“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently” (Warren Buffet).
Educational institutions have long been characterised by their prestige – ranking, academic results and even alumni. Reputation, therefore, is everything in this industry.
An article by the Harvard Business Review on the importance of reputation on business health talks about reputation in terms of business longevity, “In an economy where 70 to 80% of market value comes from hard to assess intangible assets such as brand equity, intellectual capital and goodwill, organisations are especially vulnerable to anything that damages their reputation”.
This especially applies to educational institutions, whereby reputation is the cornerstone of current and future success. It is purely reputation that determines the longevity of the brand through rankings and profitability.
Many organisations, however, do a less than adequate job of managing their reputation. This is a risk that can and should be mitigated. For an educational organisation, too little may be too late.
The focus should be creating strength of character internally through measures such as compliance training, instead of crisis management – which is a reactive approach to damage already done. The aim is prevention, rather than cure.
In the case of government-run institutions such as public schools, the reputation of the system affects your individual standing in the market. For private higher education providers – universities or other private colleges – reputation is closely linked to your ranking and profitability.
Some factors that can affect reputation in this industry include:
- Admission requirements
- Quality of education
- Well-being of students and staff
- Academic results
- Cost of education
- Post-graduation employment opportunities
If reputation is lost, it can be devastating and leads to failure in attracting funding, adequate student numbers and quality teaching staff.
Australian private higher education is now a major export industry and the reputation of these institutions is determined by factors such as the standard of education provided, the quality of teaching staff and the facilities and resources on offer.
Recent pressures on these institutions include an increase in competition, the raising of global standards, demand from stakeholders for reduced costs and increased financial outlay for new technologies.
Indicators that your reputation is at risk can include poor administration practices, decreased funding, lack of motivation amongst staff, a rise in complaints from students or low academic results.
Whilst educational institutions cannot totally prevent damage to reputation, they can substantially mitigate it by undertaking risk management training.
Advance planning can identify risk factors, estimate their impact and come up with ways to overcome or limit it substantially. Risk factors can be external, and largely beyond the institution’s control, or internal, and more easily addressed.
External factors include economic downturn, natural disasters, changes to regulations, changes to the political environment or lack of community and parental support.
They can also include cultural factors, as evidenced by the recent collapse of the Indian student market in Australia due to a series of racially motivated assaults in the wider community.
From the Department of Education there are 630,247 international students in Australia as of June 2019; this is a substantial market that racial intolerance has jeopardised.
Internal risk factors include lack of policies and procedures, inadequate internal controls, non-compliance with regulatory issues, poor supervision of staff and students, poor leadership, lack of crisis management planning, a divided board, lack of training and poor communication.
A recent article in 2019 by the ABC found that Australian Universities have suffered a loss to their reputation through their money-making acquisitions with overseas students.
According to findings, the University of Sydney was found to have topped a list of universities that were dependant on fees from Chinese International Students, forming part of the multi-billion dollar higher education industry in Australia ($32 billion in 2017).
This level of exposure and reliance could mean that tertiary institutions may struggle to meet the costs of infrastructure and permanent staff salaries in the midst of any sudden collapse of incoming students.
Furthermore, the article found that these students are not always supported once they arrive in Australia, “…there is a point where Australian Universities treat international students like cash cows on campus. They frequently offer little support on received education or in their life”.
Once these risk factors have been identified, they can then be managed in a variety of ways.
Examples include making careful employment decisions with the institution’s reputation in mind, improving the well-being of students and staff and establishing good relationships with local media and using discretion (choosing not to participate in certain areas that may highlight weaknesses).
You could also consider adding moral or ethical clauses to your organisation’s bylaws, creating a whistle-blower policy, making financial statements available to the public via your website and instituting and monitoring fraud prevention controls.
An educational institution faces many challenges and virtually all of them can affect its reputation, which once lost, can take many years to repair.
It is therefore vital that administrators undertake risk management courses and give reputation, their most valuable asset, the highest priority.
‘Engaging compliance’ is what sets Safetrac apart from other training providers.
‘Engaging compliance’ encapsulates not only what Safetrac does, but how we do it. It spells out our mission and influences our business values and the way we build partnerships with our clients.
Specifically, ‘engaging compliance’ is delivered through:
- Engaging content;
- Engaging values; and
- Engaging technology.
At Safetrac, we will work with you to ensure your training drives engagement between all levels and departments of your organisation. This means making it relevant to your work environment so that staff engage better with the content and maximise retention of information. Find out more about ‘Engaging Compliance’
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Contact Safetrac to discuss how we can support you to create a training solution that engages and educates your staff, protects your organisation and its bottom line.