What Success Looks Like
Complacency, silos biggest obstacles for Ohio State
Gee talks about how culture will advance Ohio State at USAC’s Staff Conversation with the President
When President Gee left the university in 1997, he felt size was Ohio State’s biggest impediment. Big, he said, was just not good. But since he returned three and half years ago, his goal has been to make this big institution more powerful; its depth and breadth positions Ohio State like no other. But that size presents two challenges: Complacency and silos.
“We’re a really good place, doing great things by many great minds working autonomously, so it may be hard to see the need to change,” Gee said. “We need to change the way we think and work as one university.”
Creating excitement for change and encouraging collaboration are at the core of the culture Ohio State is creating. That culture transformation effort was the focus of the June 16 University Staff Advisory Committee’s (USAC) Summer 2011 Staff Conversation with the President.
President Gee and Kim Shumate, interim vice president for human resources, talked about efforts to build and maintain staff’s perception of the university’s culture. The university’s culture transformation efforts began in 2007, and since then, efforts to transform culture have taken place in every unit and college, including culture retreats, training, consulting, and leadership development. The 2011 Faculty and Staff Surveys showed staff’s perception of Ohio State remains strong. According to the results, staff remain committed to the university’s success, are proud to work for Ohio State, and believe senior leaders are committed to the mission of Ohio State.
We need to create one university in which we can all succeed.
-E. Gordon Gee
While those results remain strong, they have not changed since the last survey, which is discouraging and reinforces the need to focus on our culture, Gee said.
“We have a high level of support and enthusiasm among staff, and we need to build on that,” he said. “People will know they are valued when they know and believe they are making a difference. We need to help staff realize the difference they are making."
Shumate noted that successes in the first three years have shaped the evolving approach to culture transformation, including customizing efforts for different audiences, as well as staff and leadership development. Additionally, colleges and units have been asked to incorporate culture into strategic plans.
“Change takes time, especially given our size, and we’re excited where we’ve seen remarkable progress in such a short time,” she said. “The areas where we focused “going deep” efforts helped us see what strategies work for Ohio State, and we will apply these successes to other areas.”
Gee and Shumate addressed staff concerns after the presentation, including:
- Commitment to culture: Gee said we have to consistently believe in and focus on the mission and vision of the university, and the only way we can do that is if we change the culture. Happy, engaged employees contribute to the overall goals. We cannot put culture into a second priority slot.
- Culture and commercialization: Gee responded that an agile, innovative culture supporting collaboration will enable commercialization. It’s the 21st century demonstration of our land grant heritage, and will help us give back to our communities.
- HR policies - balancing flexibility with consistency: Shumate said policies are designed to create consistency and fairness, but most have built in flexibility. Requests for exceptions are good opportunities to review policies for changes and updates. Gee added that faculty and staff are the people who know where the issues are, and must point out problems so they can be addressed.
- Faculty pause: Gee said faculty requested a pause to ensure culture transformation efforts were relevant to the Ohio State culture, and that clear outcomes were defined. Shumate later noted that the evaluation process is finished, and OHR is in the process of partnering with faculty to design approaches that address their needs.
- Negative publicity: Gee pointed out that our vital signs, such as fundraising and applications, show that the university is doing well and that recent negative publicity hasn’t hurt our success. He reiterated the need to be one university with one standard we all live by.
For more information about the Staff Conversation with the President and to view a replay of the event, visit the University Staff Advisory Committee website.
Culture Transformation: The Way Forward
For more information about how the university's culture transformation efforts have evolved, view the presentation shared by Kim Shumate, interim vice president of human resources.