Culture Initiative Seeks to Strengthen Institute Values

In Fall 2020, Georgia Tech introduced a new 10-year strategic plan, grounded in a new mission statement and nine strategic values that describe who we are and who we aspire to be as a community. To help accomplish the ambitious goals of the strategic plan, numerous Tech employees devoted much of the last year to launching the Living Our Values Every Day (L.O.V.E. GT) culture initiative — a series of values-focused workshops, pilot programs, and leadership conversations across campus.

L.O.V.E. GT seeks to help the entire Georgia Tech community bring our values to life in our everyday work. “These values represent what we want Georgia Tech to be,” said Frank Neville, senior vice president for Strategic Initiatives and chief of staff.  Neville said that supporting the values is like watering new plants in the garden. “These values are authentic to who we are and they are already growing on this campus, but we need to nurture and strengthen them in order to make them flourish.”

Supporting and empowering everyone students, faculty, staff, alumni, and affiliates to embed the values in their daily interactions is a core objective of L.O.V.E. GT.  “Understanding the connection between values and our everyday work is critical to being able to truly live our values.  L.O.V.E. GT is intended to be the framework that helps all of us make this connection,” Neville said. 

The initiative is organized into three components: leadership, communication, and structures and processes. The first component will help leaders model Georgia Tech values through a combination of leadership training, 360-assessments, and team exercises. The communication work focuses on engaging the entire community in cultural expectations and norms. Finally, the structures and processes component is intended to ensure that the rules, rewards, and incentives existing in Tech’s policies and procedures align with Tech’s values.

Over the past year, the L.O.V.E. GT initiative has made important progress. One significant step was incorporating the values into performance goal setting. As employees prepared to set their goals last year, Georgia Tech Human Resources and its strategic partners developed a values-based goal setting template that includes Tech’s nine strategic values. The new template includes details on the difference between expectations and goals, examples of creating values-based S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based) goals, and the responsibilities of both employee and supervisor in the process.

Another key effort is the Leadership 360 Feedback and Development Program currently being rolled out. Under this program, a new workshop, Leading Congruently, has been developed, focusing on aligning practices with our values and creating an environment of psychological safety. In addition to the workshop, a 360-assessment program is being piloted with Administration and Finance leaders. Pilot participants requested feedback from peers, direct reports, their supervisor, and others at the Institute while also completing a self-evaluation. The participants then worked closely with coaches over the course of three months to develop and implement action plans based on feedback received. Additional pilots are scheduled to occur in the upcoming fiscal year before the program is released more broadly to the campus community. 

In order to refine current efforts and inform future steps, a L.O.V.E. GT culture survey was developed and distributed to faculty and staff in late 2021 while the student portion of the survey was launched this spring. Senior leadership received preliminary high-level results of the faculty and staff responses at their semiannual retreat in early February and held a discussion on areas of needed focus and action for 2022.

Overall, our preliminary results from the 1,877 faculty and staff responses are trending positively for these four values: demonstrating that students are our top priority, striving for excellence, acting ethically, and championing innovation. We see opportunities to strengthen our community culture in our values of cultivating well-being, thriving on diversity, safeguarding freedom of inquiry and expression, and celebrating collaboration. 

Survey results will be used to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement and establish a baseline for measuring progress. The data will inform action planning and highlight best practices where the culture is healthy and thriving.

Register for the monthly Leading Congruently workshops being offered March 17, April 21, May 19, June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 15, Oct. 20, Nov. 17, and Dec. 15.

For more about S.M.A.R.T. goals, visit https://hr.gatech.edu/news/georgia-tech-introduces-values-based-goal-setting.

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