Performance Reviews: Can the Boss Make the Grade?
BY Donna Fenn
A CEO tells how his employees graded his company in its attempts to meet its mission statement.
Five years ago Alan Lewis struggled to create a mission statement for his $133-million company, Grand Circle Travel (GCT). The final document outlined the Boston company's responsibilities to "our customers, our associates [read employees], our stakeholders, and our world." Lately, though, the demands of the company's rapid growth (from 150 to 230 employees last year) have made it difficult for Lewis to gauge how well GCT is living up to those lofty ideals. So he asked for help from the folks who knew best: his employees. Lewis asked them to grade the company in each of the four areas covered in the mission statement. Here's what they said last year, and the action Lewis took in response:
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B- Associate responsibility: Employees said the company wasn't providing enough professional development. They also complained that GCT's fast growth had resulted in confusion about how the business worked, and in overly subjective compensation levels.
GCT's response: GCT and its training company, Pinnacle Leadership and Team Development, created an open-book-management-training program called BusinessWorks '95. Also, the company's bonus system, previously tied to overall company profitability, is now linked to department profitability.
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B Responsibility to customers: Employees believed that GCT should improve the quality of trips and better coordinate services among departments.
GCT's Response: At BusinessWorks '95, employees met in teams to generate ideas for improvements and to learn how associates in other departments did their jobs. "We fiddled with our top 20 programs," says Lewis. "We changed hotels, got rid of some airlines, added events, and deleted some cities."
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C+ Financial responsibility: Employees thought that looser financial controls and runaway expenses were cutting into the company's profits, directly affecting employee bonuses.
GCT's response: "We put in a new reporting system," says Lewis. "And we cut our expenses on advertising and ticketing." The company also committed to a one-year finance-and-business training program for supervisors and managers.
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A Social responsibility: Employees wanted more information on the organizations GCT was funding and on volunteer opportunities.
GCT's response: The company funded a monthly newsletter, written by employees, that covers all of GCT's donations and lists volunteer activities.
"We don't promise employees we'll do everything they suggest," says Lewis, "but they're starting to believe that we are running the business from this report card. It's really how I measure how we've done for the year."