By Katie Parler
Our Custom Solutions programs at ExecEd are something special. Recently in this space, our former associate dean Ray Smith explained how these courses are designed particularly for the company that commissions them, to address an issue particular to that organization.
Our world-class faculty see to it that the instruction meets that challenge. But we go beyond that, making every detail of the experience special for the participants.
It starts the moment they arrive – actually, before that. Before the participants get here, we have the rooms set up for them in an arrangement that suits the content of the course. Some classes are set up in a classic arrangement with rows of desks, which allows the professor to freely roam the room, and help each person on a one-on-one basis.
But more often we arrange the room into pods – groups in which team members can work collaboratively. We don’t just throw them together randomly. Thought is put into teaming up people who will complement each other. They will be selected according to their respective roles or skills, with input from the company that sent them.
They likely will be from different parts of the organization – technical, financial, or some other division – and often don’t know each other before they arrive. This way, if someone gets stuck on a task and is falling behind, the others can bring their strengths into play to help.
This arrangement works better in many contexts, especially courses designed to instill and strengthen leadership qualities.
Sometimes, the curriculum calls for the participants to be reshuffled into different pods, where they learn to work with new teams. Other times, they stay together throughout the course – it all depends on the particular nature of the program that has been prepared just for them.
However they have been arranged, when participants arrive, they will find gifts waiting at their places. Sometimes there are laptops at each place; always there are personal gifts – a notepad, a pen, a charger pad, a water bottle, often with the ExecEd logo or that of their own company. Sometimes there is an umbrella, or a large tote bag.
It’s all a way we have of saying “Thank you for coming.”
For some groups, we provide breakfast. For every group, we serve a lunch, on one of the rooftop venues of the Darla Moore School of Business, or on the patio of the Sonoco Pavilion.
We do our best to make the food, as well as the curriculum, thoughtful and creative – something on the healthier side to provide energy and not weigh down the participants. In August, we served açaí bowls for breakfast.
Frequently, we offer burrito bowls or poké bowls – which you might think of as deconstructed sushi – for lunch. The idea is give each person options, so they can assemble a meal in any way they want.
Afternoon snacks are provided – energy bars, nuts and other things to provide a boost – and throughout the day, coffee and hot water for tea are available, as well as coolers or water bottles and soft drinks. This way everyone is hydrated, and no one runs out of fuel.
But the experience doesn’t necessarily end when class is over for the day. Many classes will experience an outing together. Sometimes it’s something that provides another opportunity for team-building. Have you ever tried an escape room, such as those at Columbia’s Escapology? It takes real teamwork for your group to work through the clues and find the escape key!
Other outings are less challenging, but still rewarding – walking tours of USC’s Horseshoe, or visits to different sport venues such as Williams-Brice Stadium, where a coach might speak to them on a topic related to their course.
And when a course falls at the right time of year, there is likely to be a trip to the South Carolina State Fair.
Bottom line, we want everyone to have a great customer-service experience, so they want to come back, and tell other people about us.
Everyone is asked to fill out an evaluation at the end, and we make adjustments based on what we’re told. That way, each time you return for one of our programs, the experience will be a little bit better than it was the time before.