The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

3 Low-Cost Ideas for Engaging Employees With Campus Leaders

“Our thinking about LEAD has evolved – from a program to help people move into leadership roles, to an affinity group for people who want to be involved in leadership conversations.” – Brittnay Buckner, Senior Learning Specialist and Trainer, The George Washington University

In 2008, The George Washington University launched the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program, a series of networking and professional development events focused on developing capacity within the five performance factors evaluated for every employee. Open to all staff members, the program encouraged participants to lead “from where they are,” and provided unique opportunities for engagement with campus leadership.

In the session “LEADing the Way: A Leadership Development Case Study for Employee Engagement” at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2013, Brittnay Buckner shared details about nine of LEAD events. Here are three that were especially popular with participants:

  1. Coffee Breaks – Participants gathered for coffee and pastry and discussed a specific topic. For example, one session centered around top tips for productivity. Each attendee added tips to a white board. Then participants were given colored dot stickers to place next to the tips that were most useful.
  2. Power Hour – For one hour, a GW leader (for example, the dean of the School of Nursing) talks about leadership, challenges,  and his or her own experiences. The key to making this session meaningful is to select leaders who are comfortable being open and candid.
  3. Group Speed Mentoring with 16 GW leaders (the president, his cabinet and several deans) – Each leader sat at a table with several of the attendees and talked about what it means to lead and to lead at GW. Every few minutes, the leaders rotated to a new table. About 75 employees participated in what was a very engaging 2-hour event.

According to Brittnay, planning the events has been rewarding, but time-consuming; and determining meaningful metrics to evaluate the program has been a challenge. The institution has recently decided to take a more structured approach to leader development. But it’s not the end of LEAD! Moving forward, the program will focus on engaging and growing the now established community of employees eager to connect with campus leadership. In fact, the listserv created to foster awareness of the program has more than 600 members.

Would your employees benefit from similar programming? Brittnay offered conference attendees these insights:

  • Simple programming works best.
  • People want connection with senior leadership.
  • The event doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.

If your institution has developed programs to engage employees with campus leaders, we’d love to hear about it. Share your story in the comments section below.