University of Nebraska–Lincoln business students in the Clifton Builders Program aspire to change the world by building new businesses, teams and communities. Through hands-on consulting, the students gain real-world experience and provide impactful insight into employee work place engagement.
The consulting project is a key component of the Building a Life for Impact (MNGT 324B) course, taught by Dr. Tim Hodges, executive director of the Clifton Strengths Institute and assistant professor of practice in management.
“Students love to be able to apply what they learn to the real world in real time. This project doesn’t just teach about employee engagement, it gives great work experience through leading a consulting project,” Hodges said. “Student teams work together, manage client communication, work through technology challenges, and build and deliver presentations. It creates a very different learning experience,” said Hodges.
Though the project serves as a focal point for the Clifton Builders Program, it nearly didn’t happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the strong partnership between the Clifton Strengths Institute and business partners made it possible for 35 students to consult during the fall semester.
“This year has given us plenty of surprises. We debated about whether we could still do this project or not and how it would look during the pandemic. It’s really been a highlight of previous Builder cohorts, so we decided to keep it and adapt,” said Hodges.
Builders consult with companies on employee engagement through Gallup’s Q12 workplace engagement survey. After analysis, the results lead to a final presentation summarizing the results. Apt for disrupting the status quo, the students stretch their strengths by applying what they learn in the classroom directly to the project in real time.
“They not only learn from a textbook and classroom discussions, but also from rolling up their sleeves and entering their clients’ worlds and figuring out what it means to measure and manage engagement within a real organization,” said Hodges.
Students faced their own challenges at times during the course due to the pandemic as well. Trevor LeGrande, sophomore management major from Lincoln, Nebraska, noted how some team members missed parts of the project due to COVID-19.
“We were rarely at full strength, but because we all have good adaptability, we were able to cover for the gaps. It was really a team effort and having a group as diverse as ours, we were able to balance each other. It was impressive how we all came together and functioned as a team,” said LeGrande.
From the project, businesses receive meaningful insight into their companies and employees due to the Builders ability to think outside the box. Jenna Qualsett, design specialist at 402ink, noted how the Builders directly impacted their organization.
“The project results sparked an in-depth discussion over how to better develop our purpose as a company and mission statement. Since then, we have developed several drafts and expect to have a website page on why our custom designed shirts are important,” said Qualsett.
Impressed by the business acumen of the students, Qualsett shared how well they communicated and worked with the company.
“The students asked great questions and seemed to have a general knowledge and interest in our business, so it was easy to have an engaged conversation about what we do,” she said. “In addition, the findings of the study were very accurate to our strengths and weaknesses as a company. We hope to work with them again in the future.”
Finding the project instrumental in his future, Zach Molzer, a sophomore management major from Leawood, Kansas, wanted to prominently showcase it on his résumé.
“Being able to share this experience of going to a company and working with them to make their situation better is something I’ll be able to use for the rest of my life,” said Molzer. “I have a lot of things on my résumé and I was taking things off to put this project on there.”
The organizations students worked with included: 402ink, Bowlero, Husch Blackwell, Paraclipse, Rise, Striv and Yes Chef Catering Co.
View the video of the final presentations, and to learn more about the Clifton Builders program, visit: https://business.unl.edu/builders.