Everyone Can Play
How can you build employee teamwork and loyalty to your company? CompuWorks, a computer systems integration company based in Pittsfield, Mass., found that it helps to give employees lots of ways to get involved in the company. "People wanted to feel that they were part of something larger," says Brenda Wilbur, former COO of CompuWorks, which had sales of $5 million in 1998. "They wanted to feel that their peers relied on them to do their best, day in and day out."
CompuWorks must be on the right track. The company has been named four times to the annual Inc. 500 list of the country's fastest-growing privately held small companies. And in an industry rife with job-hopping, Wilbur says annual turnover at the company never exceeded 5%. Here are some of the ways CompuWorks invites employees to participate:
- Decision making. Some employees serve on the company's advisory board; they are elected by people in their departments and are paid $50 for each meeting they attend. The company's charitable giving efforts are managed by a community involvement group; the annual "fun" budget, which covers everything from nights out at the movies to the annual family retreat, is controlled by a social activities group. "This level of involvement gives people a real say in what's happening," notes Wilbur.
- Information. Meanwhile, in the "Ask Al" section of the CompuWorks intranet, employees can post any question anonymously to company president Al Bauman. Bauman then posts his responses for debate. The company also tries to engage employees on a personal level by offering in-house seminars, listed in the biweekly company newsletter. Topics can range from relieving stress to getting a better deal on auto insurance.
- Recognition. Here, too, employees have a big say. The "Wizard of the Week" award is presented to the employee who goes beyond the call of duty. Employees nominate peers, and the winner is chosen by the reigning Wizard. The award: a quirky statuette, a book, and a $50 gift certificate.
- Financial management. CompuWorks teaches employees how to read key financial statements and then challenges them to work on fictitious statements, so as to become familiar with the process. Once that's clear, they start developing their own departmental scorecards, which some departments update weekly. Service and software employees, for example, chart billable hours, while software trainers watch attendance rates in their classes. The administrative staff watches cash-flow levels. Eventually, most sales reps' commissions will be eliminated so that everyone can focus on the big picture: profits. CompuWorks employees not only receive regular bonuses based on company profits but also gain a palpable sense of personal achievement. "Individuals can see clearly how valuable they are to our organization," says Wilbur.