How to turn data into university KPIs in 6 steps

Learning with Emerging Data

By Caroline Depierre 27 Apr 2021 News
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In these turbulent times, the need for renewal and transformation in higher education has become more obvious than ever. The competition is very high, new education models arise - the viability of the university model in itself is questioned. And one thing is for sure: employability must be at the heart of universities’ strategies if they want to thrive or even survive.

Here is a synthesis of the paper “How to turn data into actionable insights and KPIs in 6 steps?” I presented the first time to international university leaders on April 27 2021. The paper shows how universities can use the Global Employability University Ranking and Survey to improve their employability performance.

On April 27th, Emerging Data had invited university leaders to a master class with the topic: “What university KPIs for the post-covid era?”. Participants came from all over the world. They work in all kinds of university governance roles, reaching from Vice president to Brand and Communications Director, Director of Strategic Benchmarking, Head of Career Services and Corporate Relations or Research Intelligence Director.

This master class was the first in a new online program called “Data-driven decision making for university leaders". The aim is to show university leaders and their teams how to best collect and use data to turn them into actionable insights and KPIs and improve the university output.

General approach: From data to action

Emerging Data helps university leaders review traditional university performance assessment concepts and grow their brand value and their revenue. We have built a framework and platform to support universities with their strategic decisions and help them monitor and improve their performance.

Our approach starts with data to end with specific recommendations. The data we use for this are of all kinds, it can be surveys, benchmarks or hard data. Selecting or collecting the relevant data is one of our key competencies. When it comes to employability, we recommend to adopt a market analysis or stakeholder analysis approach and to focus on one of the critical stakeholders of universities: international employers.

The Global Employability University Ranking and Survey, produced and published by Emerging Group every year since 2011, is the only existing piece of research that gives such comprehensive and international feedback of the corporate market. It is not only a ranking but a whole survey designed with the aim to review and bring forward the concept of employability and help universities improve their employability performance.

The research is designed and produced very thoroughly. The sample methodology ensures each year a representative sample reflecting the diversity of the global employer market. The database of 40+ million survey responses enables us to benchmark employability performance and tie it directly to concrete action plans. Combined with industry and regional insights from 32 Countries, it helps universities pinpoint opportunities to improve the employability of their graduates, drive their employability performance and build a sustainable, attractive university brand.
This is the database we use to generate in 6 steps actionable insights and KPIs.

Measurement concept: The Key Drivers of Employability Performance

The GEURS database does not only provide data, it also provides a reliable employability performance measurement concept. For the data to tell us something about employability performance, we needed to build indicators to make employability performance measurable.

What drives employability according to employers around the world?

Image for postThe concept we’ve developed identifies 6 main drivers of graduate employability performance that matter to employers. When we measure the expectations of employers on the one hand and how they perceive the university performance in those aspects on the other, we can explain the university ranking positions and find out what to do to improve it.

Those key drivers can be broken down into more specific indicators. This helps us analyze market trends, as well as the performance of each university, and generate university specific recommendations and KPIs.

The next section describes how it is done.

6 steps to your data-driven employability strategy:

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1. Define your specific target markets
First, following a market analysis approach: you need to define your markets and market segments. Who are you producing graduates for? What should they be prepared to? In which sectors, job roles, regions will they work?
Your strategy has to reflect current and future needs of the specific markets you produce students for. The definition of graduate employability, expectations towards universities in this matter, vary depending on the country, industry or role considered. The data helps you define your target markets and segments. Your main goals and KPIs – how you define performance – have to be established accordingly.

2. Identify you levers of performance
To ensure a high return on investment, you have to make sure you work on the right employability drivers. The one that drives your performance.

  • By measuring the gaps between the corporate market expectations and your performance, the Gap analysis reveals your employability performance levers in each target market.
  • The University Action Index helps you set and visualize priorities.

3. Analyze your benchmark
Competition is key in today’s Higher Education market.

  • Identify your competitors in the different fields and markets. Which universities seem to address the same markets as you?
  • Analyze your strengths and weaknesses compared to your competitors’ and find your unique position in the market.
  • Look in the data for best practices and inspiration from the best performing universities worldwide: What can you learn from them? What is their strategy? How do they approach curriculum development, internationalization, corporate cooperation? What makes them so special to employers?
  • Develop a strategic partnership approach

4. Dive deeper into the measurement of your brand performance
Now you know what your main levers of performance are, you can go one step further. A deep dive analysis allows for a very specific gap and benchmark analysis based on 16+ performance criteria. This step is essential to bridge the gap between the performance lever analysis and the definition of specific actions and KPIs.

5. Identify specific actions to take
For all identified areas for improvement, the data provides inspiration and recommendations re. specific measures to take:
Employers’ input, i.e. re. graduate skills to develop, corporate cooperation that work, etc. - in your specific target segments
Best practices example from other institutions all over the world
Brainstorm with your teams specific actions to take along the identified levers of performance in the different segments.

6. Make a plan and start!
You have identified the main measures to take in order to improve your employability performance. You are almost ready to start. One last step is needed before implementation: 0ur data model matches all those ideas and actions to take with the action areas of your organization. This helps align the teams along shared action plans and sets of KPIs. Don’t wait until you have a perfect action plan and set of KPIs. Start with quick wins!
And then, last but not least: Measure your progress, monitor your performance with our dashboard and adjust your plans accordingly.

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HEEP dashboard

This framework shows how universities can use the Global Employability University Ranking and Survey to improve their employability performance. The data provides leaders with a detailed picture of their institution’s performance compared to peers and market expectations. With over 1 Million university reviews by employers across years, geographies and industries, it offers a global standard to measure and manage employability performance.