Who Are Your Customers? Students or the Companies That Hire Them?

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In a previous article we talked about the need to listen to what your students and grads want from your department.

I wanted you to evaluate your services, curriculum and products to determine if they were relevant to your students’ needs.  In the process we wanted you to question if the programs, policies and strategies that your career center had were designed for the career center’s or the college’s benefit or your students’ benefits.

Instead of putting your student in the customer seat, today, I’d like you to think about putting the businesses and organizations that hire your students in the customers’ seats.

It’s a thought that the University of Phoenix is not only considering, but implementing. Recently I spoke with Mr. Mike Mayor, the SVP of Education to Careers at the University of Phoenix.  Mike was challenged by his board and management to completely restructure and redefine career services to make it more relevant to both the firms that hire students as well as the students themselves, none of whom have been able to keep pace with the dramatic changes that are occurring in the job search process.

According to Mike Mayor,

“It’s unsettling for most people to think of a university as a factory but that’s exactly what it is. Universities take in raw material, shape it, mold it, and (hopefully) enhance it according to buyers’ specifications. To say our student is the customer is like saying an unfinished car on the assembly line is Ford’s customer.”

His entrepreneurial background gave Phoenix an opportunity to introduce new approaches and ideas and not be bound by decades old mantras and dogma. Mike recognized that the way companies typically engage and work with universities focuses on what the colleges want.  Colleges are interested in getting the company to send their employees back to college to pick up the skills to lead the company, and offer their employees tuition assistance.

Yet businesses feel that if the people they hire have the right talent and skills, they won’t have to send employees through basic skills and knowledge courses.

So back in 2010, Mike helped to create the strategy behind Workforce Solutions – a 500-strong field force from the University of Phoenix designed to listen to employers needs’ and focus on giving those employers the right talent faster and with less cost.  Today, their crew has developed nearly 2,000 business partnerships that are designed around the needs of the businesses and organizations that hire graduates.

To further show their commitment to employers and employees, the University of Phoenix wanted to find a way to reduce the hassle of the job search process.

Their goal was to adopt emerging social media and take advantage of the changing behaviors of consumers and companies to help their students not only find jobs, but be found by employers. So they developed a technology that takes a “cue” from dating sites.   In this program, both employers and job seekers will be able to identify what criteria they are looking for and the program instantly produces a list of opportunities.

For the job seeker, the program will only show jobs for which they will qualify.  Hiring managers will be able to set the criteria they are looking for and dial down, or up, the criteria based on the list of job seekers they are presented.  This program is dynamically changed by both the hiring manager and the prospective employee.  It’s a great way to cut through the clutter for both because it provides more relevant matches.

For employers this process will save time, deliver the right kind of employees with the skill sets they need and cut the hiring cost.  For job seekers, the system will increase the likelihood they will find a job that matches their skills, interests, behaviors and personalities, resulting in a more satisfying, rewarding and successful career.

For both, it offers an opportunity to increase retention and job stability.

So what do you think? 

Does it make sense to rethink who the customer is on your campus?

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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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