February 26, 2024

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Maintaining Culture in Growth: Strategies From Business Leader

There is an unprecedented level of change happening in the workplace right now, and leading through that change requires leaders to lean into their culture. In fact, according to a recent study by Gartner, culture is one of the main priorities for HR leaders in 2024. Here are some insights to cultivate a strong culture in the workplace. 

Be intentional about what your culture is and is not. 

Culture is not a one-size-fits-all construct, and it should be guided by an organization’s mission, values, and strategy. Be clear about what culture looks like when done right in your context, and be relentless in your focus on those markers. At DeVry, we define our culture as our Culture of Care, with the belief that care for students starts with care for ourselves and each other. We work tirelessly to prove that model out every day.

Remember that culture is an output, not an input. 

If you set out to change culture directly, you will inevitably fail. Instead, get incredibly clear on what your aspirational culture looks like, get incredibly clear on how your current culture stacks up against that aspiration, and then focus your energy on moving/changing/aligning things around your culture to shape it. I often think of culture as a flowing stream of water. You can’t move the water directly. If you want the water to flow differently, you need to move rocks, dirt, and sticks around the water to reshape the stream. Culture is just the same – reposition rewards systems, communication patterns, organizational rituals, and leadership behaviors to reposition or reinforce culture.

Create an environment where employees are passionate about the organization’s mission. 

We are seeing an overarching desire from talent in the market to work for an organization that prioritizes its purpose. For instance, DeVry is heavily rooted in its mission- something that presents an extremely attractive pull to the work we’re doing because there is no part of our work that is not directly and profoundly impacted by our culture of care and mission. It’s critical to create an environment where employees are passionate about the organization’s mission to keep them engaged while boosting a culture where employees are cared for. 

Put employees first. 

Putting employees first means prioritizing things like work-life integration and professional development. As leaders, we need to lean into creating workplaces where we consider the whole individual, facilitate work/life integration, and act as partners in physical and mental wellness. Leading with compassion and empathy can create a sense of belonging and excitement for the mission among your team – something we’ve seen with our colleagues and students at DeVry. 

Offer growth opportunities for employees. 

As a higher education institution, we recognize the power education has in allowing for greater mobility for employees at any stage of their careers. With an ever-changing jobs market, offering growth opportunities for employees can help organizations avoid losing critical talent, providing room for team members to evolve within a company. Establishing and promoting tuition benefits programs is critical to the vitality of any organization and the professional journey of employees. It’s an untapped resource with endless potential. 

The key takeaway? An organization’s culture is the foundation for success. 

Clearly articulate your purpose and values, hire those who share them, and empower employees to become leaders. Your culture will determine if your company thrives or dives during times of growth and change. Focus on culture, and your company will scale new heights.  

By Dave Barnett

By Dave Barnett

Dave Barnett is the Chief Administrative Officer for DeVry University. In this role, Barnett is focused on aligning DeVry's leadership and talent to achieving the University’s most important work, while also helping its partners with talent strategies to do the same. He has responsibility for leading our DeVryWorks partnership strategy, while also driving the direction of Human Resources, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, Public Relations, Communications, and Alumni Relations efforts for the University.

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