E3 Alliance: Building Culture to Support Employees

E3 Alliance is nonprofit in Central Texas whose mission is to transform education systems through data and collaboration so ALL students succeed. Over the past two years they’ve experienced a major growth period, reaching 24 employees, and recognized the need to formalize their informal structures.

We sat down with Cara Clifford, Chief Operations Officer & Systems Manager, and Emma Garrett, Administrative Director, to learn how Mission Capital’s Engage, Retain and Rally Your Staff team intensive guided their organization through this process, turning it into an organization where passionate, mission-driven team members excel in their work and care about one another.

Recognizing a Need

During one of our Mission Meetups, Cara first learned about the importance of an organization clarifying core values and how organizations can implement them within their own organization. Emma recalls “She came back and was very excited about core values and talking about how they already existed. We just had to find them and articulate them.” This realization coupled with the internal need to pay attention to culture as new staff came on board led them to sign up for Engage, Retain and Rally Your Staff. “It was noticeable that some folks in the office seemed to “get it” and they meshed really well and other folks just didn’t. [This course gave] us a process and ideas that helped us figure out what we need to do so that everyone at E3 can contribute, be happy, and productive.”

In choosing the team to bring, they selected representatives from each department and made sure they had variety in terms of tenure. The day-long workshop was full of value for their team. “It gave us so much to work from” says Cara, “Before we did this we never talked about the culture and now our mindset has changed”. Emma agrees, “the class was just so rich!”

Making Internal Changes

After the class, changes started happening quickly. Based on the prompts from the workshop, E3 set out to create a charter for an internal team that would focus on culture that became their Culture Club. Cara shares “We did the charter and decided that the first thing we were going to do was work on core values. The assumption was once those were done that we’d disband and no longer be needed. But it has continued now for almost two years.” Although it started with attendees of the workshop, they’ve added representatives from across departments to avoid silos and build org-wide structures.

Culture Club has been able to make major changes for the organization. After establishing the new core values (see sidebar), the team tightened up the mission statement then turned their attention to supporting their employees.  “One thing I noticed, and would not have without the training, is recognizing support needed for new employees. Employee onboarding should really be a year-long process.” Because they were hiring fast the “new people” weren’t always new for long. Employees were only new until someone else joined the team. Understanding the needs of new hires helped E3 strengthen their support of onboarding by adding a formal process including checklists for supervisors, developing an onboarding binder and assigning a “buddy” for new hires. “Now, people are so excited for the new folks to come on,” says Emma.

Culture Shift

Changes didn’t stop there. Ongoing support includes recognition of core values, support in planning for org-wide “advances” (E3’s version of a staff retreat), and culture surveys to track how employees are feeling about their workplace. The impact of the workshop continues to this day. “We’ve influenced a lot of the processes with the culture club. Our intention is to go through the whole employee life cycle and really brand it with our culture, equity and all our core values,” says Cara. “Doing the workshop really has transformed how we do things at E3.”

Who Should Take the Workshop?

E3 recommends this class to organizations that consider themselves in growth mode that don’t have a strong culture that can be sustained through that growth. They also see value for those going through a major change in vision or services or those who have experienced high turnover.

Want to learn more about Engage Retain and Rally – check out our course description here!

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