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Higher Ed Student Trends and HR Practices

Salesforce recently released their third edition of the Connected Student Report, surveying over 2,600 staff and students across higher education. While at first glance, the report may seem to have little to do with HR, OMNI Senior Consultant and Higher Education Practice Leader Roger Dusing, PhD, contends that the key to attracting and retaining students is creating a great employee experience for faculty and staff. (Image from Shutterstock)

As I hope you know, I write about matters related to human resources, often in higher education. I am not in any way an expert on what schools need to do to drive enrollment and increase persistency. But every once in a while, I stumble over something in this vein that is worth sharing. 

Salesforce just released their third edition of the Connected Student Report, surveying over 2,600 staff and students across higher education (click here for a copy of the report).

The report identifies four basic themes:

  • A sense of belonging is critical, and that feeling is created in the onboarding experience.
  • Students want a holistic experience, including support for wellbeing and engaging face-to-face activities and events.
  • Students want to be able to use their time at college to prepare to find a job.
  • Students want a great digital experience, and they value diversity and inclusion.


Okay, so, good to know right? Why am I addressing these things in an HR blog? Because other than the great digital experience, the things students are asking for are quality interactions with human beings. This report is not saying your college or university should build new athletic buildings or offer more online courses. It says make sure you are hiring and keeping talented staff and faculty.

You will create that sense of belonging by having great student life staff who coordinate those events and make them successful. You support wellbeing through your counseling center, your intramural program, your yoga classes, and your student life staff. You prepare students for work through the courses they take AND your career center. Finally, your faculty and staff are your diversity and inclusion solution. It’s not about programming, it is about really being diverse and inclusive.

Higher ed leaders, make sure you are spending enough of your time working on your employee experience. Your employees also want a sense of belonging. They want to know that they are doing meaningful work. And they want to be recognized and appreciated for their contributions. 

Be concerned about your employees’ wellbeing. They can’t be worked to the point of burnout. They want to have friends at work. They need access to mental health counseling. They need to be paid an equitable wage.

Your employees have a job; now they want a career. They want to see how they can grow with the institution. They want professional development support. They want the ability to contribute and be their best possible selves every day.

Your employees want to have a great digital experience and work with up-to-date tools, and they also value diversity, equity, and inclusion. They want to work in an environment where they can feel included and appreciated. They want to belong and be treated fairly.

So, maybe this report speaks more to this HR guy than I first thought. Higher ed leaders, if you want to meet the needs of your students, start by meeting the needs of your employees.

Roger Dusing, PhD, is a Senior Consultant and the Higher Education Practice Leader at OMNI. He previously served as Chief Human Resource Officer at Park University for eleven years. With over 40 years of HR experience, including 30 years in C-suite level roles, he looks forward to reflecting his passion for higher education in his work to bring affordable, high-quality HR services to small- to medium-sized colleges and universities. 

Roger holds a PhD in Business Management, with a concentration in Human Resources from Northcentral University, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University. He also authored the book “I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable About the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another.”

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