Chicago, IL

Director of People and Culture, MacArthur Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The Organization

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (the “Foundation”), is one of the 10 largest private foundations in the United States, with assets of more than $6 billion.  One of the most respected private foundations, the MacArthur Foundation works globally to help creative people and effective institutions build a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.  The Foundation has awarded more than $5.5 billion since its inception in 1978 and awards approximately $250 million annually in grants and impact investments in the United States and 50 other countries.

The Foundation’s headquarters is in Chicago, where it is deeply engaged.  The organization has 164 employees in Chicago and 24 in four overseas offices.  For more information about the Foundation, please go to

Position Overview

The Role

The Director of People and Culture is a new position that reports directly to the President.  The Director will have responsibility for designing, implementing and managing innovative human resources initiatives that attract, develop, engage, support and retain a satisfied, high-performing staff in a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Specific areas of responsibility include:

  • Recruitment and assistance in employee selection;
  • Onboarding, including robust orientation;
  • Training and professional development, including personal coaching;
  • Team building;
  • Organizational skills and needs assessment;
  • Leadership development;
  • Performance management, including individual and organizational metrics;
  • Employee relations;
  • Conflict resolution;
  • Change management;
  • Succession planning;
  • Internal communications with a focus on people and cultural issues.

The Director will work with senior leadership to foster a strong, unified enterprise characterized by a culture of collegiality and cross-functional teamwork – a culture that provides opportunities for constructive input from all employees, rewards innovative thinking and approaches, and is comfortable with change.  The Director will be responsible for internal communications that promote the desired culture.

While the position is intentionally designed to have a targeted focus on people, the Director will work closely with the operational areas of the Foundation to advise on compensation and benefit strategies, workplace policies, and compliance with laws and regulations.

The Director will participate as a member of the Foundation’s leadership team and is expected to contribute to the discourse about the Foundation’s work, with special insights about how decisions about the work affect Foundation staff.

Within three years, the overall goal is for the Foundation to be recognized as having best-in-class human resources and culture practices, including having strong policies, programs and systems in place to support those areas.

First-Year Goals

In the first year, the Director is expected to:

Broad Objectives

  • Understand how foundations operate and the general rules governing private foundations.  Get a general sense of different approaches taken by other foundations including those that take nontraditional approaches to philanthropy.
  • Learn about the Foundation’s organizational history and the evolution of its programs by reading materials and engaging with employees across the Foundation.
  • Understand the existing culture and its evolution and, in conjunction with the President and others, help develop a culture that is understood and embraced by employees at all levels and across all programs and departments.
  • Identify strategies for managing significant change, including in structure, program focus, and implementation of systems and processes that will significantly affect how the Foundation operates.

Concrete Tasks

  • Develop a comprehensive people- and culture-focused internal communications strategy.
  • Identify current skills gaps and design and implement a training and development plan that optimizes the Foundation’s individual and collective human resources.
  • Develop a best-in-class employee performance evaluation plan that measures and rewards individual, collective and organization-wide accomplishments.
  • Develop a robust orientation and onboarding experience for new employees to quickly become assimilated into the Foundation and its culture and engage in activities that will ensure success in individual and team job roles.

Candidate Profile

The Foundation seeks a Director of People and Culture with significant experience and strong expertise working on the people side of organizations.  Characteristics of strong candidates will include the performance and personal competencies listed below.

Personal Qualities

  • An empathetic, approachable colleague who engenders trust and confidence, with an inherent ability to interact positively and work closely with all members of the staff.
  • A consultative and inclusive manager who also can act decisively, make difficult decisions and advise on hard choices, and is able to work productively with organizational resistance to change.
  • An individual with impeccable integrity, whose personal and professional values are consistent with the Foundation’s high standards and mission.
  • A confident person with a low ego style.
  • A hands-on individual who can also can leverage support from a variety of sources.

Technical Expertise

  • Record of accomplishment in project design and implementation.
  • Experience in staff and budget management.
  • Strong understanding of how technology affects the workforce.
  • Ability to work with human resources information systems.
  • Expertise attracting and retaining a diverse, high-performing staff.
  • Experience implementing innovative and effective approaches to performance management and appraisal.

Executing for Results

  • Ability to translate the vision/mission of the organization into actionable plans and set compelling goals and aggressive schedules.
  • Strategic thinker who can focus on the details of implementation.
  • Demonstrated ability to be innovative and highly productive.
  • Action orientation that focuses on meeting objectives while at the same time understanding the importance of fitting into and improving the culture of an organization.

Building Relationships, Leading Through Influence and Communications Skills

  • Good listener with excellent interpersonal, communication and collaboration skills.
  • Exceptional written and oral communication skills.
  • Consensus builder who understands how to achieve buy-in from diverse constituencies, build bridges and design “win-win” solutions.
  • Ability to develop and leverage relationships within the organization and across the public, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors; build and sustain excellent relationships at multiple levels in the workplace, including with the international offices.
  • Collaborative broker and facilitator who can work through multiple agendas, determining what is best for individuals and the Foundation as a whole.

A graduate degree in management, organizational behavior, psychology, marketing or other human resources-related fields or equivalent experience working within a complex organization is preferred.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and considers all applications without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, national origin, age, disability, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected status.

How To Apply
Please submit nominations and applications to the attention of Jane Phillips Donaldson and Paul Spivey at

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