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Daniels’ Executive Director of Executive Education David Worley says the pandemic is demanding leadership like never before

Executive education has become an increasingly popular way for business leaders to supplement their skills in recent years. Now, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic coupled with a hot job market is, in David Worley’s eyes, making executive education perhaps more important than ever.

“The pandemic has accelerated multiple elements of organizational life. Executive education is uniquely suited to address those changes in an efficient and impactful and immediate way,” said Worley, the executive director of Executive Education at the Daniels College of Business. “There’s an even higher bar for being an effective leader now.”

David Worley

David Worley

We caught up with Worley to talk about how the ongoing pandemic is impacting executive education, why organizations should prioritize employee development and what he’s excited about in the program’s future.

Q: What’s changed in the world of executive education in the last couple of years?

A: The pandemic has accelerated all sorts of things in most industries and education is no different. People are grappling with really difficult organizational decision challenges—new things like: How do we communicate in, for some organizations, a completely online world, and for others, a hybrid world? There are many new situations like that that have introduced new stresses on individual workers.

In a nutshell, organizations are juggling more now. All of these decisions are new decisions that are added on top of the business processes that were already there. What you need is to-the-point, relevant and actionable education, and that’s what we provide.

Q: How has Daniels’ Executive Education program changed because of evolving needs?

A: First, it’s worthwhile to remind people what Executive Education teaches. Within the leadership component, there’s classic leadership—an organizational leadership component and a business skills component, for example—but also we teach self-leadership, emotional intelligence, communication and team building. It’s a wide variety of both hard and soft human skills.

We have a relentless pursuit of constantly improving our existing programs. When we talk to clients and professionals in the field about what is needed, there’s a real push for resiliency and mental health training. A lot of organizations, especially with frontline workers, want to help them cope better. So in a lot of our programs, we’ve worked to add that in or we’re working to add that in.

Q: Will that focus continue even post-pandemic?

A: Definitely. Business acumen skills are important for most organizations. But the majority of what we do for organizations is help them with the human skills and that will certainly continue onward. I think all that COVID did was accelerate what was already there.

Q: We also are in a tight labor market, which is putting a new spotlight on skills and development for workers. Are organizations thinking more about executive education because of the job market?

A: Organizations certainly should be thinking this way. If you’re an organization in a hot job market, you’re either trying to hire or you’re trying to retain the current good people you currently have. And there’s probably pressure to raise salaries, but most companies are not bringing in more revenue. So organizations are really stretched thin in terms of resources.

Organizations should think even more aggressively about developing people for two reasons. Number one, it has been shown to help retain workers to feel like they’re being developed; they feel like they’re learning and have a sense of personal improvement. The other thing is that you might be able to upskill people so they can do jobs you want them to do.

Q: What else is on the horizon? What excites you about the future of executive education?

A: Executive education has the potential to serve a broader and bigger client base as people begin to ponder whether or not to pursue traditional master’s degrees. Master’s degrees, like MBAs, are wonderful for lots of people. But increasingly, people don’t have access because of money and time. A significant percentage of those people will conclude that actually, a certificate in which I invest $8,000 to $10,000 and devote 15 days of my year to is a good solution for me, rather than a traditional master’s degree. I think that change is occurring. Our solution is really, really profound for a lot of people. It’s transformative, career-changing and society-shaping.

Discover More About Executive Education

Executive Education at the Daniels College of Business offers webinars, workshops, courses and customized programs in a variety of leadership and business topics. We focus on education for working professionals, lessons for lifelong learners and bonding experiences for teams.
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