Employees are Number One

Contributed by Dale Williams, the owner of , a travel nurse and allied health company based in Omaha, Nebraska.

A strong corporate culture is the cornerstone of our employee recruitment and retention. It has led to major growth over the past two years. As rewarding as that growth has been, it has also led to some struggles as far as maintaining the corporate culture that got us to this point. Building this culture has involved two major components:

Hire the right kind of people
Hiring the right people begins with a careful evaluation and selection process that involves at least two interviews for every position. After a manager and a team member interview the prospective employees, the other owner and I interview them ourselves. This ensures that we are always hiring people who want to be empowered at work and who fit our company’s culture.

Build a culture that empowers and excites staff
The second part of our approach is to build a culture that makes our employees excited about coming to work. We do this by knowing as owners and managers that our number one customer is actually our own employees. Over the years we have implemented several programs that have reflected this belief. Some of the things we do are what many smart companies are already doing; things like casual dress when we hit our weekly goals, a fun break room with a Foosball table and pinball machine, and employee-of-the-month awards.

But what sets us apart are the millions of other little things we do each day. Here are just a few things we have implemented to build and maintain our company culture:

  • New employees are assigned a company mentor to guide them through the first month at the company, and give them someone from whom they can learn.
  • We provide all our employees, not just management, with two-full time concierges that can help make their lives easier by running all kinds of errands for them. From buying hard-to-find items like a Nintendo Wii to dropping off and picking up dry cleaning.
  • Every month we take the afternoon off and the whole company goes off site to do something fun like attending baseball games, taking a river cruise and playing paintball. This kind of activity has been crucial in helping us build a true team, not just a collection of employees.
  • Another step we have taken toward building a unified team is our peer employee recognition program, where employees nominate each other for the “go beyond” award when they go the extra mile for each other.
  • When a new employee starts, we have a program to celebrate their arrival. This program includes having a welcome sign and greeting card waiting for them, sending flowers and a gift card for a night out of celebrating to their homes, and taking them to lunch on their first day.
  • We try to immerse our new employees into our corporate culture as soon as they start, so that they can take part in a “Build the Core” lunch, where our other owner takes them through the history of the company and discusses the core values of the company.
  • We have an open-door policy. We want every employee to feel comfortable talking to me and the other owner about anything that is on his or her mind.
  • Our corporate culture is such an important part of our corporate strategy that we have a Chief People Officer who ensures we never lose the culture that has made us into the company we are today.

What we have learned about the role of company culture as it relates to employee recruitment and retention is pretty simple: Treat your employees like they are your number one customer. It is not so much the ideas themselves that make this strategy successful, but the mindset. Every day we work to ingrain this way of thinking into our company’s leadership, because we know that our employees make the culture what it is, and in turn, make our business successful.

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