You know the stereotype of lawyers and law firms. They can be matter of fact and production oriented. How about a law firm that understands the people side of business and wins a Psychologically Healthy Workplace award? Well, at Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus (CGWG), they are matter of fact about taking care of their people, are winning work-life balance awards, and are very productive.
CGWG attorneys practice across three offices in Arkansas serving clients in industries in banking, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality. These attorneys pay attention to the bottom line, and they do it by making flexibility their strong suit.
Supporting a work-life balance is not typical in law firms. But at CGWG there are no billable hour requirements; in fact, hours are monitored for signs of excessive work. Employees are allowed to work modified schedules and telecommute when needed to accommodate their family life.
At CGWG there is a premium on employee involvement. With an open-door policy, self-managed groups, continuous improvement teams and multi-rater performance evaluations CGWG employees stay involved and engaged with the firm. Major decisions regarding benefits packages and other employee policies usually involve an open-floor discussion.
In the area of growth and development, CGWG sponsors learning opportunities by paying for seminars and professional conferences. The firm also understands the importance of custom tailored learning and development opportunities. For example, the firm helped an administrator earn a human resources certification and another manager became a Certified Legal Manager.
CGWG not only won a Healthy Workplace Award, it also won an Arkansas Business of the Year award. With a set of healthy workplace practices in place, the cost of health benefits at CGWG has remained stable since 2004.
The people side of business works in any business or organization. It is a matter of fact and production orientation. People are happier, healthier, and more productive. You can apply this to your organization.
Tom DeMaio, PhD
As a full service hospital in Puerto Rico, San Jorge is as committed to the well-being and care of its employees as it is to its young patients. A 2011 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winner, San Jorge understands that success in their business depends on paying careful attention to the people side of business. Like MITRE and the other companies receiving this award, San Jorge demonstrates both the program excellence and concomitant work benefits of taking care of (people) business.
San Jorge has an open door communications policy to encourage and facilitate staff interaction and involvement. Active communication is sought from employees through email, meetings, and other systems. Once each month the executive director holds Dialogue Day, where any employee can have a private meeting with him on any issue. Committees of staff and managers are created to implement new ideas generated by the open communication system.
Staff is encouraged to take advantage of a wide variety of training, not just in technical areas, but also in customer service and safety. In 2007 San Jorge implemented an employee mentoring program. Mentors are given special training and incentive pay while new employees receive personalized orientation in hospital procedures and practices.
The hospital offers several programs that enable employees to manage both their professional and personal lives. The Ten Month Work Program allows participating employees to take the summer months off to care for their families. The hospital also offers an onsite art summer camp and other family activities during school breaks.
San Jorge makes the extra effort to recognize employees for their contributions to the mission of the hospital. The system celebrates work milestones and an employee of the month. Employee awards include a cruise for two and other monetary rewards. Letters that praise employees for patient care are circulated to other staff.
Employees at San Jorge report high levels of satisfaction with their jobs. They also report a congruence of company values with their own. It makes for healthier, happier, and more productive employees. It is the result of a careful plan for the people side of business.
For more on the Psychologically Healthy Workplace, visit phwa.org.
Tom DeMaio, PhD
Previously I spoke of how the data validates the benefits of paying attention to the people side of business. A 2011 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winner, the MITRE Corporation stands out as a leader that successfully recruits, develops, and retains its workforce. As a larger business in the technology field, the MITRE Corporation views its intellectual capital as the company’s most important asset.
To build employee involvement, management actively invites employees to ask questions and make recommendations for workplace improvements. Bimonthly lunches allow employees to meet face-to-face with company executives, share ideas and engage in candid conversations about their careers. At this company, the employee survey is used as a critical accountability and information gathering tool that is actually used for planning and positive change.
At MITRE, employees average 40 to 60 hours of the internal and external training each year. With their own Institute, they deliver an array of nearly 800 in-house professional development courses, attracting more than 9000 participants annually. All employees are encouraged to take advantage of educational opportunities, including through a variety of options from distance learning and video conferencing to e- learning programs.
The company also explicitly spells out its goal of having employees achieve a work-life balance. The commitment to work-life balance is put into action through a holistic approach, the centerpiece of which is the Flexible Work Arrangements Program (FWAP). This program covers options for job sharing, part-time employment, flextime, teleworking, part-time and occasional telecommuting, compressed work weeks and phased retirement.
The bottom line is that MITRE’s attention to the people side of business has been a significant factor in attracting and keeping great staff. Since initiating its comprehensive work-life program eight years ago, the company’s employee attrition rate dropped from 12% to less than 5% per year. Consequently, the company can be found on a number of “employer of choice” lists.
Taking care of the people side of business is not just a thoughtful thing to do for your employees. It is the right thing to do for keeping your people healthy, happy, and highly productive. For more on the psychologically healthy workplace awards program, see phwa.org.
Tom DeMaio, PhD