US theological school forges partnership in workplace training

By staff writers
February 1, 2013

A US Methodist institution, Iliff School of Theology, has pioneered a new programme aimed at strengthening effective personal participation in the world of work.

Changing generational, racial, social, and personal differences, coupled with what some are calling 'the great recession', have resulted in low levels of employee engagement for many organisations, says Iliff.

The Authentic Engagement Program™ offers, its creators say, a unique approach to developing a better relationship between people and the organisations they work for.

“The workplace is in a time of change for many reasons. Today, it is not uncommon to have employees ages 18-80 from many diverse backgrounds working together,” said Albert Hernández, interim president and chief executive officer, Iliff School of Theology.

He continued: “With the additional pressures of the recession, erosion of the social contract between employees and employers, and [a] tight job market, many employees are not only dissatisfied and disillusioned with their workplaces, but distrustful of their leadership – resulting in decreased workplace productivity.”

Theological schools are in a position to help, argues Iliff. Theological education, it says, can provide the business community with the resources for employers to assist their employees in finding meaning in their work in ways that will foster the human spirit and enhance employee engagement.

“Theological education has long been an ‘initiator of community,’ so the basics of creating a culture of collaboration is an integral part of the skill set. Iliff has successfully focused on the core elements of a theological education and translated that for the workplace through our new programme,” added Hernández.

Illif's programme was developed in partnership with Denver’s business community via an advisory council over a two-year period. Funded by Wells Fargo Bank and a local business leader, it aims to provide impact-based training for all levels of organisational leaders.

The programme has been tested with members of the South Denver Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Wyoming, as well internally with many Iliff professionals.

Participants learn through a one, two, or three-day seminar. The content is about self-development, steps to create “interconnected otherness” and the value that a sense of belonging can have in workplace motivation, fulfillment and in the retention of staff, and 'whole organisation' awareness and techniques.

The connection between the human spirit, motivation, and clarification of personal values is well-documented as being integral to the success of any institution, says Illif. With more time spent at work rather than home, authentic engagement becomes critical in the workplace, the theological school believes.

“Getting employees aligned for a common cause through finding meaning at work is important in increasing the productivity of any business. Our programme not only provides the tools to make that happen, but also provides the pre and post-assessments to demonstrate it,” concluded Hernández.

The Iliff School of Theology is a graduate theological school related to the United Methodist Church, serving more than 38 different faith traditions.

Founded in 1892, the school provides several degree programmes, including a Joint PhD programme with the University of Denver.

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