An instructor teaching on their laptop at home.

University Holds First Virtual All Employee Conference

BYU-Idaho sponsored its seventh annual All Employee Conference in January—the first ever held virtually. To encourage inspired discussion and strengthen discipleship, the theme for the 2021 conference was titled "Move Forward with Faith,” taken from a common expression used by President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Each fall semester, the Employee Engagement Council (EEC) meets with the President’s Executive Group (PEG) to approve and plan for the following year’s conference. Comprised of administrators, faculty, and staff, the EEC’s purpose is not only to enhance employee effectiveness and satisfaction, but also to connect employees to one another and back to Jesus Christ.

“We began discussing the possibility of a 2021 conference at the end of October 2020,” said HR Training and Development Manager Patrick Powell.  “We had to ask ourselves if this was something we wanted to pursue with the state of things and ultimately, we decided it was. This is an opportunity to help people engage in lifelong learning, hone their skills, and develop attitudes to be better disciples of Christ.”

While employee conferences in previous years were generally conducted in the Taylor Building and featured a keynote speaker, breakout workshop sessions, and a luncheon, the program had to be adapted for a virtual platform. 

“I.T. truly provided invaluable service helping us move this conference to Zoom and afterward, uploading the recordings to our video library,” said Powell. “We are very grateful for the help they have provided.”

Hosting the conference through Zoom resulted in forgoing a keynote speaker and focusing primarily on `three breakout sessions.

“Not only was it safer to hold the conference through Zoom, but many employees who work from home were also able to join,” Powell said. “Something else unique is that, while in the past, we recorded a few workshops, including the keynote speaker, this is the first time that we recorded every presentation for those to watch later.”

HR Administrator of Faculty Employment Beth Baldwin was one of the 19 speakers for this year’s conference.

“Every year, we as employees are asked what topics we are interested in learning about and leadership is always a popular suggestion,” she said. “In my experience, I’ve noticed that leadership is often spoken about very positively but when it comes to application, we have to admit that all of us, including those whom we respect and love, have weaknesses.”

Her train of thought inspired Baldwin to volunteer as a conference speaker, which provided the opportunity for her to lead a workshop entitled, “All Leaders Are Flawed” and discuss this principle with fellow employees.

“This type of conference is truly meant to be a participation event,” said Baldwin. “I learned so much from so many of the excellent comments everyone provided. A wonderful benefit from Zoom is that I was able to save the chat and read the discussion happening there later as well.”

Despite the conference being held virtually this year, Baldwin found that Zoom did not hinder her experience.

“I really appreciate the opportunities we have as employees to gather,” Baldwin said. “We are all busy , and we don’t get to do this very often as these conferences only come once a year. There is just an enormous sense of strength and unity, a sense of togetherness to share when we do gather, regardless of who is presenting and what their topics are. I’m grateful we can still have that opportunity through Zoom and highly encourage everyone to take advantage of those opportunities when we can.”

If you didn’t get a chance to participate in or watch the recordings from BYU-Idaho’s 2021 All Employee Conference, you can read the main takeaways from each session in the overview below. Recordings are available at


The Intergenerational Office: What ONE Thing Unites All Generations? with Natalie Gay

In this workshop, Natalie Gay explains that with five generations composing the workforce today, it is important to understand their different generalized characteristics to unite them.

“Recognition is the most powerful factor that predicts employee engagement, and the more engaged employees are, the less tension and friction there is,” Gay said.

Each generation has their own recognition style; for example, statistics have shown that Baby Boomers are more motivated by promotions and prefer to be recognized by their peers; Generation Z is motivated by social rewards, constant feedback, and appreciates public recognition for their successes as well as failures. Asking your employees how they like to be recognized, and recognizing your team’s efforts at least once every seven days, are great first steps to uniting your team, despite any generation gaps. 

Time Management and Personal Productivity Using Microsoft 365 with Tony Derricott and Amber Gneiting 

If you want to learn how to effectively use Microsoft 365 to improve time management skills and personal productivity, this class is for you. Tony Derricott and Amber Gneiting share the ins and outs of Microsoft Teams, One Drive, Excel, Word, and other Microsoft products. Follow along as they share 14 tips and tricks to turn you into a Microsoft master.

All Leaders Are Flawed with Beth Baldwin

In this session, Beth Baldwin shares the reality of being a flawed leader and how we can overcome our flaws while becoming strong leaders. She teaches how we should fill our hearts with love for those we are leading.

“Real love is not about excusing in a negative, selfish, or lazy way. Real love is often about having the tender, difficult conversations in the right way, at the right time,” Baldwin shared. 

Motivational Interviewing: Conversations that Strengthen Commitment to Change with Brian Schmidt 

In this class, Brian Schmidt teaches how we can incorporate conversation principles of collaboration, acceptance, compassion, and evocation to help children, students, and our friends in their efforts to improve themselves. “Change talk” techniques include asking open ended questions, affirming what a person says, allowing others to reflect on their own thought processes, and summarizing what someone shares. 

“The more a person spends talking about change the more likely the person is to change,” Schmidt taught.

Acquiring Spiritual Gifts to Help Us Become Better Teachers with Patrick Walsh

In this session, Patrick Walsh emphasizes that teaching often focuses on the subject being taught and how it is being taught, but a third, equally important aspect to teaching is receiving the gifts of the Spirit. Spiritual gifts can be obtained and shared through having pure motives, utilizing patience, and taking opportunities to spiritually learn. 

Canvas Assignment Feedback Made Easier with Gaylen Jensen 

In this class, Gaylen Jensen shares seven tips that make giving feedback on assignments through Canvas easier. He also shares important applications to use when submitting feedback to students. Learning how to give timely, specific, and progression-based feedback will not only help the teacher but it will also will help students learn, grow, and appreciate the feedback.
Creating Successful Remote Practicums and Internships with Amy Clark 

Amy Clark demonstrates a successful alternative of executing practicums and internships over Zoom in the Department of Elementary Education. Clark explains how the department overcame challenges and how they have used social media to recruit participants from all over the country. 

“Students get ‘real-life’ practice by evaluating data and making instructional decisions,” Clark said.

Why Opposition: How Story and the Hero's Journey Help Us Understand Why We Need It in Our Own Journey with Ted Finch 

Ted Finch reminds us in this class that “Heavenly Father is the master storyteller.” We love stories, both as individuals and on a business level because stories help us to reflect on and internalize principles.

In understanding story patterns and archetypes such as mentor, herald, shadow/villain, allies, hero, and more, we can identify where we currently fit within the stories of our lives. With this new lens, we can evaluate our progress and the roles we play in the stories of those around us. Most importantly, we can make sure that when our journey ends, we come out changed. 

Emergency Preparedness in the Office with Catrina Wylie 

In this meeting, Catrina Wylie shares the importance of being prepared for an emergency in the office and in life. Wylie explains many important things to keep in mind when preparing for an emergency, including the who, where, what, why, when, and how of emergency preparedness in the office. 

“I know that if you are prepared personally, if something does happen, the Lord will be there to bring it back to your memory. If you are prepared the Lord is going to help you,” Wylie said.

Am I a Builder? With Trent Shippen 

In this meeting, you will learn how to become a powerful builder and recognize the power you have to change the lives of your students for the better by opening your heart to the spirit.  

“I believe the students who leave BYU-Idaho ‘will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them’... because of your example of goodness and faith and letting God prevail in your lives,” Shippen said. 

Emotional Intelligence with Jennifer Hunter

By exhibiting emotional intelligence and managing strong emotions, Jennifer Hunter teaches that we can increase our happiness. Hunter shares this can be done though savoring pleasures, expressing gratitude, staying engaged (living in the moment), and through our service contributions. 

“It is okay to have an emotion, it is okay to have a feeling… but you need to be honest with yourself,” Hunter said. 

Parables! Why and How Did Jesus Use Them in His Teaching? With Michael Bolingbroke 

In this class, Michael Bolingbroke discusses various examples of parables Jesus Christ used to teach. Bolingbroke shares the importance of understanding gospel principles and explained the meaning behind different symbolic figures of speech found in the scriptures including the parable of the prodigal son and the lost sheep.  

“Parables are designed to teach truths in a way that we can apply them to every stage of our lives,” Bolingbroke said. 

Helping, Not Hindering: How Professors Can Make Life Better for Students with Mental Health Challenges with Rob Eaton 

A recent survey shows that 36 percent of BYU-Idaho students suffer from a diagnosed mental health condition. Learn how as teachers and employers, we can make life better for those with mental health challenges by placing more importance on intrinsic motivation, teaching students how things they are learning are relevant, and creating small wins to build students’ confidence. 

“If we’re intentional and seek inspiration, we can find ways to help [students], and one of the principal ways is cultivate a greater sense of purpose in them. That purpose can become a fuel to propel student to power through the hard times,” Rob Eaton said. 

Positive and Engaging Zoom Classes with Mindy Davis 

In this class, Mindy Davis models how to create a comfortable and engaging atmosphere in Zoom classes. Some Zoom applications that help aid engaged teaching include Zoom chat, breakout rooms, and white boards. Learn helpful teaching techniques including Zoom etiquette and incorporating interactive games with students, such as a scavenger hunt.

Leading Like the Savior: A Mini-Course in The Leadership Pattern with Tara Steenson 

Learn leadership patterns to apply in your organizations by leading like the Savior, acting under the direction of the Spirit, and aligning your decisions with the Church’s General Authorities.

“Lead others to become better than they knew they could become,” Tara Steenson said in her session.

Developing and Implementing an Outward Mindset [from the Arbinger Institute] with Seth Deming

In this workshop, Seth Deming explains the Arbinger Mindset Model, which emphasizes that as mindsets change behaviors also change, and our behavior is what produces results. We either have an inward or an outward mindset, or an “in the box” and “out of the box” mentality. An inward mindset views people as objects and values our own priorities, while an outward mindset views others as individuals and acknowledges their interests. In evaluating what mindset we currently have, we can evaluate our efforts to truly “see” others. Intently listening and learning about others will make communicating, teaching, and if needed, correction far more effective. 

Want Increased Unity in Your Teams? Then Swim Like a Dolphin! With Barry Bjork

Using the example of how dolphins beach together on shore to catch fish, Barry Bjork shared how employees and faculty members can work together in a common purpose of unity. He emphasized the importance of keeping it simple and truly seeing your team when working on a shared purpose.

“If we truly understand our people, we can really understand their strengths and the things they can contribute to the overall team’s purpose,” Bjork said.  

Financial Planning Principles & Preparing for Retirement with Lisa Stott (DMBA)

Discover the tools DMBA offers that allow employees to take control of their financial situation and prepare for retirement. In this workshop, DMBA Financial Advisor Lisa Stott shares financial tips, like how much you need to save for retirement or emergencies, and how you can start doing that today.