According to various surveys, seven out of eight people go home every night with a feeling that they work for an organization that doesn’t care about them. That equates to 130 million people in the United States who go home feeling somewhat used and abused, and with a sense that they don’t matter.
Enter Robert Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a leading provider of manufacturing technology, engineering and consulting solutions. He is a disciple of Truly Human Leadership, a leadership model that is all about people, purpose and performance. His vision is to send people home every night feeling fulfilled. Barry-Wehmiller has 7,000 team members through 58 acquisitions with $1.6 billion in sales.
Chapman is focused on allowing employees to discover, develop, share and be appreciated for their gifts. (You can find his blog at http://www.trulyhumanleadership.com/.) Employees are routinely solicited for their ideas.
In the company’s leadership model, it attempts to shine a light in every corner of its business and look for the goodness in people. To help, it has created several award programs. One award is the Guiding Principles of Leadership SSR Award. Chapman is a car nut and had a Chevrolet SSR truck that he offered to one of his plants. The winner gets to drive it for a week. The program worked and expanded, so the company now has 17 SSR trucks.
“Everybody is nominating people,” Chapman said. “In a plant of 450 people, we had 120 to 180 nominees. Think of this: People took the time to talk about the goodness in other people.”
For every nominee, the company sends a letter to the employee’s home, saying, “Your husband/daughter/son/brother/mother was nominated for their goodness. And let me tell you what people said about them.” Then it’s a secret when the winner is picked. The family is invited to the ceremony as a surprise.
Chapman said he’s interviewed about 300 people who have won this award around the country. They tell him it’s so significant because it’s from their peers. Award winners are often asked about their SSR truck by friends, and they describe the leadership award they won. And every time people say, “I wish I worked for a company like that.”
Chapman was visiting one of the company’s recent plant acquisitions in Green Bay, Wis. He asked an employee what he thought about the new leadership model.
He said: “I’m now talking to my wife more.”
Chapman said, “I don’t understand.”
The employee explained: “Do you know what it feels like to work in a place where you walk in in the morning and you punch a card to verify that you came in on time? You walk to your work station, and people tell you what to do. They never ask you what you think. You do ten things right, and you never hear a word. But you get one thing wrong, and you never hear the end of it. You go home and you don’t feel very good about yourself. And when you don’t feel very good about yourself, you’re not really there for your family.”
Another award program used by Barry-Wehmiller is the H3 award for heads, hands and hearts. Winners get to drive an H3 Hummer for a week. There’s also an award for innovation.
The High 5 award provides employees with a dinner for the employee and spouse or family member. “We send a letter to the employee’s home and thank them for making a difference in our company,” Chapman said. “It’s kind of like a high five.”
When the recession hit Barry-Wehmiller hard in 2008-09, Chapman had a tough decision to make. Orders dropped 35 percent. Employees were concerned about layoffs. He reasoned, “What would a loving family do if a family member was under stress? Everybody would take a little pain so that the family member wouldn’t be devastated.”
So the company and employee leaders came up with a plan where all employees would take four weeks off without pay. They could pick the time that would fit best with their families. The company also suspended its 401(k) match.
“Employees didn’t feel they did it to make the company more profitable,” Chapman said. “They felt they did it to save somebody else’s job. It was a gift. It was not a sacrifice.”
True to form, when the company rebounded quicker than anticipated, the company not only reinstated the 401(k) match, but paid back the missed company match.
Just another way to reward employees.
Mackay’s Moral: People are judged by the company they keep. Companies are judged by the people they keep.