By Donna Calhoun
You may remember the movie “A Few Good Men” starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. In the intense court room scene, Cruise is pushing Nicholson’s character to tell the truth about events that resulted in a sailor’s death. Nicholson, pushed to the point of breaking, screams, “You can’t handle the truth!”
I was reminded of this dramatic confrontation recently when I received our company’s employee surveys for the “Best Companies to Work For” feature in Guam Business Magazine. I don’t know that business leaders can’t handle the truth, but perhaps we don’t want to hear the truth. I know my reaction upon receiving the results for my organization was, “OK, so how do I fix this?”
The first step for me was to reach out to my network of human resources managers whose companies ranked high on the list to discover their best practices. The “truth” was interesting and helpful.
Although pay and benefits are really the starting point for happy employees, there were many other ideas on how to create an engaged workforce. So here are the three main points I walked away with.
In my discussions, excellent communication came up the most. One company in the survey sends out a daily email from the leadership team to let their employees know basic business information like which clients are visiting that day, updates on deadlines or projects, and events that involve the organization.
This daily communication keeps everyone focused on the immediate task and encourages people to volunteer to help out on other projects. They were also very conscious that their communication was always respectful. There is no reference to “my girls” or “my boys” as this implies a lower level in the organization. They discourage differences in supervisors and non-supervisors in any policies or benefits that are available to the whole company.
Another organization on the list said that its secret to successful communication was using its IT resources to get a continuous and consistent message to all associates. “Everything is on the Intranet” and can be accessed by all associates. This information is updated on a daily basis and provides associates with an information resource to feel connected to the business.
The second category for best practices was leadership. In every discussion, the organizational leaders were referred to as “having a big heart,” “flexible with family issues” and “talks to us like an equal.” So it seems that the truth is something that we have known for years: Management by walking around still works.
Getting to know your employees on a personal basis carries weight and lets them know that you care. There were several examples of flexibility by the leaders in issues of child care. One example was allowing employees to take time off for children’s school programs and not having to use vacation time or leave time for this time away from work.
The last category was performance measurement. The standard was the annual performance review; however, some best practices were monthly performance reviews for work teams, an annual review of the executive team, which included not only financial performance, but also team performance and cultural performance. These programs were reinforced with quarterly bonuses and profit sharing plans when goals were met. The respondents were quick to add that the financial rewards were nice, but the most important point was that employees were receiving regular feedback.
So if you’re like me and you’re ready to know the truth, take a minute to walk around the organization and talk to your employees. Make sure that the information you have is shared with your organization as much as possible. Show that you are interested in their personal situation and professional growth. And find the opportunity to give regular feedback on their performance. I believe the true best practices are not about the big things we do, but the little things like respect, communication and understanding.
— Donna Calhoun is the vice president of human resources for Docomo Pacific. She may be reached at [email protected].