Being a “Great” Company!

· by Herb Dew

Herb is the CEO of HTI. He founded HTI in 1999 along with John Knight and David Sewell, and remains heavily involved in the organization today.
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This will be the first of a few blog entries talking about the qualities that make a company a “great” place to work. Numerous studies have shown through the years that employees value compensation well below a couple of other categories. It’s important to pay people a fair wage, but it’s far more important to create an environment at work that makes people feel good about being there.

If you look at most companies’ employee surveys, the lowest scored category often is “communication”. This is a constant struggle between management and employees. What information should be shared? How often should employees and management talk? How well does a supervisor communicate to his/her employees? Is the method of communication the company promotes authoritative or collaborative? Companies have so much friction in the area of communication. And the answers to fixing the problem are often not easy.

A great company is one that values the thoughts of its people. The company isn’t afraid to hear tough feedback. A great company wants tough feedback. A great supervisor/manager isn’t afraid of direct feedback. He/she can field tough questions and give honest answers. Good communication isn’t always what employees want to hear. But its honest. And explained as well as it can be.

Great communication starts at effective front line supervision empowered by senior management. It begins with good listening skills. It allows for barriers to be stretched between management and employees so that open discussions can occur. Some companies utilize roundtables to attempt this. Others use suggestion systems. But these cannot replace ongoing communication on a regular basis. Engagement. Look at great companies and you will see supervisor and managers who know their people. They talk together about problems and challenges. They share ideas and respect opinions. Great communication happens every day. Not just through a round table or a suggestion system.

At HTI I began a long time ago openly sharing the companies’ financial data down to the net profit line. Other CEO’s of privately held companies were astounded by that. “Why would you allow your employees to see how much you’re making?”. I would laugh and say, “How can I develop someone to run a business for HTI if I don’t teach them the financial piece?”

To be great company you have to always fight to be the best you can be in communication. If you’re an employee of a company asking you your opinion, don’t be suspicious, be honest. Don’t be mean in your responses, be constructive. Trust me, you will be heard.

Herb Dew