Employees First, Customers Second
NFC: In 1992, Rosenbluth underwent
a massive redesign of the company, people were laid off. In particular for
a company noted as a caring company, there must be a survivor impact. Did
any of that play out?
From there, we took fairness through to all the processes. There was no favoritism. We said this is the skill set you need for each job and everyone must apply for these jobs. We all felt very unsettled.
Its hard to do your current job for the customer while interviewing for a job with your company and while trying to redesign what those jobs are. It was a terrible year but the result was unbelievable.
NFC: Before selecting individuals
for these new jobs, you assessed all of the successful people in the company
to identify their core competencies. These competencies were result orientation,
flexibility, commitment to continuous learning, commitment to the values,
teamwork and client focus. Wouldnt any business need those?
NFC: You're basically working
with friends. You hire friends. It's very easy on a group of six. I'm intrigued
by how that translates to a group of 4,000.
It doesn't mean that everybody thinks alike or looks alike, that's not it at all. If you go over to France for 10 days to set up a project, you're probably going to like those people over there because they're all working toward the same goals and they have similar values
NFC: Rosenbluth was one of
the early pioneers in knowledge management.
NFC: As part of your approach
to knowledge management, youve developed a database of each individuals
In many ways there were a lot of very nice surprises. You might have somebody working in accounting and you knew they had accounting skills, but you didnt know they spoke French. When its time to open a new location in Paris theyre a great person to send. It doesnt have to be a person who normally opens offices. It opened up a whole world of using skills that people were not hired for. It was about making those skills blossom and sharing those skills with others. We learned a lot about tangible skills.
We also are going to move toward putting intangible skills on the questionnaire. Some of those you-know-it-when-you-see-it type skills; leadership, advocacy, conflict resolution, interviewing and others that may not be part of your core job. The database tells you where you are todaywhat types of skills you have.
NFC: Some people say, I
am a designer, I can design publications, but they really aren't.
Did you have to deal with this?
NFC: You have this database
and you identify what the needs of the company are and you do a yearly budget
Its an eye-opener when the information is consolidated and the senior leadership looks for trends. They may say, Okay were spending X amount of time on this function. When you look at our priorities were spending too much time on this and not enough on that. Its very productive. You can ensure that youre maximizing your assets.
NFC: Your time is your inventory?
NFC: Rosenbluth uses a 360-degree
evaluation. Ive never sat down with a friend and said its time
for your annual 360-degree evaluation.
The surveys are sent to an outside company that tabulates the scores. You receive marks for what each category thought of you as well as a total score. More important than the absolute numbers are the disconnects; where one group thinks youre fabulous and another group thinks youre terrible. Its those types of inconsistencies that make for problems in the workplace and offer the greatest chance for improvement.
When the scores come back they go directly to your leader, not to you. The leader then sits down with you and says heres how I interpret what I see and here are some things you can do. Each person comes up with their own individual development plan for the next six months that specifically addresses those issues where people around them thought they needed to improve.
NFC: If we are friends, why
does it have to be anonymous?
Its an honor system that works. It fascinated me that all these people that dont know each other very well would do it on a nod and on eye contact. I think its the same with these anonymous tools. You might be able to slam somebody once, but if you do, it comes back to haunt you in the end. Youll see yourself slammed in your surveys. Because people are happy to have those tools, they pretty much honor them and act like adults.
NFC: Does Hal Rosenbluth receive
a 360-degree evaluation as well?
NFC: In your book you and Hal
Rosenbluth looked at 14 companies that were also part of The 100 Best
Companies To Work For. What was the most thing interesting you learned?
Individual programs and ideas that sprang forth were fascinating to me as well. Hallmark Cards for over 40 years has had a daily employee newsletter. They also have a work and family services department.
I feel one of the most important issues for the future of businesses and peoples lives is the balance between work and family. Companies are going to have to make it a priority because its the right thing to do and because they cant expect productivity out of people who have worries on their minds.
Hallmark also has a program called A Moments Notice, where if you wake up and theres a couple feet of snow on the ground or your child is sick they will make immediate and excellent child care arrangements for you so you can get to work. They really try to alleviate stress.
NFC: I believe Hal Rosenbluth
said rather than hiring quality experts and teaching them about the company,
you hire people that fit the company and then train them to be experts in
quality. Can you talk a little bit about any quality programs you have?
We had a two-day orientation which was completely attitudinal, philosophical, a lot of fun and ice breaking. Then in the very middle of these two days, we stuck a day of quality. It was Oh Im having a ball, then Im doing math then, Im having a ball again. Surveys on our orientation asked if people were using the quality tools and everybody wrote No. We thought, Were spending all this money bringing all these people in, training them in quality and theyre not using the quality tools.
Then, somebody had a hunch. They sent out a different questionnaire to the same people, naming specific quality tools. It asked do you use process flowcharts, do you have agendas for your meetings and do you map things. They said, Of course we do. They werent recognizing that they were using quality and thats the beauty. We removed it from orientation.
We do still train in quality but more than anything else it happens on-site, on the job, with people who are using the tools saying, look at what a great tool this is, it helps us in this way. Theyre learning it where they work. Thats our approach to quality in a nutshell.