K-State Olathe’s Leadership Program Builds STEM Leaders’ Management Skills

September 12, 2022

An instructor standing at the head of a table.

K-State Olathe recently launched “Leadership Program for STEM Professionals”, a workshop series teaching core personnel management competencies such as self-development, building teams and achieving results.

America’s workforce is rapidly changing. In 2021, nearly 48 million workers quit their jobs. On average, four million workers have quit their jobs each month in 2022. This massive labor turnover has been dubbed the “Great Resignation”.

To help understand the nationwide employee exodus, FlexJobs surveyed more than 2,000 workers – 55% of whom planned to quit or had quit their jobs in the past six months — about their reasons for leaving. Fifty-nine percent cited poor management as a reason for their departures. Similarly, a multi-year Gallup Inc. study found more than 80% of employees reported their current or former bosses lacked critical leadership skills in communication and team motivation, which led to half of the surveyed employees quitting their jobs.

To help address these management shortcomings, K-State Olathe launched Leadership Program for STEM Professionals. The professional development series was developed to meet needs identified in the Mid-America Regional Council's Common Sector Competencies for the Kansas City Region report, and to support the region’s workforce, which is experiencing rapid change.

“Frequently, we hear from employees who work in science and math fields that, while their bosses may be subject matter experts for the areas they lead, they fall short in those core leadership competencies employees ultimately need and value,” said Lauren Racki, professional development manager at K-State Olathe. “The statistics from these national employee surveys support this perspective. We found that because of these experiences, many up-and-coming professionals are interested in the workshop content so they can be effective managers when they have those roles.”

Leadership Program for STEM Professionals is a six-workshop series that covers concepts of self-development, building teams and getting results. Content is tailored to those with careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The series starts Sept. 22 with the workshop, “Using Strengths and Emotional Intelligence to Maximize Individual and Team Performance.” Participants will learn how to maximize performance by using emotional intelligence and personal and team strengths identified by the Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Subsequent workshops are:

  • Building and Motivating Effective Teams;
  • Critical Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills;
  • Effectively Engaging Across Cultural and Generational Differences;
  • Evaluating and Improving Team Performance; and
  • Developing Strategy to Achieve Results.

“The workshops wasted no time teaching valuable tips that helped me as I dove into my new role as an organizational development consultant with a large health care organization,” said Kate Burns, a Stormont Vail Health employee who completed the 2021-2022 series. “Each course provided new and valuable knowledge through hands-on activities, role playing and other forms of engagement. The Critical Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills session has been the most impactful, but it’s safe to say I use many skills gained through this leadership series every day in both my personal and professional life.”

The Leadership Program for STEM Professionals is part of K-State Olathe’s existing professional development programming, supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle, that provides educational avenues – in addition to academic degrees – to working professionals who want to further their skills and knowledge but may not want to pursue a graduate degree.