As a college who deliver apprenticeships, the pressure comes from all angles, whether it is Ofsted, the Department of Education or those who control the finances.
It’s this pressure on colleges’ finances that create a need for improved and supportive relationships with employers.
After all, employers are the ones that will come to you with exciting opportunities for your learners and keep coming back year on year for more if you maintain a good customer vs. provider relationship with them.
So how do you start?
It’s not just the job of the direct apprenticeship team to connect with employers, senior leaders of the colleges have to get involved too. The better understanding the senior team of the college has to the importance to workforce development, the better relationship they can create with those at the forefront of delivery and the employers driving the partnership. Principals, VPs and Assistants have to make this commitment not just Directors of Apprenticeships.
Where does the ladder start? Prospect.
A prospect is someone you would like to do business with you through the power of persuasion.
There are 32.39m people employed in the UK, across more than 6m employers and the most successful colleges will know exactly the profile of their prospect employer.
Once you have determined your ideal prospect, you need to get your senior leaders on board to fully understand the workforce development and how you can help these prospects achieve their goals. What are their challenges? How can you take these challenges away?
You aren’t selling your apprenticeships, you are selling yourselves as a consultancy that can work with them collaboratively to help them solve their workforce development challenges.
Next step: Customer.
A customer is someone who has done business just once, or very infrequently with your college.
You can relax, you’ve got your first transaction over the line and provided the contract is delivered well, the future contracts will flow in – but often they don’t and without continuous work they never will. Not because your service is rubbish, or you’ve done anything wrong, you just haven’t forged the relationship with them yet and that’s the important part.
Think back to conversations you’ve had with their senior team – what were their challenges? Prepare strategic concepts of how you, and your partners, can help to resolve some of their challenges better than they are currently.
Keeping on top of their challenges and providing ways to solve them, whilst building trust, is the best way to maintain a happy customer relationship – one that will keep them coming back for more.
Another step: Client.
A client is someone who has done business with you on a repeat basis but may be negative, or at best neutral, towards your organisation.
You’ve got your employers on board, you’ve turned them into a customer but now you need to keep them coming back and transform them into a supporter. How? You need to engage with your employers and provide them with more than just a system that works, go above and beyond.
Employers spend thousands of pounds on training, what better way to show you go that extra mile than to see what other services you can offer that would contribute to their workforce development?
Stepping up to Supporter.
A supporter is someone who likes your organisation but only supports you passively.
Once you’ve moved your employer from customer to client, now is the time to give them a sense of belonging and transform them to a supporter.
Colleges might struggle with this as employers are likely to be remote based and therefore harder to build a community with directly. Instead, encourage learners to get involved, send them to work experience with the employers or encourage the employers to explore projects with you that have fallen off their radar but can help improve their business.
Building a relationship with the employer is vital to getting their support.
The final step, advocate.
An advocate is someone who actively recommends you to others and does your marketing for you.
For employers to recommend you it’s important they know what you do – and not just for them, but everything you do. They will only recommend you if they know what you can do and that you can do it well.
Update your employers, share the service you provide to help them solve their challenges, but make sure you don’t overshare – marketing is great when it works, but too much information that might not be relevant can be off putting.
One of the best tools to share with employers from employers are case studies. Case studies are a powerful marketing tool that let your advocates do the marketing for you and bring to life your services through the eyes of those using it. They can also provide a network of recommendations from one employer to another, an easy way to promote your college and improve your marketing reach.
Why not invite some of your employers today? You can see our case studies here.
Want to know more about the employer loyalty ladder & how it can help your business? Download our booklet here.