Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mission Morale: Cultivating a Caring Work Culture

Jennifer Sabatini Fraone from Boston College Center for Work and Family began the conference hoping that we'd bring back some good ideas to take back to our own organizations. BCCWF is a global leader in workforce effectiveness and resources are available. Hot topics for BCCWF are Millennials in the workforce and the role of fathers in the home.

What makes a great workplace culture? Among them are a leadership who inspires, gives trust and autonomy; an environment that encourages teamwork, employee engagement, recognition and reward and loyalty; a climate that values the employee as a "whole person" who gives back to the community and who has an opportunity for advancement.

Creative ideas from the corporate world: speed networking events; leader luncheon; fun atmosphere; volunteer events; small celebration; regular recognition. Fun, caring and collaboration can be wonderful, low-cost, high impact initiatives.

Sarah McGinley Smith from King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT shared that KAF is 100% owned by employees and is the oldest flour company in the world. See website for the video.


Sarah brought a laundry list of ideas from KAF. Cross-company themes of safety, employee stewardships, marketing, surveys, brainfood classes (employees teaching other employees), monthly town meetings, orientations, open book management (think financials), intranet, free classes, snacks and product, Tablespoon (weekly newsletter), brown-bag lunches, kudos, essay contests, community service, teambuilding. Ownership behaviors are important. KAF is proud to be 100% employee owned but is 100% committed to quality.

Mara Neufeld Rivera from Resource Systems Group in White River Junction, VT. The company is focused on producing. It is an employee-owned (ESOP) consulting company that provides high-quality information, analysis and insights for a broad spectrum of public and private clients and have experienced 40% growth in the past year and has been awarded the Best Places to Work in Vermont in 2006, 07, 09, 10 and 11. Casual dress, dog-friendly offices, flexibility, professional development (RSG Institute) including $2000 a year to spend on education, showers on-site, PTO donation bank, and environmental sustainability benefits.

Last up Karen Waylen from Wells River Savings Bank, Wells River, VT with six locations across Vermont on the New Hampshire border. Karen belongs to a writing group and has worked on a novel since 1986. Wells River began in 1892 and is a mutual saving bank - employee owned. 60% of the workforce is 50 and over. WRSB won first place in 2010 Best Places to Work in Vermont. WRSB promotes from within whenever possible and work as a team. The CEO of the bank supports all the initiatives that support high employee morale in these areas: Communication - informal quarterly pizza lunch meetings; an intranet; daily email updates from the CEO; excellent rapport with staff. Recognition - birthdays, milestones, anniversaries. Opportunities - exposure to senior management, interaction with other locations, bank intern and job shadowing opportunities, consistent promotion from within, recognition luncheons and Halloween contest. Flexibility - much like libraries, there are problems with flexibility but it is integrated into the schedules. Paid Time Off - benefits added: one day of service to work at a non-profit organization; paid time for family medical appointments or family meetings; prizes and contests with the awards being time off. Good things flow from the top down and it is apparent to Karen that this is crucially-important to the foundation for high morale.

The panelists opened the discussion to questions from the audience for the last 20 minutes. Participants directed inquiries which included library environments of layoffs and shrinking budgets, employees of retirement age, flexibility of schedules of staff who serve at public desks and succession planning for the event of the CEO or main personality.

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