An excerpt from an article entitled “Courage at the Top” included as part of the 2019 ModernThink Higher Education Trend Report, a free report given to all Great Colleges participants.
Through our survey, we’ve been able to identify a number of differentiating qualities of truly great workplaces. One overarching theme is the critical role senior leaders play in the stewardship of an institution’s culture. This is particularly true for presidents just starting their tenure at an institution. Increasingly, we see presidential transition as an impetus for participation in Great Colleges, whether that is prior to a president arriving so they have data to work with, or after new presidents arrive so they can leverage our survey and program to provide a baseline assessment of culture and a communication tool for dialogue and transparency.
Within the Great Colleges program, successful cultures at recognized institutions are not achieved by accident. They are the direct result of senior leadership’s commitment to the welfare of employees and the quality of their workplace experience. Both new and tenured leaders understand that stewardship of the culture is every bit as important as stewardship of financial resources. A key aspect of workplace engagement is not just the creation of an inclusive culture, but the courage to embrace change and challenge the status quo. For this post, we are highlighting Victoria College and our interview with their President, Dr. David Hinds.
David Hinds began his tenure in July 2015 as a first-time president with Victoria College. He, along with his leadership team, opted to participate in the Great Colleges program in 2016, during his first full year of presidency. Victoria College, a two-year community college in Victoria, Texas, leveraged the Great Colleges survey from that point, creating a baseline for measurement. The results were utilized as a scorecard by college leadership, the board and community.
Q & A
Q: What were leadership’s initial goals for participating in the Great Colleges program in 2016 and how did it help you as a new leader?
A: Leadership had been examining ways to improve climate and culture. We felt the need for a third- party baseline to assess where we were. We needed a tool that had been tested and could provide a consistent look year-to-year. We also believed it was important to know where we stood among modern college cultural norms nationally. The Great Colleges survey accomplished all of those.
Q: How have your goals changed over time having participated and been recognized in 2017, 2018 and 2019?
A: The initial goal was to assess where we were for the purpose of establishing that baseline. Continuing the survey helps us do two things; 1) to continue to emphasize the importance of how we at VC feel about where we work and the work we do, and 2) to hone in on areas where the college could improve in terms of employee satisfaction.
Q: How do you/various stakeholders use the data from the Great Colleges program to help influence the campus culture?
A: Simply conducting the survey continues to communicate to employees that we believe the component areas of the survey are important enough to measure. If we receive good news (and we have so far), we use that to celebrate. Lastly, we pore over the results of the survey with a fine tooth comb looking for signs that we might need to focus on a particular area. We all keep that in mind and HR makes formal recommendations for change.
Q: How do you personally model and advocate for a culture in which people and ideas are welcomed in the spirit of creating a more inclusive workplace?
A: Trust first, listen, don’t judge, and ask questions. I believe that’s how you let people know that you care about them and their work. It seems simple, but this really means putting the other person’s needs and priorities ahead of your own. These things are hard to do and I have to keep reminding myself how important they are.
Q: What role has Human Resources played in your ability to sustain a great workplace?
A: This role cannot be undervalued if you are serious about improving campus culture. Human Resources will be where you leverage the results of your survey for improvement. HR sets the tone for the entire enterprise on what is and is not acceptable in our workplace environment.
Q: What advice do you have for new presidents in terms of participation in Great Colleges?
A: It can’t hurt (well it might hurt someone’s ego, maybe yours). It is important to communicate that you care about campus culture and then, do something with the results. This will do nothing but improve the workplace. It’s simple; people do their best work when they are happy. Overall student experience will improve as your campus culture improves. And THAT’S the point!
Q: How do you plan to celebrate your recognition this year?
A: In the past, we have shared the results and celebrated during convocation. Though we do not have our celebration planned yet, we will certainly celebrate and will do so college-wide.
ABOUT PRESIDENT HINDS
Dr. David Hinds’ career in education spans over thirty years – from teaching computer science to high school students, to serving as a faculty member and division chair at Brazosport College, Texas, to holding the position of Sr. Vice President of Instructional Affairs at Allegany College of Maryland. He has served as the President of Victoria College since 2015. Dr. Hinds holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston, and a Bachelor of Science from Texas State.