Creative ways to learn and grow builds trust and employee engagement.

Posted on Categories Brandonomics, Core Values, Purpose, Savage Thinking

Bethany Andell is discussing values and purpose with Curtis Hite of IT services firm Improving. Curtis details success through involvement, a way to give recognition to employees going above and beyond. His is a point system that is getting amazing results.

Bethany:  Welcome to this edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at purpose-lead brands and their strategies.  I am pleased to welcome back Curtis Hite, CEO of Improving, and continue our conversation about values, purpose and how they show up in his organization.  Welcome back Curtis.

Curtis:  Thanks Bethany.

Bethany:  Last episode we were talking a lot about the values that you have put in place at Improving and that are lived every day and I’m gonna have to ask the big question because I know all of our viewers want to know.  It’s one thing to talk about the values and to put some practices in place and be deliberate, but what’s the measurement?  How are you knowing that this works?

Curtis:  Last time I also mentioned that one our core values is involvement and that our company’s success has been a consequence of everybody’s involvement.  But we weren’t just relying on the lip service of that.  For nearly 9½ years now we’ve had something in place called our Employee Involvement Program.  It’s a way of giving recognition for an employee’s engagement and involvement beyond their daily responsibilities.

There are literally hundreds of items that somebody can engage in a company that goes beyond what they might do at their daily job.  They might make a referral of business, they might make a referral of recruit.  They might go speak.  They might live out a value that gets recognition.  For all of these things you will receive points.  And it’s a trust-based point system, so we track it almost like a time sheet, but it’s done on a monthly basis.  And when we look at the points that people actually get by being involved beyond their daily responsibilities it directly correlates to our revenues.  It’s the single biggest leading indicator that Improving has to what our performance will be 3 to 6 months from now.

Bethany:  Wow.

Curtis:  Like I said, it measures the performance.  When our points go up so do our revenues in about 6 months.  Over 90% of the business leads at Improving come from a source that’s outside our sales or marketing team.  Over 50% of our referrals over the lifetime of the company from an employment perspective – employee referrals – have come from outside our recruiting team.  So, this really does pay dividends and it goes beyond just those 2 things I mentioned.

Bethany:  So, I really care that people go to work – like I say, I want people to love Mondays, right?  We ruin our Sundays with our anxiety about Monday.  In your culture, employee engagement and turnover, are you also seeing results by living these values through the mechanisms as well?

Curtis:  Sure, and in a very high demand market we have retention levels well lower – much lower I should say – than most of our competitors.  A lot of it is about keeping employees engaged in the company.  And one way I talked about engineering some of those is to have a system in place that’s light weight that people not only get to be engaged, but they get recognition for being engaged.  I know who the people that are contributing the most that month because of this program.  I personally recognize them.  In fact, it plays into profit share.  It is the single biggest factor that plays into profit share because if you are going to exemplify ownership behavior then we – part of our workplace culture of creating a great place to work is to share in the success of the business and if you are going to contribute like an owner you should receive benefit like an owner as well; so very important to us.

Bethany:  I think that’s great because you see a lot of companies that are always in recruitment mode and very rarely are they putting so much focus on retention and loyalty.  And I believe that hasn’t gone away, that people really do want to stay at a place that they love to work.

Curtis:  I think even more so now than in the past because in the workforce there is a trend for people to move from job to job much more frequently now.  And it’s not as pervasive in the culture of business overall to stay, so it becomes important to have a great balance of trying to recruit new people and get them, bring them into the family yet at the same time keep the people that actually came for a reason.  They love the company, try to keep them there as best you can.  I don’t claim to be perfect, don’t come close to being perfect, but it is extremely important to not only myself but our entire leadership team.

Bethany:  You’ve said that Improving’s aspirational value is trust, and that’s what you’re all about, but it does sound like you’ve made a lot of headway on trust really being a part of what the company is with each of its stakeholders.  Before we end this episode, what’s an example of where you saw trust really show up for your team or with a customer?

Curtis:  Part of our leadership development program or part of our trying to create a great place to work is to have creative ways for each of us to learn and grow.  A lot of that deals with transformational leadership, transformational growth, changing the way we think.  But to do that it requires a lot of vulnerability.  I’m teaching a class.  I’m teaching one today for seven people within the company and it starts with us extending trust, being transparent, talking straight.  All these things are trust behaviors but when we consciously do those – I share things about my personal and professional life that most people in my position would not.  It elevates the entire game.  It lets people know that I’m human; that I get sad, that my feelings get hurt.  That I occasionally have thoughts of quitting the company that I work for.  When you open up like that people tend to open up themselves and you start getting into a whole lot more of the details of what really drives people and helps them learn and grow.  So that’s just one example of trust and establishing it.

Bethany:  I love that, and I have felt that today from you and with everything you’ve shared.  I appreciate it.

Curtis:  Thank you so much.

Bethany:  I really appreciate you being here.

Curtis:  I appreciate the opportunity here, thanks Bethany.

Bethany:  That wraps up this edition of Brandonomics, we will see you soon.

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