Are you as good as you think you are?

By Mike Novakoski – February 24, 2016

My eyes were opened eight years ago when we first entered West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For competition. Initially, we entered the contest only because our competition, and other companies with which we were doing business, were doing it.

Honestly, we wanted to validate that we were doing as good of a job as they were and would also be deserving of the title. We wanted bragging rights too of course!

The good news: We were one of the 101 companies selected! The bad news: We received a detailed report that compared us against the group average and found several categories where we ranked well below what we would have guessed.

We considered possible reasons to invalidate the data, but soon realized that anonymous surveys (that polled more than 66 percent of our employees) don’t lie. In the end, we learned we had to “give up our false beliefs to succeed.”

For example, that first year, in the “Communication” category we received a score well below average. Really?! How could this be? Did our employees not know how much, how well and how often we communicated to them?

Apparently not!

Instead of fighting the data, we accepted it and decided to develop committees and create programs focused on making slow, incremental improvements all around. In a very short number of years we transformed our company and now enjoy a rich culture based on employee centricity. We put the employees’ happiness first, and everything else that one would use to judge success has fallen into place.

As we continued our Best and Brightest journey over the next seven years, we benefited greatly from the invaluable third-party data. It not only provides us with the real scoop on how our people feel, it also gives us year-to-year metrics on which to benchmark our progress. There’s no more guessing by management. We now have eight years of data that positively endorses our ongoing efforts.

We are currently working on our application for this year. As I review the write-ups for each category I can’t help but be proud of the progress we have made. Eight years ago I didn’t think about the positive impact this recognition would have on our recruitment and retention. Even with a critical shortage in the labor market, in West Michigan E&V seems to find the quality people we need with little trouble, and more importantly … they stay!

Lessons learned

  • Don’t fool yourself into thinking your team is as happy as you think they are. Get an “outside” opinion.
  • Commit to this belief: If I treat my employees exceptionally, my employees will treat our clients exceptionally and the business will perform exceptionally.

See GRBJ Article