Mt. Cuba Center (MCC) is a non-profit botanical garden located in Hockessin, Delaware, near Wilmington, in the gently rolling hills of the Delaware Piedmont. Its woodland gardens produce some of the most spectacular displays of native plants in the mid-Atlantic region. Beyond the beauty of MCC runs a deep river of purpose. The garden understands the importance of native plants and natural lands and hopes to impart that understanding to everyone who walks through their gates. Their mission is to inspire an appreciation for the beauty and value of native plants and a commitment to support the habitats that sustain them.
Enhancing the MCC culture and workplace is an articulated goal in their strategic plan and they’ve undertaken a number of important initiatives to that end. The garden has worked collaboratively to develop core values, implemented programs to emphasize those values in practice, and focused on fostering a collegial, supportive environment where everyone feels valued and special.
MCC was awarded a Delaware Top Workplaces 2019 honor by The News Journal. The Top Workplaces list is based on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by research partner Energage, LLC. According to this anonymous survey, statements that Mt. Cuba Center employees rated highest include: “Mt. Cuba Center operates by strong values” and “My job makes me feel like I am part of something meaningful.”
Photo above: Mt. Cuba staff poses for a photo in Miami at the annual Change Network retreat with members from organizations around the world.
KPI 1a: Garden promotes its efforts to support inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA).
MCC began participating in the OF/BY/FOR ALL Program in October 2019. The OF/BY/FOR ALL Change Network is a global network for civic and cultural organizations of all sizes and sectors. It provides an intentional framework to make organizations more inclusive, relevant, and sustainable. After joining, a team is set up with an interactive dashboard of tools, progress reports, and coaching check-ins. With this guidance and support, organizations connect with communities of interest, strengthen institutional programs and policies, and get support from coaches and peers around the world. When the OF/BY/FOR ALL Change Network launched the third wave of the Change Network, MCC was one of ten new organizations that joined an updated version of the program.
As part of their involvement in OF/BY/FOR ALL, MCC is creating an expanded Diversity & Inclusion Statement to be embedded in all recruiting and training collateral, including prominent placement on their website.They will also create an employment brand to better represent MCC’s work culture and environment.
Mt. Cuba staff and volunteers are expected to promote the organization’s core values, including Respect for the Individual, through an accepting and welcoming environment: “Our staff, board, and committees respect differences, value diversity, and treat each individual with kindness and respect.” Collaboration, another core value, is relied upon to include everyone in working toward a common purpose. MCC aims to remove barriers, recognize and utilize diverse talents, assist one another, and foster a supportive and encouraging environment.
Photo above: Guests enjoy an evening event co-created by Mt. Cuba and Christina Cultural Arts Center, called Christina in the Gardens.
KPI 2a: Garden develops effective practices for recruiting and hiring boards, employees, and volunteers that ensure IDEA principles are core components of the process.
As part of their participation in this program, the organization has created a Change Plan with ideas the organization is committed to implementing over the next year. MCC has chosen to reach out to Hispanic and Latinx families in their area. MCC’s Change Plan includes the following actions:
- Prioritize attracting and hiring bilingual frontline staff candidates
- Create an employment brand to be posted on the website that fully describes who they are as an employer and includes an expanded Diversity and Inclusion statement
- Co-create at least one public program with one to two partners from their chosen community of focus
- Attend/support at least one outreach event with their chosen community
- Conduct sensitivity training to promote an inclusive work environment for all MCC staff in 2021
- Begin to collect guest and student demographic data respectfully
- Provide a Spanish language version of the garden map
MCC follows best practices for hiring and recruiting, including:
- Working with a compensation consultant to periodically benchmark all positions’ salary ranges against the marketplace and employs an assessment process to insure that individual employees are appropriately compensated relative to their salary range.
- An online application that asks only for an applicant’s desired salary and does not ask candidates to disclose salary history at any stage of the hiring process.
- While education and number of years’ experience play a role in MCC’s decision to invite an applicant to interview, hiring managers value diverse backgrounds and appreciate candidates that bring a variety of unique skills and experiences. In their selection process, they take steps to reduce internal and subconscious bias, using a group interview process for all positions and assembling search committees that encourage diversity of thought.
- The OF/BY/FOR ALL Program has helped the Human Resources (HR) team broaden the channels they use to advertise job postings. All MCC openings are posted directly on their website, social media channels, and the Association career center page. Opportunities are also sent to Delaware’s Job Link office which shares postings with several partners that focus on underrepresented candidate pools. MCC also emails a list of open positions to their community partners, all of whom support programs for a diverse audience. When posting, MCC uses “diversity boost” add-ons to connect their jobs to job boards designed to attract diverse audiences and when appropriate use national job boards that focus on diversity.
Photo above: Volunteers work in the meadow.
KPI 2b: Garden recognizes accomplishments (salary, benefits, award) of board, employees, and volunteers
All full-time and part-time staff members participate in MCC’s annual performance appraisal process. Staff members are eligible to participate if they have been with the organization for at least six months prior to the start of the annual appraisal process. All full-time and part-time new hires receive a condensed review at 90 days to ensure they are equipped with the tools they need to succeed in their roles and receive the opportunity to work with their managers to set goals. Their benefit programs and policies are clearly defined and shared with employees via the Employee Handbook and in various benefits communications.
MCC's culture celebrates achievements, milestones, and encourages the use of benefits for volunteers and staff in the following ways:
- MCC culture consistently reinforces that volunteers are an integral part of the team. Volunteers are provided extensive perks and privileges for their commitment and dedication to MCC, including free admission to the gardens for themselves and up to 3 guests, full library access, a free class after 50 hours, invitations to staff events (lunch & learns, annual picnic), and complimentary apparel.
- Work anniversaries and accomplishments are celebrated in a variety of ways at MCC. For example, they’ve created a “Values in Practice” program where staff members are nominated by their colleagues and celebrated for outstanding work in upholding the organization’s values and mission.
- An annual volunteer celebration includes recognition of volunteer time commitments and completed projects, and more importantly, highlights what MCC has accomplished as a result of volunteer efforts.
- MCC staff members at various levels of employment and across all departments are invited to serve on committees and encouraged to seek out and attend conferences, classes and/or other training opportunities that will allow them to grow in their roles.
- A variety of enrichment activities are offered to MCC volunteers including educational experiences in horticulture, history, and the sciences. Volunteers are invited to participate in cross-departmental projects and share their unique skills across all work areas.
- MCC offers a 401k plan to all full-time staff members. Both full-time and part-time staff are offered benefits such as an Employee Assistance Program, complimentary garden admission/reciprocal gardens admission and various discount programs, activities, and events.
Photo below: Mt. Cuba staff at their annual staff picnic.
KPI 2c: Garden develops effective practices for retaining employees and volunteers that ensure IDEA principles are core components of the process.
- Employees work with their supervisors on flexible work arrangements and many MCC staff members work a modified schedule and/or work remotely.
- Volunteer communication is comprehensive, routine, and transparent. Teams of volunteers meet with the Volunteer Coordinator and their staff supervisor. Regular emails are sent to update and include volunteers on important organizational news. Volunteers are offered routine, project-based, indoor, outdoor and remote opportunities in order to provide opportunities for all who can contribute. The minimum yearly requirement is 20 hours in order to allow full-time workers to participate.
- MCC hosts a variety of special events throughout the year to celebrate staff members. The largest event is their summer picnic, which includes staff members and volunteers. They also host several holiday parties for staff and volunteers separately, including a reception hosted by the Board of Directors. Quarterly lunch potlucks, open to all staff and volunteers, are also popular gatherings.
- MCC’s HR department consists of one full-time director and a part-time assistant, both equipped to provide support to staff members. MCC has a comprehensive conflict-resolution plan that includes HR and members at all levels of the management team.
- All-Staff meetings are held quarterly, where departments can share updates and new initiatives. At every All-Staff meeting, both individual and team victories regarding Values in Practice are celebrated.
- MCC reviews leave policies are periodically reviewed and revised as needed to achieve fair work-life balance. Most recently, the garden adopted Emergency Time Off in response to employee needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. MCC’s current Paid Time Off policies include paid personal time, sick time, vacation and holidays, as well as bereavement time. Additionally, MCC offers 12 weeks of fully paid maternity/paternity leave to any full-time staff members that have been with the organization for at least 12 months.
KPI 3a: Garden develops effective practices for tracking and reporting diversity of staff, volunteers, and board (if applicable)
- MCC’s staff members are encouraged to contact their supervisors and/or HR representative with feedback as it relates to work culture and environment. In addition, staff are surveyed on an annual basis by a third-party provider.
- An open line of communication is available to volunteers through their supervisor, the Volunteer Coordinator, and HR. Surveys are conducted every few years.
- MCC participates in a bi-annual, anonymous Workplace Satisfaction Survey conducted by a third-party vendor. The leadership team identifies action items based on the results to ensure continual improvement.
- MCC uses an external consultant to conduct external benchmarking in order to validate their salary structure and to conduct performance appraisal process training annually to reduce conscious and unconscious bias.
Photo above: Local folk artist teaches a children’s art class in Mt. Cuba’s gardens.
KPI 3b: Garden provides public programming opportunities that are inclusive, equitable, and accessible to diverse demographics
MCC offers evening and weekend programming for those that want to volunteer, intern, or work at the garden part-time. Many of their events are family friendly and occur outside of typical work and school hours. Within the past year, they have begun to involve local community partners in their programming, seeking to engage more diverse audiences by collaborating to co-create new events (e.g., music crawl through the gardens, student performance showcase with a local cultural arts center, botanical body art event with tattoo artist, children’s art classes led by a local folk artist, etc.).
KPI 3c: Garden determines metrics to hold leadership staff accountable for implementing IDEA strategies and benchmarking success
- Minority representation in the volunteer team is noted and recruiting is conducted with the goal of increasing participation of underrepresented communities.
- MCC reviews hiring metrics annually and after seasonal recruiting, noting changes in racial and ethnic diversity.
- MCC conducts a formal workplace survey annually that invites feedback on work environment, culture, and indicators of inclusivity.
- The Leadership team collaborates and shares learning in all areas of leadership development— including training sessions—and documents these annually as part of its self-review in the performance appraisal process.
Address: 3120 Barley Mill Rd, Hockessin, DE 19707
Phone: (302) 239-4244