Nurturing People – Best Practices

The key to long-term success of an organization lies in how its management deals with and nurtures people. Here are some examples of effective people-management attitudes, values and practices from successful and progressive organizations and leaders.

Corporate Democracy
In Brazil Ricardo Semler runs Semco, an equipment manufacturing Company. Virtually everyone in the company sets his or her own hours. Some employees with particularly valuable skills make higher salaries than their bosses without being in the management track. There is no hierarchy to speak of, except titles like, counsellors or associates. Employees make most of the important corporate decisions. When supervisory people are hired they are interviewed and evaluated by their future subordinates. There is a complete openness of information. The financial data of the company is shared with the workers. Company provides classes to workers on financial analysis so they may understand the financial condition of the company. Semco’s combination of democracy, profit-sharing and open information has created one of Brazil’s fastest growing companies. It was voted the best company in which to work and has a profit margin of 10 percent.

An example of corporate democracy from Semco. Workers of the Company, not real estate agents, found three prospective sites, for a division of Semco. Then everyone from the division got into buses to visit the sites. The employees voted for one building that management didn’t really want because it was across the street from a plant with one of the worst labour records in Brazil. But after the plant was purchased, the workers’ productivity flourished as they had designed the factory for flexible manufacturing. Within four years after moving into the new site, workers’ productivity per employee jumped from $14,200 to $37,500. (1)

Caring for people
Doug Greene, founder and CEO of New Hope Communications, provides some of the best illustrations of how business can be done in a different way. He expressed his values in his suggestion to employees as to the three principles for relating to people: “Be kind, be kind, be kind.” Then the New Hope workers began to realize that often they weren’t being honest in order to somehow be kind. So they changed the exhortation to “Be kind, be honest, be kind.” Then Greene wanted to emphasize the joy of business, so they changed the watchwords to “Be kind, be honest, have fun.”

In order for the company and all its participants to individually know how things are going, New Hope has experimented with a five-part paycheck, consisting of four questions in addition to the check. This allows everybody to assess how they are doing, not only in terms of money but in terms of other aspects of the meaning and value of work. Accompanying one of the two paychecks each month are these four types of questions:

1. Are you happy with your financial or economic package?
2. How do you feel about your relationships here, the people you work with and come in contact with?
3. How do you feel about the skills you are developing?
4. How do you feel about the experience of the job overall? Are you at the right place at the right time in your life?

Greene and the people at New Hope struggle with the form of the questions and ways to  learn more from the answers both individually and organizationally. But they find that the growth of the organization and the people in it is enhanced by this kind of questioning. (2)

Just before Christmas in 1995, the Malden Mills plant burned to the ground. Rather than close the facility and layoff the 3000 workers, CEO of Malden, Feuerstein announced that he would keep all employees on the payroll for a month while he started rebuilding the facility. When the month was over, he extended the pay period for a second month and then a third. He encouraged his employees to contribute ideas to make the new facility even more effective than the destroyed one. By March most of the employees had returned to full-time work. This not only prevented a major catastrophe for his employees, but for the entire community, which depended on Malden as its major employer. This cost Feuerstein several million dollars. One of his employees commented: “Another person would have taken the insurance money and walked away… but he was not that type of person.”

When Feuerstein was asked by Parade Magazine, what set him apart from other CEOs, he responded:
“The fundamental difference is that I consider our workers an asset, not an expense. I have a responsibility to the workers, both blue-collar and white-collar. I have an equal responsibility to the community. It would have been unconscionable to put 3000 people on the stress and deliver a deathblow to the cities of Lawrence and Methuen. Maybe on paper our company is worth less on Wall Street, but I can tell you, it’s worth more.” The heroism of men like Feuerstein provide a role model to guide business leaders as they evaluate their own management thinking. (3)

This is a report of mid-level employers of Mustang Communication; a professional service company on their management and organization.

This place focuses on its people. Our management regularly interviews all levels. They care about where the people have come from and where they are going.

As a mid-level team leader you get judged on creating a collaborative culture for your team, not only by doing the work but also by being a sounding board for your team.
Our mentality is to be people who are open-minded and can roll with the punches. People who just want a job fail here. If you stay here, you are constantly asked, “Are you happy with what you are doing? Do you want to work on other pieces of business?” You have to be enthusiastic. You have to want to grow.

Management works hard to find out what people like and they try to be accommodating. Employees can say what they want to do next. Management listens, and while it is a gradual process, they try to accommodate you and they explain what’s happening along the way.

Management leads by example. They do provide incentives and they give good raises. But they also pay attention. They give pats on the back, spot bonuses. Our top manager is always walking the hall. Her enthusiasm is contagious. She will bend over backwards to make this a good place. You know you are appreciated. All the managers practice this. You are proud to be here.(4)

A Compilation

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