How is it that some organizations, when they’re stressed to the max, find a way to pull it together and succeed? Read the 60-second story of how one organization did it (and how you can too).
English Language Institute of China (ELIC) was rolling. Founded in 1981, ELIC had trained hundreds of educators to share their source of hope in sensitive countries, worldwide. While these unsung heroes of the faith worked unnoticed, ELIC’s U.S.-based office felt pressured.
In a private interview, Gary Lausch, ELIC’s VP for Human Resources, told me, “Organizational demands had created a crisis mode of operation that was less and less sustainable. Staff morale and organizational effectiveness were declining.
“Did we, as leadership, have the courage to ask our people to give us their honest feedback and then make the needed changes to advance ELIC’s work around the world?
The BCWI Employee Engagement Survey confirmed ELIC’s toxic workplace culture. Still, the organization was poised for a positive turnaround. Moving ELIC’s ministry headquarters from southern California to Fort Collins in 2008 came with four simultaneous stress-points:
- Relocation from one state to another
- Resettlement of staff and their families
- 50% staff turnover and required rehiring
- Set-up of a new computer system
The goal was to keep the organization functioning to ensure seamless operation. ELIC did this by greatly improving its culture, largely by satisfying these three desires of its people:
Intentional focus groups gave people the safe, needed setting to air their thoughts and feelings. “Mutual trust and teamwork grew,” says Gary.
2. Walking together
“People were now stopping and talking to each other in the hall. We were helping each other in new, needed ways.
3. Working together
“Over time, better communication both within and between departments, helped dismantle our silo-mentality. We weren’t competing, instead we were collaborating.”
Do we, as leadership, have the courage to ask our people for their honest feedback and then make changes to advance.
- “Staff engagement improved through an increasingly healthy give-and-take of information, ideas, encouragement and prayer among our people.
- “Today, there’s a much stronger sense of ELIC’s purpose and mission in the air. You can feel it, see it and hear it. People affirm each other’s successes, big and small. In my 31 years at ELIC, I’ve never seen a greater desire to fulfill the work God has given us to do.
- “Our culture began to turn around the day when we, as leaders, admitted we didn’t know what we didn’t know. The feedback of our people revealed what we needed to change in our culture. And the way to keep improving is to keep surveying every year.”