Monday, January 08, 2007

Higher education: the workplace of the future?

“Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” –attributed to Henry Kissenger

This quote was one of the favorite sayings of my late father, an academic who eventually rose through the ranks to become a university president. But looking back over the last few years, I’m not sure that the stakes are so low any more.

Because I live and work in the shadow of Cornell University, and began my own career as a campus service employee, I frequently get invited to work with teams of university employees all over the country, ranging from deans to dining workers – and looking back at training several thousand people on campuses over the past few years, I feel that in many cases they have become the prototype for the competitive workplace of the future.

The pressures on campuses nowadays are many, including competition for a declining percentage of college-age students, increasing financial constraints, and a world whose knowledge needs are growing by leaps and bounds. But what’s impressive – and exciting to me, as an organizational development person – is how many colleges are responding to these pressures. Many are now viewing students as customers, seeing the globe as their classroom, and shifting their focus from simply teaching subjects to developing young – and not-so-young – leaders. The end result is that on many college campuses, there has been more change in the last five years than in the fifty that preceded them.

What this means for me personally is that campus leaders are among the most open-minded and innovative management thinkers I have seen, and it has been a true pleasure to help them examine their core workplace values, change the way they manage and coach people, and develop service quality levels that would be the envy of most businesses. If you want to see what the workplace of the future will look like, most of us should – literally – go back to school.

* * *

Special note for my friends in the health care profession here in upstate New York - I am leading a workshop just for you, entitled "Customer Survival Skills for Your Health Care Practice", at the Academy of Medicine in Rochester, NY on January 25. For details on this and other public seminars from yours truly, visit

Don't live in the Northeast? Not a problem! Contact me through the website above to learn more about how to bring my communications skills, coaching and workplace culture programs in-house to your team. Here's to a successful 2007 for you and your workplace!

No comments: