The COVID-19 roller coaster ride may seem never-ending. Hopefully, the biggest hurdles and gut-wrenching dives of the pandemic are behind us. Activities are returning to a cautious “normal,” people are getting out more, and professional development classes are moving back to in-person instruction. 

In response to the pandemic, the Kelley School of Business leaned on its decades of online experience.

Director of Open Enrollment for Executive Education

“We were able to immediately pivot and deliver in-person programs using distance learning,” explains Paul Slaggert, Director of Open Enrollment for Executive Education at the Kelley School. Nonetheless, the return of in-person classes for its Executive Education Business Certificate programs is welcome news, indeed. 

Executive Education and the Leadership Skills Gap

One of the key takeaways from the past two years “is the continued need to train and develop people for management and leadership roles,” says Slaggert. The leadership skills gap “isn’t new, he says, “but it intensified with the pandemic.”

In Slaggert’s view, what this means is that the return to in-person instruction is about more than “getting back to normal” by meeting in classrooms again. It’s about realizing the post-pandemic world into which we emerge demands redoubling efforts to educate and nurture leadership. 

“I believe this is one of the strongest lessons from the pandemic, “Slaggert says. “Those organizations that had leaders who were resilient, self-aware, and capable were most able to respond and take advantage of the new opportunities that were available to them.” 

It starts with the fundamentals, explains Slaggert. “This includes making sure your frontline leaders have the basic leadership and management skills and capabilities necessary to succeed,” he says. “It means that mid-level managers have the broad business acumen required to succeed at higher levels of responsibility. It means your senior leaders develop new capabilities to successfully lead in uncertainty. I call this ‘blocking and tackling,’ you have to start with the basics and do them well.”

Executive Education at the Kelley School is laser-focused on leadership training and development. From the nuts and bolts of management and leadership to creating an inclusive and diverse workforce amid rapid social change, each program directly addresses key leadership requirements in any organization.

The return to in-person instruction reinforces Kelley’s 20 plus years of online teaching experience. In turn, online tools and resources complement in-person classes. This experience, expertise, and flexibility provide a broad platform for professionals to advance their leadership potential.     

Moving Back to In-Person Instruction: What to Expect 

All in-person Executive Education Certificate programs adhere to the Kelley School’s health protocols designed to protect students, faculty, and staff. Anyone visiting the campus must be vaccinated and wear a mask inside buildings. Moving forward, “we will become more adept learning to live with the virus,” Slaggert says. 

“Now that boosters are available, and IU has safety protocols in place, I am anticipating that people once again will be comfortable with face-to-face learning. I think that people are ready to come back to in-person learning.”

Ready to Be Together  

“Many factors that go into a person’s choice of the format they choose for their developmental opportunity,” says Slaggert. “There is no answer fits all, which is why we offer many programs in both an in-person and online format. We believe it is important to provide our learners with maximum flexibility.”

Online learning provides participants the option of learning at their own pace and flexibility when they don’t have the time to get away from their home or office. That said, there is nothing like the dynamism of face-to-face exchange. “Our in-person programs include some additional content and opportunities to practice and receive feedback because of the intensity provided by the in-person format.” 

The in-person environment also leverages opportunities for professional networking as participants sit and work together on program activities and exercises. Outside of the classroom, there are informal, serendipitous networking opportunities at meals and breaks.

Investing in Leadership: The Time is Now 

Watershed moments define our future. The world needs competent and ethical leaders at every level of business and society. The complexity of our shared challenges, and those yet to come, requires a means for leaders to form by developing their talent, skills, and insight. 

The pandemic exposes the problems of ineffective leadership unable to navigate crises. “I worry most about how we, as a society, will respond to the next major disruption and whether or not we will learn from our experiences over the last two years,” says Slaggert.  

His message to organizations and individuals is that the time is now. “You can say there is never a good time to get away to develop leadership skills and capabilities. But, in reality, an organization really can’t afford to not invest in the leadership development of its employees.

“I think that what we do at the Kelley School – providing people with the ability to become better leaders and help to develop the people who work for them – has become increasingly important. That makes me optimistic. What keeps me up at night is that not enough companies are making this investment that is crucial to their short and long-term success.”