level of our employees. This week Gibbons taught us that engagement can be facilitated with only one word. Who are the people in your life that need to hear you say Wow!?

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a professor, consultant and pracademic who serves in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



Developing Followers Who Lead Themselves

An old adage advises us not to put all our eggs in one basket. We’ve all applied this principle to matters such as our finances, our time or our relationships. The idiom is meant to help us ensure that we are not overly reliant on any one thing for our success. I believe that organizations need to apply this principle to their leaders.

Even though I am a leadership consultant and professor, I believe that we place too much emphasis on the leader. Consider the following statements:

  • Everything rises and falls on leadership.
  • Good leaders are born, not made.
  • A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way (John Maxwell).

We live in culture that is leader-centric. We have schools whose mission statements tell us they are crafting the leaders of tomorrow. We have parents telling their kids to be a leader and not a follower on their sports teams. We hire employee search firms to hire leaders for our organizations.

I don’t want to minimize the necessity of an effective leader. It is important! But it is only one of several vital roles in an organization. A company is composed is composed of many people, or to use the example above, many different eggs. To say that ‘everything rises and falls of leadership’ means we may be guilty of placing all our leadership eggs in one basket.

It also means that we may be fostering the wrong type of followers. An unintentional consequence of an overemphasis on leadership is that we relegate followers to a passive role, somewhat like sheep who are required to follow their shepherd. Instead, our goal should be to create an environment which nurtures followers who can lead themselves. We want followers whose daily choices are acts of leadership. Purpose

Q. So what do we need to do to move leadership beyond our leaders?

A. We need to adequately define the role of non-leaders. We need to legitimize the role of a follower!

Here are some ideas of things we can do in order to develop followers who lead themselves.

  1. Build your organization around a purpose and not a leader. The model proposed by Ira Chaleff (Figure 1) places purpose as the preeminent focus for organizations. When we do this, we create an environment where followers lead themselves because we establish role parity.
  2. Define effective followership. If we want followers who act as leaders and not as sheep, we must redefine followership. I use the term ‘active followership’ to define the work of a follower who leads.  Whatever term you choose, you must redefine a follower as someone who holds a critical and ambitious role in your organization.
  3. Reward effective followers. If effective followers make our organizations successful then we must reward them as effectively as we reward effective leaders. After all, a leader who has no one following his is simply taking a walk. Followers are the ones who enable leadership so we must reward those who effectively practice it.

Followers who lead themselves is a wonderful concept. I believe that effective organizations of tomorrow will be ones who learn to engage active followers. Doing so harnesses a power that an effective leader cannot harness alone. It also ensures that all your eggs are not in one basket.

“Followership is not a term of weakness, but the condition that permits leadership to exist and give it strength” Ira Chaleff.

Head Shot

Dr. Jeff Suderman is a professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



The Salary Factor: Increasing Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a buzzword in management circles. Creating and sustaining high levels of engagement is a result of a symbiotic relationship between employers and employees. Engaged employees are more likely to act in ways that are beneficial to the organization. In turn, employers who are committed to enhancing the well-being of their employees will foster employee engagement and successful organizations.

There are many engagement strategies and most of them focus on the softer issues of management. These include things such as leadership development programs, creating opportunities for staff to provide feedback, training and meaningful annual evaluation processes. Thus far, organizational engagement strategies have largely avoided the issue of salary. However, recent research indicates that we should add salary to our engagement strategy bucket.  “After all, a person’s primary reason for being employed is getting paid!” (Smith).

PayScale, a compensation software company surveyed 71,000 employees to study the relationship between pay and employee engagement. “The study results revealed that one of the top predictors of employee sentiment, including ‘satisfaction’ and ‘intent to leave,’ was a company’s ability to communicate clearly about compensation”. They discovered that salary has direct correlation to engagement levels (Smith).

However, the correlation wasn’t related to the amount of salary an employee received. Instead, the research revealed that the important factor is pay awareness – helping employees understand whether their pay is fair or not. In other words, the conventional wisdom of ‘pay more to keep them engaged’ was debunked. Here is a summary of what the research revealed:

What we believe about pay

This research clearly shows that most employees do not understand market salary norms. As a result, this misunderstanding becomes a means by which we become disillusioned about our work. “Pay is a crucial component of engagement because it’s not just a number; it’s an emotional measure reflecting how valued an employee feels by their employer. And it turns out, how people feel about their salary plays a huge role in how engaged they are in their work” (Smith). This study revealed that, “it is more effective for employers to compensate top talent at market value and discuss how pay was determined than to pay them more than market value and keep company compensation practices shrouded in secrecy” (Smith). Clear communication is critical!

This research teaches us that employers need to:

  1. Equip themselves (and their managers) with accurate data about the fair market price for their jobs
  2. Communicate this information to their employees. In the absence of communication, people will generally assume the worst.
  3. “Remember that how their employees feel about compensation matters just as much as what they’re actually being paid” (Smith).

I believe there is also a dark side to salary transparency for for some employers. While you may provide fair salaries to your middle or lower level staff, what about your C-Suite? If executive salaries are above market value then you have created an expectation that this should be true at all organizational levels.

“When it comes to having a more engaged workforce, you can’t assume that an employee’s perception about pay matches reality” (Smith). How effectively does your organization understand and communicate compensation?

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is an underpaid professor, fairly paid consultant and overpaid pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


Dave Smith (Oct. 5, 2015). Most People Have No Idea Whether They’re Paid Fairly. HBR online.

Thinking Outside the Bullpen: Strategic Innovation

This week my baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, secured a playoff berth and home field advantage for the American league playoffs. Their meteoric rise to success in the second half of the 2015 season has been a popular subject for many baseball analysts. While their playoff run is a great success story, I believe that the teams Sr. VP has also taught us a valuable strategy about thinking outside-the-box. Or to use baseball language, thinking outside-the-bullpen.

The pitching bullpen is where the Jays have struggled this year. At the All-Star break, they were an average team and had won 50% of their games. They were not out of the playoff picture but they weren’t a contender. They were an excellent batting team – the best in the league! However, their pitching was average and their opponents typically scored a lot of runs. In fact, their pitching rated 23 out of the 30 teams in the league.

Baseball statisticians teach us that successful teams score more runs than their opponents (big surprise!). More specifically, exceptional teams have a healthy gap between the amount of runs they earn versus the runs given to up to their opponent. It’s called the ‘run differential’. At the half-way point of the year the Blue Jays’ stats showed that their differential was not big enough.

As baseball pundits reviewed this data they suggested that the Jays needed to make some trades which would strengthen their pitching. This made sense!  It seemed like a reasonable strategy to increase their run differential by addressing their pitching problem.

However, the Blue Jays’ GM, Alex Anthopoulos did something else.  Instead of trading for pitchers, he traded for even more great batters (with one exception named David Price)! Instead of striving to be strong in both pitching and hitting, he chose to make their strength an even better  strength. After all, there are two factors which can change the run differential – pitching and hitting. Improving either will increase the run differential!

To this point we do not know whether this strategy was due to a lack of viable pitching trades or if Anthopoulos simply thought outside-the-bullpen. We do know that it has worked. Since the All-Star break, the Blue Jays have won 72% of their games and are marching into the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

So what does Anthopolous teach us about strategic innovation?

  1. There is more than one path to excellence. The obvious path, in this case pitching, wasn’t the only way to improve. We need to look beyond obvious strategies, not matter how much they make sense.
  2. You don’t need to be excellent at everything to succeed. While it would be wonderful to be ranked #1 in both pitching and batting, it has seldom been achieved. However, excellence in their strength of batting was sufficient to achieve their playoff goal. This “strengths-based” model of performance is an important lesson about embracing what you have and not getting hung up on what you don’t.
  3. You can be better than #1. Based on batting averages, the post-All-Star break Blue Jays can beat the pre-All-Star break Blue Jays. Being number one did not mean the Jays had reached their ceiling. We often have room to increase our capacity in things we already excel at!

We all want to win and succeed. But the example of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015 helps us rethink exactly how we do this. What assumptions are keeping you from seeing new strategic options? What areas can you be ‘just’ average in order to pursue your greatest strength?  Can you be better than #1?


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is an armchair athlete, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman