How LSU and the University of Delaware identified hidden employer partners on campus

Amid increasing competition for online and working professional students, additional revenue can be generated when institutions partner with employers to scale program enrollment. But successfully recruiting employer partners requires a different-in-kind marketing process than recruiting individual students. Learn how two institutions took the first step in that process by identifying already engaged employers to pitch on a deeper partnership.

Cold calling fails to uncover interested employer prospects

Institutions hoping to build their portfolio of employer and industry partners typically adopt a sales-centric approach. This approach relies on volume, hoping that the sheer number of employers contacted will yield quality partnerships. In reality, university officers frequently note the futility of cold calling employers in their region, which eats up staff time without unearthing high-quality leads.

Cold calling prospective employers often fails because universities tend to focus on the largest employers in their region. While these companies have large revenues and strong brand recognition that would make them appealing partners, they often have no connection to the university and little interest in partnership.

"When I first came to campus, I spent some time reviewing our B2B strategy and processes. I was shocked by the lack of rigor or any sort of metrics in the process. We were spending huge amounts of time on developing programs, without ever really considering whether working with these partners was worth the effort."
—COE Dean, Private Master’s University

As a result of this emphasis on big name employers, institutions often miss the most fruitful employer engagement opportunities right in front of them. Progressive institutions have found new partnership opportunities by uncovering the employers that already enroll employees in programs or provide internships to graduate students. Rather than pursuing many new leads, this approach allows staff to focus on building deep engagements with employers who already see the fit between university programs and their own internal needs.

Mine internal data to identify prospective partners

To locate employers with existing relationships to the institution, first mine data from open enrollment programs and non-credit courses to determine which employers already benefit from university partnership. Next, identify opportunities to expand the scope of engagement.

At Louisiana State University, the division of continuing education offers a large number of open-enrollment, non-credit courses, particularly serving employees of oil and gas companies. LSU Continuing Education staff routinely survey students in these courses to understand the training needs of regional employers. They gather key data points, including the amount employers spend on training and the employer contact that authorizes this spending.

With this information, staff members build employer profiles that show total training spending at LSU and common topics covered. This enables staff to create pitches for custom training engagements to meet the needs of companies already sold on the value of LSU’s non-credit coursework.

At the University of Delaware, administrators in the Lerner College of Business built a warm employer leads list by expanding their definition of who they counted as existing “partners.” Instead of only focusing on the small number of employers who purchased executive education for their employees, they included over 400 employers who were mentoring undergraduates or working with the technology office. These employers become the subjects of targeted outreach to expand their engagement with the college, and provided a more fruitful alternative to cold calling.

Interested in more strategies to engage employer partners?

Our webconference series outlines the larger economic forces that reshape the nature of work and the skills that employers seek to meet those challenges. Download the recordings and slide decks.

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Why—and how—two COE units embraced external partnerships

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