Additional COVID-related programming will involve applied research by students and faculty. Programs for the public will address technology implementation, strategic planning, product development and employee retention, Hulke said.
The virtual leadership seminars grew from a void created by the pandemic and people suddenly telecommuting, said Assistant Professor Marya Wilson, who leads the sessions and is director of the Leadership Institute.
“We are getting feedback from leaders that they are exhausted with virtual leadership,” Wilson said. “They just aren’t sure how to make it successful.”
Wilson stresses the importance of leaders developing a clear communication plan with their employees when managing virtually. “They have to pick a plan that works for them,” said Wilson, who provides participants with a toolkit of resources.
The seminars also address screen fatigue and mental health, how to monitor productivity, technology options and more.
“The pandemic has pushed us to do things differently. What I hope leaders get from this is how they’re going to work differently,” Wilson said.
Plus, managing and working virtually won’t disappear with the pandemic, she predicts. “Telecommuting is here to stay. This is forcing a lot of leaders to recognize that it works. Productivity is up 20 to 30 percent, except in the retail and hospitality industries. Employee morale has gone up.”
Feedback has been ‘really positive’
Feedback on the fall seminars, which included managers from around the country, has “been really positive,” Wilson said.
David Sperling said he is a better communicator since taking the course. “I have been more willing to meet virtually with my customers and have learned to ask better questions. I know post-pandemic work will include more virtual supervision. The course helped fill my toolbox with resources and strategies to better function as a manager.”
Sperling, a 2015 UW-Stout graduate in engineering technology, is an account manager in Orange County, Calif., for Accurex, a division of Wisconsin-based Greenheck. Accurex makes commercial kitchen ventilation systems.
He manages 20 to 30 projects at a time while communicating with designers, contractors, engineers, consultants and end users, along with co-workers, across the country.
“They all have individual needs and require information presented in different ways. Using the emotional quotient lessons from this course, I am able to better communicate with each group,” he said.
Along with the two virtual sessions for each seminar, registration includes a one-hour individual coaching session with Wilson, who previously worked in the Silicon Valley and has many years of telecommuting experience.
Wilson, from the operations and management department, teaches and does research in organizational leadership, development and behavior, operations management, and quality management. She has a Ph.D. in human and organizational systems.