A focus on workplace culture and company values yields bottom-line results
Posted on December 11th, 2015
Written by: Bob Helbig
OC Auto Team Celebrates Eight Consecutive Years as a Top Workplace
The first year John Patterson’s company participated in the Top Workplacesprogram, the survey results surprised him. He discovered that employees at his auto dealerships were not as engaged as he thought. “I place a real high priority on harmony,” said Patterson, who owns three auto dealerships in Orange County, California. “When everything is running in the same direction, it makes things a whole lot easier.”
Since then, reviewing survey results—especially candid comments—has become essential to measuring employee engagement at the dealership. Do they want more tools? More training? Changes in the 401(K) plan?
A focus on workplace culture yields results
Fast forward, and Patterson’s OC Auto Team is now celebrating its eighth consecutive year as a Top Workplace. Getting there and staying there isn’t because of one thing but “a series of little things,” he says. Staff camaraderie. Clear goals. Community service. It’s all part of the deal.
When the company first appeared on the Top Workplaces list in 2008, Patterson had about 100 employees. It now has 150 among Tustin Mazda, Huntington Beach Mazda, and OC Hyundai. As the company grows, it works hard to maintain its culture. They’ve realized the benefits of this focus, including with employee retention. At just 3% per year, turnover is extremely low—particularly for a sales environment.
“When people join our organization, they understand they are going to be treated with respect and honesty,” said Patterson, who founded the business in 2004 after 11 years at Toyota corporate.
Six company values are the key to their success
According to Patterson, six core principles help guide the company’s success:
- Work that is enjoyable, accountable, and consistent
- Engaged employees
- Long-term customer loyalty
- Making good, long-term decisions daily
- Community service
That last point has earned Patterson special recognition. The Orange County Register honored the company with a social responsibility award this year. It noted the company gives employees two paid days per year to serve charitable causes, including school activities or their favorite community passion.
“We want to be the best servants of our community and of each other,” Patterson said.
It’s a formula that works because Patterson leads his employees by example and creates an environment where he “treats his customers as though they are guests in his home,” says Lynda Nelson, the company’s director of customer affairs.
She estimates that more than half of prospective employees learn about the company because they discover it ranks as a Top Workplace.
Patterson knows community involvement is good for business. After the 2008 recession, “our organization not only survived but thrived because our customers rallied behind us,” he said.
Each year, the company gives in excess of $200,000 to charities such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and a local juvenile diabetes organization. It also gives plenty of smaller donations to bands, schools, and soccer teams.
In November, for example, the dealerships donated 700 pounds of food to the Second Harvest Food Bank and matched customer donations of pocket change to give $2,200 to the Orange County Rescue Mission. It sends a message not just to the community, but to the employees as well.
“They are part of something bigger than selling cars, servicing cars, or selling parts,” Patterson said.
The Importance of Trust and Values in Workplace Culture
Posted on December 8th, 2015
Written by: Bob Helbig
Brand Expert Says Great Companies Put Values Ahead of Profits
How do great companies create long-term success? Not by focusing on the balance sheet, a corporate brand expert says, but by improving people’s lives based on strong, shared values.
“Great companies have an amazing opportunity to provide a lifelong impact on all of the lives they touch,” said Michael Weisman, founder and CEO of The Values Institute, a research and consulting company that stresses the importance of trust and values in corporate culture.
Weisman delivered his message recently to Orange County business leaders at a Top Workplaces event in Anaheim. The advertising executive and brand developer has become increasingly passionate about corporate values since the 2008 recession. He’s spent years working with hundreds of companies, advising C-suite executives, and speaking with thousands of employees.
Five key values-based principles
In his experience, values are what makes great companies great. They define corporate culture: how they imagine, how they invest their time, and how they spend their money.
“Values create the foundation of every successful organization,” he said. “All the choices we make in life are influenced by what we value most.”
Since the recession, consumers expect more than mere transactions. In a values economy, these qualities stand out, Weisman said:
- Relationships are more important than transactions. Without good relationships, transactions are not sustainable, he said. Consider Zappos, the online shoe retailer, whose founder, Tony Hsieh, believes it’s in the business of delivering happiness. So much so, Hsieh wrote a book with that title.
- Put purpose before profit. “People don’t mind companies that make profits,” Weisman said. “They mind when they grab for our wallets.” He cited Toms, the accessory retailer, which contributes to a person in need with every purchase.
- Transparency over opaqueness. Great companies value open, honest communication, Weisman said. Patagonia, which sells outdoor recreational gear, is a big advocate of environmental responsibility, backing it up with detailed information about its supply chain.
- Conviction over compliance. Great companies value doing what’s right over what’s expedient, he said. They follow their heart. He cited Panera founder Ron Shaich, whose Panera Cares cafes support people who suffer from hunger by operating on a pay-what-you-can model.
- Advocacy over apathy. Put the needs of others ahead of your own, Weisman said. He singled out CVS, the drugstore chain, for its decision to stop selling tobacco products, giving up billions in revenue because it believed those sales conflicted with its mission of supporting customers’ health.
The value of values
Values give purpose, Weisman said. And without purpose, “we simply become economic agents in the pursuit of revenue.”
Employees want to work for companies with values. “What is it your employees are yearning for?” he asked. It’s not just to earn more profit. Leaders should nurture values inside companies to satisfy what drives people.
In a competitive sea of sameness, values help companies stand out. People want to recognize values they share. “Shared values bond us,” he said.
The trust factor
Values are the gateway to trust, which he calls “the most valuable asset of any company.” Over the long term, having repeat customers and developing meaningful relationships creates trust and brings tangible benefits to an organization. Weisman cited a 2002 study by Watson Wyatt that shows high-trust companies outperformed low-trust companies in total return to shareholders by 286%.
High-trust organizations create a “rabid community of advocates.” He added: “Trust is earned; it can’t be bought.”
Weisman urged companies to keep nurturing relationships inside and out. “Living a life of values at home and at work will never show up on a balance sheet, but it will bring you peace and joy,” he said.
Employees live the dream with $100,000 bonuses
Posted on December 7th, 2015
Written by: Bob Helbig
A Company Bonus is Nice. A $100,000 Bonus is Life-changing.
That’s the amount pocketed this year by employees of Hilcorp, a Houston-based, privately held oil and gas exploration and production company. They are living “Dream 2015,” a five-year incentive plan that offered a $100,000 cash award if the company doubled its production rate, reserves, and value. The company reached those goals in April and checks were distributed to all employees in June, the Houston Chronicle reported. Employees hired after June 2011 participated on a prorated basis.
Founded in 1989, Hilcorp has 1,400 employees nationwide, with more than 400 based in Houston. The company ranked fifth on Houston’s 2015 Top Workplaces list—this year being the sixth consecutive win for the mid-size organization.
The $100,000 bonus was life-changing for many of the company’s employees. New homes. Debt reduction. College tuition for children.
“We had a huge celebration in the corporate office and in the field after we made it,” Hilcorp CFO Shelbie Dezell told the Chronicle. Incentives helped employees overcome the challenges of falling energy prices. “Lower prices created another goal for us to accomplish and prompted us to look for better ways to do things,” Dezell said.
But the big bonus program isn’t just an altruistic carrot. Hilcorp teaches employees to work like owners, to strive for goals that everyone understands and to reward every employee, regardless of their role, to make the company successful. It’s part of Hilcorp’s open-book management principles, which include:
- Know & Teach the Rules: Educating employees to think of themselves as oil and gas business owners.
- Follow the Action & Keep Score: Providing daily updates on company performance to all employees.
- Provide a Stake in the Outcome: Rewarding all employees when goals are achieved to inspire them to work like owners.
This isn’t the first time the company has offered big rewards to employees. In 2011, it gave each employee a $50,000 voucher for a new car for meeting five-year goals in its “Double Drive”: doubling Hilcorp’s value, oil field production rate, and net oil and gas reserves.
That’s a lot of money. But Hilcorp executives say workers have created a lot of value. Executives believe the incentives spur employees to work that much harder to reach goals.
Now that the “Dream 2015” challenge has come to a close, Dezell told the Chronicle that company executives have started working on a new five-year vision plan. “We feel that it’s important to always have goals,” she said.
Hilcorp’s generosity extends to charity as well. Each new employee gets $2,500 to award to an organization of his or her choice. Then each year, the company matches up to $2,000 in charitable donations. The program is designed to promote each employee’s ideals.
Employees say their success also has a lot to do with their founder and CEO, Jeff Hildebrand, who is accessible, communicates openly, and makes each employee feel valued.
“Hilcorp is a rare company that cares deeply about all of its employees,” one of its employees commented. “We are recognized for all working hard and we all reap the benefits.”
Domino’s CEO on the Importance of Taking Risks
Posted on December 4th, 2015
Written by: Bob Helbig
Domino’s CEO: Companies Need to Spend More Time Encouraging Employees to Take Risks
Companies should spend more time encouraging employees to take risks, claims the CEO of Domino’s. “It makes it a lot more fun to work for a company that is trying things, that is doing things,” Patrick Doyle said at a Top Workplaces event in suburban Detroit. “We love mistakes. It’s an important part of moving the business forward.”
Doyle knows something about risk. Since taking over as CEO in 2010, he is perhaps best known for its technology innovations and a campaign in which Domino’s trashed its own product. It spent millions marketing the fact that its pizza wasn’t up to standard and that customers deserved better.
Since Doyle took over the company, its stock has risen more than 1,000 percent, from about $8 per share to more than $100 per share. Domino’s has opened 3,000 new stores, expanding to approximately 12,000 shops in total. It operates in more than 80 countries, including its latest bold move in the motherland of pizza: Italy.
Among Domino’s innovations:
- Allowing people to order pizza simply by sending an emoji.
- Developing its own specialty cars that hold up to 80 pizzas with a warming oven.
How does it fuel success? Doyle called this his “absurdly simple strategy”:
- Get great people together
- Give them some ground rules
- Encourage big thinking and risk
- Give them what they need to succeed
Doyle shared Domino’s core beliefs:
- Hard work
- Inspired solutions
- Winning together
- Embracing community
- Uncommon honesty
He also shared Domino’s commitment to how employees treat each other:
- Be courageous
- Handle the rush
- Respect others
- Make disciplined decisions
- Champion our customers
- Celebrate success
According to Doyle, culture can’t be imposed; it has to happen organically. “It has to come from people who work there.” He also offered this advice about finding employees: Hire attitude, teach success. And “we don’t tolerate jerks.”
Good Things Come to Companies that Invest in Culture
Posted on December 3rd, 2015
Written by: Bob Helbig
Inside Detroit’s Top Workplaces: Good Things Come to Companies that Invest in Culture
When companies invest in employees who have good attitudes and who show effort, good things will follow, top business leaders in Detroit say. Find those people, motivate them, and keep them.
Nearly 500 people heard that advice from Bill Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans; Jim Proppe, managing partner of consulting firm Plante Moran; and Michael Rosenberg, CEO of Detroit Business Consulting. The executives spoke at the 2015 Detroit Free Press Top Workplaces event, in a panel discussion moderated by Detroit Free Press business columnist Tom Walsh.
On building a culture:
- Rosenberg said he likes to recruit all types of employees from all kinds of backgrounds. “We don’t judge people based on background or the schools they attended. I want to see how hard they can work and what they can do.”
- Proppe said culture is the No. 1 reason why people join his firm. “We’re very careful to nurture and build it.”
- Emerson believes in making sure employees are engaged and challenged every day. “It gives folks an opportunity to think, it gives folks an opportunity to create, and it gives folks an opportunity to present.”
On creating productivity and positivity:
- “We push people really hard to get the best out of them,” Rosenberg said.
- “We try to entrench people in the firm” by offering a good work/life balance, Proppe said.
- “If you can help them be successful, they will be thankful for what you do,” Emerson said.
On understanding millennials:
- Proppe said: “We’ve learned to tap into differences about how they work. They have great critical thinking skills. It’s an energy we can tap into.”
- Emerson commented about giving people support and resources to succeed: “When people have the tools to do their job every day, they appreciate that.”
Houston Top Workplaces Highlight: Southwest Airlines
Posted on November 30th, 2015
Written by: Bob Helbig
Southwest Airlines Executive Explains Circle of Success
The perky attitude of Southwest Airlines employees is no accident. It’s part of the company’s commitment to a culture of success, one of its top executives explained in a keynote address at a recent Top Workplaces event in Houston.
Ginger Hardage, the airline’s vice president of culture and communications, spoke to 700 employees of Top Workplaces organizations during the November 5th event in downtown Houston. Her appearance there came just a month after the airline began international flights out of Houston’s Hobby Airport.
Hardage explained Southwest’s circle of success: the company focuses on inspiring happy employees, who strive to create happy customers, who make for happy shareholders, who invest in the company’s employees.
“We know that when you put employees first, the cycle continues and everybody wins,” she said.
The Houston Chronicle named 150 Top Workplaces for 2015 at the event based on feedback from nearly 79,000 employees surveyed by Workplace Dynamics. The Chronicle also handed out special awards in 15 categories for exemplary performance in specific areas, such as leadership, ethics, and communication as judged by employees.
Hardage, who has announced her retirement by year’s end after 25 years with the airline, says the positive attitude at the company has become infectious.
“Working for Southwest Airlines truly has been a dream job because of the people of this great airline and the values that drive the company’s customer-friendly decisions. The leadership team has grown and transformed the airline while staying true to its purpose.”