Tag: Executive Education

This month Brookings Executive Education (BEE) launched a new course, “Excellence in Customer Service,” taught by Professor Jackson Nickerson, BEE Director and Associate Dean. The inaugural offering of the two-day course focused on how government can work with limited resources to create a culture responsive to the needs of customers and provide excellent customer service. To help illustrate how some agencies are already working towards excellence in customer service, BEE welcomed former political appointee and startup entrepreneur Phaedra Chrousos.

Phaedra Chrousos

Phaedra Chrousos

Chrousos co-founded the Technology Transformation Service at the U.S. General Service Administration (GSA) and served as its first Commissioner. The mission of the Technology Transformation Service is to help the government build and buy technology solutions that provide experiences designed for the user first. The new service institutionalizes some of President Obama’s most successful digital initiatives and provides a foundation for the government’s ongoing digital transformation.

One of the first projects Chrousos was tasked with at GSA was evaluating and improving the tenant satisfaction survey process. At that time the nine-month process yielded an average response rate of 30 percent. A yearly survey that took nine months to complete did not leave much time to effectively design or implement any suggestions brought forth from the data. Chrousos and her team got to work and determined that one of the biggest factors for low scores is that people did not know who to get in touch with regarding concerns or issues. Data analytics show that creating a 1-800 number was an inexpensive way to gain momentum on the satisfaction survey quickly, at low cost.

As a member of the 18F Digital Service team, Chrousos and her team were asked to support the Department of Education’s goal to make information it had collected on colleges and universities available to potential students. They quickly realized that the web-based design focused on the wrong audience. Instead of focusing on the students who would actively use the information, the initial design was developed with internal audiences in mind.

Research showed that the actual audience (students), did not want the information via a website, but an app. Within three months the data was made available to outside vendors (up and running with 20 different companies) along with specific instructions on how to interface with the Department of Education’s database apps. This approach to development led to substantial savings over the expected cost of a website.

Each example illustrated the importance and the benefits of focusing on excellence in customer service. In each case not only was customer experience improved, but the activities also saved staff time and money.

In April 2015, IIT-Bombay and Washington University launched the first US-India joint Executive MBA program in Mumbai. Today, Oct. 14, 2016, the first batch, or cohort, graduated in St. Louis after a three week residency stateside. Congratulations to these trailblazing executives who are now alumni of two leading universities and equipped with new leadership skills to manage business challenges in the 21st century.

Olin’s Interim Dean Kurt Dirks was master of ceremonies for the graduation event held in Knight Hall’s Emerson Auditorium. David Farr, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Emerson was the keynote speaker. Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton also addressed the students, faculty, staff, and family members present. The entire ceremony was live-streamed online; the recorded version will be available for viewing beginning Oct. 18, link here.

Shivganesh Bhargava, Head of the Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management at IIT Bombay was also a featured speaker at the graduation ceremony as well as IIT Bombay Professor Prasanna Mujumdar. Sunil Punjab, Managing Director for Sigma-Aldrich in India, and a member of the graduating class, was chosen by his peers to be the student speaker. Ashly Thomas Jacob received the Student Recognition Award.

Inaugural class at a glance:

  • Approximately 16 average years of professional experience, with 11 years of management experience
  • 11 industries represented — both India and multinational companies
  • Over 40 percent of the class are executives at the senior vice president level and higher
  • Over 50 percent of the class is traveling from outside of the Mumbai area

2016 EMBA Mumbai graduation ceremony:

Click on thumbnail to expand image. Photos by Sid Hastings, WUSTL Photo Services.


CATEGORY: Global, News

Dennis Kelly, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., was a featured speaker during a recent Brookings Executive Education (BEE) course on Motivating People: Engaging Your Workforce. The two-day course provided participants with practical tools and knowledge to help them identify sources of motivation and strategies to maximize them.

Kelly currently oversees the 163-acre zoo facility in Rock Creek Park and the 3,200-acre Smithsonian Conservation and Biology Institute campus in Front Royal, Virginia. The zoo has more than 450 full-time staff, including keepers, curators and scientists, and an annual budget of approximately $51 million.

Kelly presented a case study that included research from Olin. “Motivating People: A Case Study of Workers with a Calling,” cited Stuart Bunderson’s research involving zookeepers who often feel their work is a calling, not just a job. Bunderson is Associate Dean and Director of Executive Programs at Olin. His research paper, “The Call of the Wild: Zookeepers, Callings, and the Double-edged Sword of Deeply Meaningful Work” was co-authored with Jeffery Thomson a professor at Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Business.

Bunderson’s study found “A sense of calling complicates the relationship between zookeepers and their work fostering a sense of . . . occupational importance on one hand, and unbending duty, personal sacrifice, and heightened vigilance on the other . . . A calling can be a painfully double-edged sword.”

BEE kelly-photo

Dennis Kelly at BEE

Reflecting on the 2009 study, Kelly stated, “It is great to have research to apply to real-time issues of safety and commitment. We were recently challenged with the consequences of the ‘doubled-edged sword’ when employee motivation and budget constraints collided.”

Specifically, Kelly discussed when animals are sick and need additional care. Dedicated zookeepers did not want to risk taking funding away from other areas in the zoo because of staffing needs, but they also did not want ailing animals to go unattended. When the budget was tight, staff attempted to work unaccounted hours to make sure the animals were taken care of, which creates a conflict of interest for management. In a profession where the employees are highly educated, notoriously underpaid, and yet so eager to work in the profession, they are accustomed to making sacrifices for the sake of the animals.

When employers are faced with the challenge of cultivating and sustaining high levels of motivation and engagement, Kelly recommended the following strategies:

  • Decision-making: Inclusion vs. Direction
  • Recognize the extraordinary need for communication and involvement
  • Vigilance to personal safety
  • Protection from exploitation (employees and animals)

Zoo images: Smithsonian

How do employee wellness programs affect employee productivity? Is it possible to do a job better as a result of feeling better on the job? New research from Olin associate professor of organization and strategy Lamar Pierce seeks to answer those questions.

A study currently under review and co-authored by Pierce empirically tested how employee wellness programs affect worker productivity. The research paired individual medical data from employees taking part in a work-based wellness program to their productivity rates over time.

“When you give people the tools and the opportunity to be physically and mentally healthier, it’s not just that they’re more likely to be at work,” said Lamar Pierce, associate professor of organization and strategy at Olin Business School. “Those employees are also more likely to be productive.”

Nearly 90 percent of companies in the United States use some form of employee wellness program – from gym memberships to health screenings to flu shots – all designed to improve health. Yet past research mostly measured cost benefits for companies via lower insurance and absentee rates.

Pierce and co-authors Timothy Gubler, assistant professor of management at the University of California-Riverside, and Ian Larkin, assistant professor of strategy at the Andersen School of Management at UCLA, used data from an industrial laundry company that provides a free, voluntary wellness program each year to its employees.

They utilized a three-year panel of medical data for 111 employees and compared them to their work performances, which were accurately measurable by the number of pieces or tasks completed in a factory setting. The researchers also used self-reported data from the employees, as well as evaluations from physicians who examined each employee’s medical progress as the program continued. All information was kept confidential and anonymous.

“What it allowed us to see were the changes in their actual productivity, as a function not only of participation but of their existing health conditions and their improvements in health conditions and other lifestyle factors,” Pierce said. “Conditions included obesity, diabetes, cholesterol, heart conditions, and also a number of self-reported behaviors that they gave us on diet, exercise, anxiety, depression.”

The researchers compared data for employees that participated in the health plan to employees at the same company who opted out of the program or were in plants that weren’t offered the full program. The results were striking and significant: the researchers found wellness programs boosted employees’ health and productivity: Productivity jumped by 5-11 percent compared to those that didn’t participate in the program. When further quantified, that figure equaled a whopping 528 percent return on investment for the company after introducing its wellness program.

“The value of these programs is being undercounted,” Pierce said. “The gains to productivity might vary across jobs, tasks and employees, but they are very real. Our results show gains just simply from participation. We can see somebody who participates and doesn’t get better, and those people still seem to get more productive.

“The biggest gains are to people who not only participated but, that also improve their health,” he said. “There are multiple mechanisms through which productivity improves from the program, and they each accumulate on top of one another.”

Pierce offers a caveat to companies who might be interested in putting an employee wellness program into place and practice. There are definite factors that can make or break the program and the resulting ROI. Employee buy-in is a must.

“The company we studied didn’t try to force people into doing this, they respected their privacy and they have a long relationship and tradition of treating their employees with respect and maintaining that trust,” Pierce said. “So they could tell their employees, ‘Look, we’re offering this. You can do this, it’s free choice, we respect your privacy,’ and their employees believed them.”

Three Executive MBA students from Olin’s joint program with Fudan University in Shanghai spent a week in St. Louis this month to attend the EMBA Leadership Residency with students from the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver cohorts. Grace Zhou, Class 11, is Head of Reward and Benefits – Asia Pacific at Johnson Matthey in Shanghai; Thomas Cheong, Class 10, Vice President, Asia North Principal International in Hong Kong; and Michelle Cheng, Class 7, HR Business Partner GN Store Nord, based in Ballerup, Denmark.

Executive MBA students are required to attend four week-long “residencies” during their program that focus on different topics. The Leadership Residency – which occurs midway through the program – includes modules on formal and informal leadership.

Shanghai emba in STL

Michelle Cheng visits the Ding, a gift from the EMBA-Shanghai Class 1.

A section on creative thinking enhances your ability to generate strong ideas, the building blocks of innovation, growth, and entrepreneurship. Classmates brainstorm concepts for new companies, products, and services in preparation for an innovation project.

The EMBA program provides one of the most academically comprehensive curricula in the country, with 60 credit hours required for graduation. Courses, themes, and residencies focus on leadership development.

The Executive MBA curriculum includes four required residencies: the GO! Week Residency; the Business of Policy: DC Immersion; the Leadership Residency; and the International Management Residency in Beijing and Shanghai.