Corrections or additions?
Managing People, Not Just Businesses: Blessing White
If you are the employee and are waiting for the boss
to create an ideal job that is both challenging and fits in with your
values, you may have a long wait, warns Christopher Rice
CEO and president of Blessing/White, the Orchard Road-based firm that
pioneered in the area of defining corporate values (908-904-1000).
"It sure is easier to take control of your career yourself. It
also helps if you have a manager who may take a little prodding but
also realizes how to respond."
"Whether you are the employee or the company, we are in the
of getting individual goals in alignment with company goals,"
says Rice. Example: someone works in a department known for inflexible
12-hour days and is frustrated by being unable to leave early,
to watch a child’s soccer game.
Goal setting is also important on the hiring side, Rice says. "For
the next 10 years, a low unemployment economy is great news for people
looking for jobs, but it is a challenging situation for large and
small companies. Ten years ago, they could be highly selective, but
now they have to drop the standards down."
"As companies deal with people who are calling the shots, they
want to make sure new hires get up to productivity very quickly, and
they want to retain employees. But if you have a job that can’t be
done in eight or 12 hours, it is very easy to get out of alignment
between what you want to do versus what your company wants you to
Blessing/White is now part of a $3 billion conglomerate based in the
Netherlands and is changing from being a training company to be a
training company with a technology-based learning platform. As CEO
and president Rice is headquartered in the Princeton, where he lives
in with his attorney wife, Liza, and their nine-year-old twins. He
did simultaneous bachelors and masters degrees in economics and Slavic
languages at the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 1976. He has
worked for Prentice Hall and Xerox Learning Systems (the world’s
provider of sales training programs), and the Gallup Organization.
Most recently Rice was head of worldwide sales and marketing for the
40-office outplacement firm, Drake Beam Morin.
"I now work for a company that has phenomenal brand equity, with
products that are dead on for the needs in the new millennium —
retaining employees and getting higher productivity," says Rice.
Values are the core of companies that have the competitive edge, says
Rice. They seem to be able to develop and maintain cultures that
star performers. They display a level of flexibility unusual for their
size. And even when facing serious setbacks, they bounce back, turning
problems into opportunities and rallying their troops behind them.
In these kinds of values-based cultures, rank and file
employees are connected to the organization at a far deeper level
than pay, and they share values with senior management. This
where employees can thrive, provides a clear point of difference for
businesses in a crowded recruitment market. Six characteristics of
this values-based business:
the organization’s expectations.
personal values — from achievement and pleasure to wealth and
wisdom. You are asked to rate each value from one to five in two
"How would I feel if my present satisfaction of this value was
greatly reduced?" and "How would I feel if my present
of this value was greatly increased?" The exercise also includes
third party evaluations (how others see you) and estimates of how
willing you are to take action to achieve a particular value. At the
close, you prioritize and choose your top five values for that moment
This is followed by an analysis of your skill sets and then your
are matched up with development needs of the company. Managers are
supposed to use this data to help the company meet the bottom line
while still satisfying your individual values.
All this values palaver does benefit the company, Blessing/White says,
because it results in higher productivity, more fluid and faster
making, greater retention, reduced recruitment costs, and higher brand
Implementing this strategy presents a range of challenges: How to
ensure employees are able to convey their personal values in a no-fear
environment? How do you develop a coaching culture within line
Exactly how do you align an individual’s values to corporate values?
The first step is to make someone important — a board member or
other top level person — responsible for the task of aligning
employee and corporate values. Then form a working team to determine
what the organization’s values are. Create ways to get a two-way
on this. Train line managers to inform their individual workers about
the company’s core values and help the individuals to determine their
own values. Then plan for how you will note the changes in values
that will inevitably occur.
"More and more organizations are discovering that values hold
the answer to such challenging issues as retaining good employees,
managing work/life balance, and adapting to the changing world of
work," says Rice.
Hiring, firing, and hiring again. It’s a treadmill that
no company can afford to stay on. Just how costly is employee
Few companies are willing to guess, but Kepner-Tregoe, the
research firm at 17 Research Road (609-921-2806), put several
to the test. (U.S. 1, August 11, 1999). After sending out surveys
to nearly 1,300 managers and workers, Kepner-Tregoe priced employer
turnover in dollars and cents. Replacing a typical information systems
engineer, they discovered, costs $34,000. Make that $40,000 to replace
a mid-level manager.
Businesses are the ones who get hurt the most when employees are
and decide to leave, concludes Peter M. Tobia
appropriately titled "The Brain Drain." New hires don’t have
the efficiency of an experienced employee, which means loss of
and additional sales expenditures to win back customers. In the end,
employers could spend thousands of dollars to gain back lost ground.
The cost of failure is high, but the cost of success is low,
concluded. After surveying corporations that have high retention
the firm discovered that businesses don’t have to use financial
or hire in-house masseuses to keep their best employees around. What
works is old-fashioned positive reinforcement and creative career
development strategies. Managers need to maintain an open dialogue
between upper management and mid management, mid-management and
and everyone from the CEO to the human resources professional should
work together to the same end:
should think of employees as being on a continuum — a career path
— and help them meet those goals within the organization by
their performance at every point along the way. Institute uniform
standards, allocate appropriate resources, and get feedback from
and employees alike demonstrate integrity and follow ethical codes
of behavior. The company should do whatever is necessary to
that employees are important — even if that means putting their
money where their mouth is.
High performers often leave jobs because of conflict with a
Create "alternate avenues" to circumvent a supervisor,
an "open door policy," and establish a proactive employee
age, gender, job class, length of services, and department — to
discover where problems typically occur. Then find a way to keep
according to the study, for the whole business. You can tie rewards
to performance, but you should offer more than just stock options.
Indulge an employee’s creative urges, for example. Offer them
to learn more and escape from the daily grind. Hallmark Cards, one
of the retention leaders, offers creative retreats for its employees.
Put people needs at the top of business priorities.
Instead of offering your employee a raise, why not offer
him or her a chance to learn something new — to get a unique
experience, or take the day to attend a seminar, says Michael
management consultant and CEO of the Pacesetter Group at 176
Circle (609-683-5225) "I would maintain that one of the biggest
changes in organizations is attracting, developing, and retaining
employees," he says (U.S 1, December 8, 1999). "Employees
look for something different in their work experience. If you can’t
give them an opportunity to flourish, they’re less likely to
Seminars and classes work in the short-term, but the best companies
work closely with staff to set a career track and develop skills.
On-the-job developmental assignments are key. "Companies like
Merck or AT&T not only have career development plans identified, but
as part of those plans they’re talking about what type of internal
assignments their colleagues need to expand their competencies,"
Dual career tracks are also something that today’s workers want —
a chance to dabble in another field. "In the industrial model
for organizations, people were very specialized, almost assembly line
workers," he says "You can’t take that model and apply it
to the Information Age very successfully." With dual career
a research scientist at a pharmaceutical firm, for example, might
be asked to work in partnership with the licensing department. Both
the company and worker gain from that cross-fertilization.
A human resources strategy needs to be applied proactively and
at each level of the company, says Hierl. "It’s too important
to be delegated to one group," he says. Management and human
need to work together to keep people in an organization. Successful
companies "live and breathe this."
Not so long ago all one needed to be a good manager,
it seemed, was an `iron fist’ and the drive to get things done no
matter what," says Sheree Butterfield
a global career transition and outplacement consulting firm with an
office at Forrestal Village (http://www.dbm.com)
as we tumble headlong into the next millennium, the skills required
of a good manager will be all the more complex and diverse." (U.S.
1, March 24, 1999).
Managers should learn to do the following:
a single area of business immune to the advancements of technology.
Managers may also find themselves communicating regularly with
they rarely see. Managers will need to know how to take advantage
of the latest in communications technology.
millennium will be a vortex, of information, drawing on all the vast
resources available. Managers will have to make use of everything
they hear from above, below, and even outside the immediate sphere
inevitable in time of change — and the coming years will be times
of great change — managers will need to approach such changes
as challenges, opportunities for learning and even altering one’s
mindset. They should be able to let certain things simply "roll
off," to see the larger picture, the greater vision, and not let
the momentary storm and stress of change affect them.
of merely supervising are waning. In the shifting sea of full and
part-timers, freelancers, temps, and flex-time workers, the manager
of tomorrow will need to "read between the lines" of these
varying groups, and understand the weaknesses and utilize the
inherent in each group.
of their style. But no longer will a single style, however unique,
suffice. The managers of tomorrow will need the ability to step from
one way of doing things to another, to become strategist, then mentor,
then team leader.
their fingertips a growing reservoir of knowledge and information.
They will need to be able to retrieve, understand, and repackage this
information swiftly, and in a manner that suits the given situation.
will remain so. Managers in the next millennium will have to shift
and juggle resources with ease. This applies to more than just money;
customer satisfaction, employee morale, and company image will become
part and parcel with "bottom line" concerns.
or personal aim. Being able to see not only the forest for the trees
but beyond the forest, being able to envision your company as it could
be, and how you can contribute to the achievement of that vision,
will be a necessity in the new millennium.
be even less likely than they are today to endure unethical behavior
on the job. Sound ethical practices tend to trickle down, and
rise to the occasion. A greater sense of achievement is often the
result. The managers of the next millennium will be the wellspring
of this focus on ethics.
life and business, different ways of looking at the world. Tomorrow’s
managers will not only succeed but thrive in the midst of diversity.
"It all comes down to being willing to become a lifelong
says Butterfield. "If you want to succeed into the next
you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to keep learning new things
and grow out of the box of what used to be called, `standard
For the third millennium, we will see that people will be most
asset in business. We will have to respect our employees as much as
we now respect our customers and our bottom line. Why? Because of
to some extent by a mismatch between our educational system and our
business requirements. This makes employees the most critical raw
material of a business.
the weakening of the "employment at will" doctrine, along
with the ease of job-changing made possible through the Internet.
We now know that a "career" does not mean one company.
"smarts" and that will be "people smarts."
Richard M. Stone
The Stone Group, 252 Sayre Drive,
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.