Student success depends on many factors, both inside and outside the classroom. The student's ability to navigate classwork, jobs, financial hurdles, family obligations, health, and more all play into whether or not a student can successfully complete their academic career. Great coaches can help guide students through academic success while encouraging them to better themselves in all areas of their life. Retaining successful coaches is key to improving student skills.
What Is a Success Coach?
One way to help ensure student academic success is by providing success coaches to partner with students. Success coaches provide students with personalized advising to meet their unique needs. By acting as a resource for students, success coaches connect students with on-campus and community resources, including financial aid, housing, food service programs, transportation, child care, technology, and internet access. Success coaches are responsible for guiding their students and supporting them in what they need to successfully complete their academic journey.
Many students benefit from working with the same student success coach throughout their academic journey. A singular success coach ensures the student can build trust over time and create a personal relationship with the mentor. Personal relationships increase students' chances to continue their education and coach meetings while increasing credential completion. As such, student success and retention rely on the higher education institution hiring the best people to fill the role of a student success coach and retaining them.
Challenges Facing Student Success Coaches
Student success coaches may face challenges when it comes to supporting students, addressing inequality, or building student confidence. For example, many students find it hard to regain confidence in themselves and the institution if they fall behind in class or feel disconnected socially. Success coaches have a unique challenge in that they must help students find confidence in themselves before they begin working on academic skills and tools.
Other coaches may find addressing diversity or inequality within the campus community or society challenging. Many students from diverse groups want to find a success coach who can understand their perspective and support them through unique difficulties. Some student coaches might fall behind in supporting diverse student bodies without proper training and education.
Supporting the Supporters
The great risk to learning institutions is that their student affairs staff will burn out, which is wholly understandable. The individuals who fill these positions are passionate about what they do. It is not merely a clock-in-and-clock-out kind of job. Student success coaches take their work home with them, both literally and figuratively. They worry about their students over weekends and school breaks. They work long hours. They care.
So, how can higher and technical education institutions retain their best success coaches? Your faculty members' mental and physical health is just as important as the health and happiness of your students. Make sure your institution has counselors, peers, and resources available to offer advice and support to faculty members. Student success coaches work hard to support others and deserve as much care as any staff member. Consider offering resources like a peer support program, mental health services, or faculty support space.
The Importance of Retention
Colleges and universities continue working hard to improve enrollment, budgeting, and retention. Learning institutions are trying to do what they can to retain their faculty and staff without going through the costly recruitment process. Turnover rates can cost institutions time and money while reducing morale and productivity. Colleges can better serve their students and support faculty and staff when they retain more employees.
How to Retain Student Success Coaches
It is especially important for institutions to take steps to retain student success coaches because of the very nature of their job. Success coaches develop strong relationships with their students. Losing those relationships through staff attrition is detrimental to the "brain drain" of how student retention programs work, and damages the trust that students place in their coaches and the retention programs they are a part of.
There are ways that higher ed and tech ed institutions can help to retain their staff. Here are some of them:
Strong levels of communication between administration and student success coaches promote a trusting relationship, which can help foster a positive work environment. Workplace communication training can be critical to the student success coach retention process. Improving communication among coaches and other faculty increases job satisfaction and company performance. Coaches will also be convinced to work more productively while feeling empowered through faculty support. Additionally, by fostering an environment where communication between administration and staff is encouraged and valued, learning institutions can show how those communication skills mirror what they want student success coaches to have with their students.
2. Competitive Pay
Staff who engage with students regularly tend to be well-educated and well-trained. Higher education colleges and universities often require their faculty members and professional staff members to have a masters's degree or Ph.D. if they plan to work directly with students. They deserve a salary and benefits that match their dedication and service to students.
3. Work and Life Balance
Having a positive work-life balance is key to retaining employees. While student success coaches tend to go above and beyond for their students, it's important that they also make time for themselves.
Burnout can be a real risk for student success coaches, mainly due to their long hours, emotionally draining work, and difficulty balancing personal obligations. Many employees may suffer from stress or anxiety, making it essential to create a space for staff members to find support, care, and flexible scheduling. By fostering a strong communication environment, institutions can create a healthy work-life balance by encouraging employees to use their time off to relax and recharge.
Especially given the long hours that student success coaches tend to put into their jobs, administrators would be wise to implement a policy of flexibility for when staff has obligations and commitments that will pull them away from students virtually or on campus. Choosing between a program meeting in their department or attending their child's parent-teacher conference can be difficult for employees. Any conflicts between work commitments and family needs can increase the chance of physical illness, whether due to stress, anxiety, or tension. Flextime granted by an administration to attend to outside-of-work needs can increase employee morale, loyalty, and retention.
Employee development helps staff feel that they are expanding their knowledge base and can grow professionally while contributing more to an organization. By providing employee training, leadership, and team-building opportunities, administrators are more likely to help staff feel that they are growing and advancing in their careers. Organizations that commit to training and development for their employees enjoy a more committed employee population, have a stronger sense of trust between employees and employers, and have higher retention rates.
Given the impact of student success coach retention on the relationships and institutional knowledge within student programs, higher education and technical education institutions would be wise to invest in making their student success coaches feel appreciated and needed. Retaining student success coaches gives learning institutions an advantage in maintaining student enrollment and engagement, which goes a long way toward reaching student success goals.
Improve Coach Retention With Help From Watermark
Watermark can help higher education institutions retain student success coaches through data collection, measurement services, and analysis software. Contact us today or explore our services online to learn more about how we help community colleges and universities make sound, data-informed decisions.
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