When Jeffrey Yergler became chair of the undergraduate management department at Golden Gate University, one of his priorities was to establish a values-driven department that emphasized improving faculty members’ well-being, performance, and sense of community within the management discipline.
In this model, policies, procedures, and protocols play an important but lesser role as the driver of the department because, as Yergler has found through his consulting work with a variety of organizations, focusing solely on process, structure, and deliverables without addressing relationships, value, and support, “can create a certain level of acrimony, distrust, and disharmony.”
“I brought with me a belief that if you want employees to deliver a great product to the end user, they’ve got to be engaged. If you’re going to engage employees you need to ensure that they are aligned—that they’re using their expertise and spending most of their time doing what they love to do, that they understand how their individual contribution is advancing the larger mission of the organization, and, most importantly, that they know that they’re valued,” Yergler says.
This values-driven approach manifested itself in things such as
Yergler, who is in his fourth year as chair, never met his predecessor, and the evidence of the state of the department before he started does not indicate major problems. Nevertheless, the reactions from the faculty members in his discipline indicated there was room for improvement. “When I arrived I began to intentionally reach out to the faculty to make connections and I began to immediately receive emails and have conversations with faculty members who appreciated the affirmation, support, and encouragement over a job that was done well or a job not done well but which could be improved. This is not complex stuff, but it really was an intentional focus on making sure that the department was and continues to mature and become more efficient and more affirming, that efforts were validated, and that people were recognized, resourced, and valued.
How are his efforts measured? “One small indicator may be that, overall, in undergraduate programs, student satisfaction is showing a significant increase. I believe that one of the reasons for this is that all of the chairs in undergraduate programs are working very hard with our faculty to make sure they have what they need and that that they feel supported. Additionally, our advising team and administrative staff are deeply concerned about and involved in the success of our students,” Yergler says.
The shift from a policy-driven to values-driven orientation can come from anywhere within an institution. “Anyone who cares about the institution and has responsibility for how the university delivers its services to students can begin the conversation,” Yergler says. “But it’s not going to happen without some pretty broad-based institutional support and some pockets within the institution where it is fully supported. My dean is a visionary in this regard. Additionally, we have that broader-based support in the university and it certainly helps create a powerful organizational environment of our adult students.”