Maybe you’ve taken our Employee Engagement Survey. You have your results, but you’re wondering how to take them off the page and into practice in your workplace. Meet a leader at a distinguished Christian university who has been doing just that for the past 12 years. Today, you can benefit from his road-tested knowledge as he shares three big strategies that changed their workplace culture for good.
Of the Christian colleges and universities that survey annually with the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, Olivet Nazarene University, in Bourbonnais, Illinois has set the bar high for employee engagement. So much so that the character and competence of this faculty and staff has translated into organizational excellence for a school that has grown to six campuses.
Yet, the thriving culture Olivet enjoys today didn’t happen overnight. Much of this success rests with David Pickering, Director of Business and Human Resources, with the support of President John Bowling. For 12 consecutive years, David has overseen implementation of the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey at ONU.
How has David, in concert with the executive leadership team, translated the culture’s quantifiable strengths – along with areas that need to improve – into actionable strategies and processes that have produced a flourishing culture?
The driving force of Olivet Nazarene’s continually-thriving culture is inspirational leadership. David believes that key Christian leadership traits of integrity, humility, compassion and transparency have created the high levels of trust their culture has needed to flourish.
In a brilliant move, Olivet Nazarene’s senior team leveraged Outstanding Talent, Rewarding Compensation and Healthy Communication—which along with Inspirational Leadership, comprise four of the eight factors of a flourishing workplace that drive a healthy, thriving culture.
Develop Current Leaders
To cultivate outstanding talent, Olivet focused on hiring from within. “Over time, we’ve consistently been able to promote and grow great talent – people already working at the university who know our culture and who are a great fit with our mission and values. Outside hires bring fresh perspective and ideas, creating a great mix.” A supervisor’s meeting, held every other month, has offered practical leadership training to managers at every level. These regular gatherings have also acted as an effective means of succession planning as people grow in their competence and are promoted to new career levels of responsibility at the university.
Value Employees’ Time
To demonstrate its commitment to rewarding compensation, Olivet Nazarene, in addition to offering competitive salaries, has offered shortened work hours around selected holidays, what David calls “a small cost for the university that provides a great benefit for employees.”
Practice Face-to-Face Communication
Finally, healthy communication repeatedly generates a deepening level of transparency and trust. “This happens every time I personally meet with our vice presidents and department heads to walk them through their annual BCWI survey results. These face-to-face review sessions help each leader pinpoint a department’s strengths and opportunities for new and continuing growth. Our people value and expect clear, honest feedback. It’s all part of healthy communication that cultivates transparency and deepens trust.”
Over the past 12 years, Olivet Nazarene University has translated the quantifiable measures of its culture into actionable strategies and processes, needed to build and sustain a thriving workplace culture.
Today, through the leadership of David and his colleagues, Olivet Nazarene ranks in the top 10% of Christian colleges and universities who participated in our Employee Engagement Survey in 2016.
Its healthy, even flourishing culture points to a university which “seeks to honor Christ in all that we learn, say and do.” As David notes, “We believe the most important thing is to be a light to the world—to be a light first at home, to the university. If we’re demonstrating care for each other, we will have the integrity to be the light of Christ in our world.”