Staff Satisfaction Central to Student Engagement

I was recently interviewed by a publication for higher education leaders about how staff satisfaction impacts student satisfaction. The full text of this article is available here.

Students today are more sensitive to service and support than ever before. Whether they’re 19 or 39, today’s students behave more like customers and expect to receive an experience from their colleges and universities that matches the kind of experience they receive from companies like Amazon, whose hallmarks are engagement and ease. Unfortunately, without delivering a great staff experience, institutions cannot achieve the level of service that students expect. In this interview, Senior Assistant Dean Amy Levine shares her thoughts on what it takes for an institution to deliver a great staff experience.

Interviewer (INT): How does the staff experience impact the student experience an institution is able to deliver?

Amy Levine (AL): Our students are perceptive. They are bright, mature, and extremely motivated. They are executives and professionals, and they pick up on the tones, attitudes, and the environment around them. This intuition is not unique to adult students, but it’s heightened by those who are also working and have competing priorities. When our students interact with staff, they have certain expectations that must be met. Of course they want their questions answered and problems solved, but they also expect a fair, equitable and professional environment—the same environment that matches the classroom.

INT: What are the characteristics of a great staff experience?

AL: Once an institution begins to prioritize the staff experience, leaders should look towards building an experience that is agile and flexible, has a culture of creativity, has an expectation of accountability, recognizes success, celebrates wins, and practices values and missions.

Staff members all have different priorities so you want to learn their personal values and experiences. These should be ongoing conversations, not just annual check-ins.

Like any strong professional relationship, a positive staff experience is going to take work from all parties. At Georgetown, we have our Jesuit values reflected in the Spirit of Georgetown that guide everything from our classroom curriculum to staff recruitment. But it does not stop there—we can’t just say that, we have to actually live it for our staff.

INT: What impact can IT have on improving the staff experience?

AL: Small investments in IT have the potential to vastly improve the staff experience. A solution that minimizes the burden or time for a simple (but time-consuming) task can enable staff to focus on larger, more thoughtful projects that have a greater contribution to students and programs.

Consider what is already available for free at your institution. Google products continue to improve and advance. There are also many new free or low-cost applications to help with time management, tracking to-do lists, and even to remind you to meditate. Wunderlist and Todoist are tools to keep tasks straight, prioritize responsibilities, and allow staff to feel focused, productive and satisfied. I also recommend asking your team and those around you for their suggestions at your next staff meeting.

INT: What first steps should senior leaders take in determining whether aspects of the staff experience need to be improved or addressed?

AL: The first step to determine this is to actually ask the staff! Visit their work stations. Say good morning before launching into a meeting. Identifying areas of improvement for the staff experience rarely happens in an organized working group made up of senior leaders (though that helps keep ideas and conversations moving forward). Foster a trusting environment where all staff feel safe and comfortable sharing ideas that will enable them to succeed. As the senior leader, you don’t have to fix everything over night, but you need to be working to improve something, every night.

How Georgetown Meets Clients’ Learning Needs

Georgetown University is home to world-renowned faculty and research centers, and these resources aren’t just available to students. Leveraging the full resources of the University, Georgetown’s Corporate and Custom Education department designs and delivers custom learning solutions for teams, departments, and organizations. In order to guarantee that our clients’ learning objectives are met, our team emphasizes three components in the design and delivery of custom programs:

1. A Thorough Needs Assessment

Contemplation is a critical dimension of intellectual inquiry, and Georgetown’s Custom Education team recommends that clients reflect on the need(s) for a custom education program. We ask clients to consider the knowledge-level of employees, what the employees need to learn, and what is happening at the organization that needs to be changed, improved, or built upon.

Through a series of reflective questions during the discovery and needs assessment process, the Custom Education team works together with the client to make sure the learning objectives are appropriate and realistic.

2. A Collaborative Classroom Experience

Grounded in the university’s Jesuit traditions, Georgetown’s Corporate and Custom Education programs draw from the core value of cura personalis, which translates to ‘care of the whole person.’ In academic life, this refers to individualized attention to the needs of a student, respect for his or her unique circumstances and concerns, and an appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights.

Cura personalis is reflected in the collaborative classroom experience that our custom program instructors foster in the classroom. By paying attention to the variety of personal and professional experiences represented in the classroom, instructors are able to create individually tailored relationships with participants. This encourages more open dialogue and allows the instructor to better target learning gaps and more effectively achieve established learning objectives.

 3. An Applicable “Toolbox”

Georgetown’s Custom Education programs introduce key frameworks and concepts and then apply them to practice through a mixture of class assignments, case studies, and real-world examples. By building from theory to practice, participants are able to more fully internalize the learning and place it within a real-world context.

Upon completion of a custom education program, participants walk away with a “toolbox”, in the form of templates, handouts, or slides. Equipping participants with an applicable toolbox helps to not only refresh participants’ knowledge when needed, but also continuously reinforce the learning objectives.

If your organization is interested in custom learning design and development, please contact us at or 202-687-7000 so that we can begin the discovery and needs assessment process.

US Army — Strategic Communications Planning

This summer Georgetown University’s Corporate and Custom Education department had the privilege of delivering a special program, Strategic Communication Planning in a Social Media World, to nine Public Affairs Officers from the U.S. Army. In July the PAOs traveled from all over the globe to participate in this four-and-a-half-day program. The program kicked off with a half day social media boot camp led by Brittany Brown, a former social media strategist for the U.S. Army and current adjunct faculty in Georgetown’s Social Media Management certificate program. All participants received a successfully completed grade along with a certificate of completion for their participation.

David Lipscomb, PhD, Director of the Writing Center at Georgetown and Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of English, has been leading this program for more than ten years now. Dr. Lipscomb explains the importance of strategic communication planning in a social media world:

“Given the pace of social media and our 24/7 news cycle, the idea of “planning” an organization’s communications might initially seem antiquated. But paradoxically, planning is more crucial than ever. And this is true precisely because it’s so easy for an organization to get sucked into the games and distractions of increasing “likes,” responding to every news event, and chasing every meme. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself with a slew of Facebook pages, new accounts on every new platform, and a crazy work schedule. That way madness lies. You don’t have the time or personnel for that, and it’s unlikely to help your brand or your mission.

Strategic Communication Planning lets you step back, clarify your goals, listen to and learn about the audiences that matter to you, and discover creative ways to talk to them where and when they’ll be receptive to you and what you have to say. And all along you measure what’s working and adjust. There’s nothing new about these tasks, but it turns out that social media and the world of data now available to us make all the basics of strategic communication planning much easier, faster and more effective. And at Georgetown, we have a whole set of new on-page tools to help you take advantage of this new world, including the Plan-on-a-Page, more commonly known among students as the POP.”

Georgetown looks forward to continuing to work with the U.S. Army to confront the challenges and discover the benefits of this new world.

Our Custom Education team works with organizations to provide education and training to enhance employees worldwide. Learn more about custom education >>

RoK Public Safety — Emergency & Disaster Management

Georgetown University’s Emergency and Disaster Management program and Custom Education team partnered to host South Korean public safety officials for a week of instruction in “Emergency & Disaster Management in the US: Preparedness and Response Exercises.”

The customized course, specifically requested by the South Korean Ministry of Public Safety & Security, was focused upon learning about the US approach and processes. Subject matter included US theoretical and legal frameworks, organizational arrangements, exercise programs, and methodologies for applying lessons learned. Presented over 5 days, the course included visits to FEMA and the US Geological Survey. Instruction was delivered in English, complemented with full, iterative interpretation into Korean.

The attendees included senior officials of the Ministry’s Civil Defense and Disaster Management Training Institute, as well as specialists in meteorology, tsunami effects, and Emergency Managers from the City of Seoul. There were multiple collaborations during the course in which techniques and best practices were shared. After this inaugural success, exploratory discussions are already underway for further Emergency & Disaster Management courses for more groups of South Korean officials to attend at Georgetown.

Post by Gregg Jones, course developer and instructor; Georgetown University lecturer. After military and civilian Government careers, Gregg now consults globally in crisis management. At Georgetown, he teaches courses in Emergency & Disaster Management theory, Strategic Readiness & Emerging Threats, and Crisis Management. He is currently researching volunteers in humanitarian emergencies.

Our Custom Education team works with organizations to provide education and training to enhance employees worldwide. Learn more about custom education >>

5 Step Interview Prep

1. Research the organization

Look for background information on the company to give you context for the questions you’ll be facing in your interview. Knowing more about the organization will also help you determine if this job is a good fit for you at this stage in your career.

  • Visit the company’s website to make sure you understand the work they do. Review their mission statement to get an idea of their core values. And see if you can find out more about the department or team you’d be joining.
  • Do a quick Google search of the company to find any recent news or press releases, and explore websites like Vault to get an overview of the organization’s industry profile. This will give you an idea of challenges or opportunities facing the company that you might help solve in your new role.

2. Research the position

Closely review the posted job description and compare the requirements to your skills and experience. Figuring out what aspects of the job would be most and least challenging will help you figure out your next steps.

  • Start by reviewing the qualifications for the position. Do you have the desired level of education and years of related experience, or do you appear slightly over or under qualified on paper? Is there any background reading you could do before the interview to show that you are working on developing additional specialized skills?
  • Look at the job responsibilities and outline the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to be successful in the role. Start thinking about examples from your previous work or educational experience that demonstrate these qualities.

3. Practice interviewing

There are many different types of interviews – phone screens, one-on-ones, lunch or dinner meetings, panel interviews, skills or case assessments, and even video interviews. Practicing the interview beforehand is the best way to make sure it goes smoothly.

  • Review common interview questions and answers to get an idea of what hiring managers are looking for. Write down and work on memorizing a few stories that demonstrate the key skills needed for this job and that showcase hard-to-measure qualities like judgement and teamwork. Whenever possible, quantify what you’ve done.
  • Conduct a practice interview in the same format as the real interview. Check in with your alma mater to see if you have access to practice interviews with a career counselor through alumni career services, or ask friends or colleagues to sit on a mock interview and offer feedback.

4. Get organized

Plan what to wear, what to bring, and how to get there.

  • What to wear: For most industries, a business formal outfit in neutral colors is the standard. However, if you work in a creative field like marketing or design, adding a bit of color or print to your interview outfit can help you stand out. If you’re applying for a job in a more casual environment, such as a technology startup, try to find pictures of the staff on the company’s website to see what kind of attire is appropriate.
  • What to bring: Generally you should only bring the necessities to an interview – leave any large bags, laptops, coffee, or anything else that might be distracting at home. A padfolio with paper and pen, and a few extra copies of your resume, should be sufficient for most interviews. If you work in a creative field, you may also want to slip a few work samples into your briefcase.
  • How to get there: Confirm your interview time and location, and make sure to save the phone number and/or email address of the person scheduling your interview in case you get stuck in traffic. Look for alternative transportation options in case metro lines stop running or your bus is running late.

5. Plan your follow-up

Seal the deal with a killer follow up.

  • Make a list of good questions. Most interviewers leave time at the end for questions from the applicant. If you’re strategic, this is a chance to close the deal and prepare for success on the job. Write down some questions so you don’t forget: Ask about the organization’s culture, ask success looks like for a person in this role, and, if you’re feeling bold, ask about whether there are any KSAs the interviewer wishes you’d demonstrated. This is your chance to cover anything you might have missed.
  • Draft a thank you note. Unless you work in a very tradition-oriented industry, emailing a thank you note to is the best approach because it ensures a speedy delivery. Before your interview, look for contact information for your interviewer(s). If you don’t have it, make a note to ask for it at the end of your interview. Draft a short message (less than 200 words) restating why you want the job and how you’d contribute to the organization’s success, and be ready to send that within 24 hours of your interview.