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HUMAN RESOURCES

Why A Caring Workplace Matters As Much As Your Annual Budget
 

A four-step methodology to show your employees you care--I'm serious!--and how it impacts your bottom line.

Paul Spiegelman with Latoya Robinson, a Beryl data specialist, at the company's holiday party in Dallas in December, where Latoya received a "Face of Beryl" award.

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I wasn't always a hugger. But at Beryl, we've amassed a building full of huggers. Note writers. Card senders. Sometimes, even song singers. How did this happen? Well, Beryl is a company built on caring. Truly.

Why do we care? Why do we care so much that we built a complete framework to enable different avenues and methods of caring in our business? Because, besides being the right thing to do, caring has been a cornerstone of our consistent growth despite the tremendous economic swings of the past 10 years.

Sure, we know that caring for our employees is smart. Caring creates trust. Trust creates loyalty. Loyalty lowers costs, and helps maintain a protectable profit margin. But I'm not here to present a business case for a note-writing program in the office.

We care about our employees in the totality of their lives. They take Beryl home with them and they bring what's at home to Beryl. Having an ingrained culture of caring translates directly into every interaction a member of the Beryl family has.

The capacity to care is what makes our patient-experience advocates (our core personnel) wonderful at their jobs as they work to assist people with health issues or to find a doctor. Yes, caring is the premium additive to the fuel that keeps the Beryl family moving forward.

But creating a culture of caring for 350 people means you can't just buy a birthday cake every once in a while and call that "caring." We take this just as seriously as we do planning our annual budgets. And let me be clear, unlike Meg Ryan, you can't fake it. You need to be genuine about caring for your people, or they will sniff it out and your one step forward will result in two steps back. 

So how do we do it? Here's a glimpse at the "Beryl Cares" methodology we use. (Yes, there's a methodology to it.) 

Create a process to know what's going on with your staff

While I may not have the time to sit down and talk with each employee daily, it doesn't mean that I don't want to know what's going on in their lives. We built an online form where a manager can enter information about an event in an employee's life that will automatically generate an email with a picture of the employee that comes to my inbox. This gives me the opportunity to engage while managing other aspects of the business.

Acknowledge your people offline

In the age of instant electronic communication, I spend 15 minutes every morning putting together handwritten notes on Beryl Cares stationary for a variety of celebrations, condolences, and events that are important to our family. While the note itself doesn't take a substantial amount of time to write, it's a moment that I can dedicate to a Beryl family member when they need it. Remember that investing in employees should go well beyond the financial. Staffers who recognize they're not "just a number" will return your personal investment 100 times over to the company and their teammates. That's a yield that unquestionably makes our business better and will do the same for yours.

Be sensitive 

Often times we'll learn about something in an employee's life that maybe needs to be addressed behind the scenes. Yes, almost everyone wants to celebrate a birthday. But a cancer diagnosis, struggles with rent, or a death in the family requires discretion. But this isn't about the publicity of showing you care. It's about the impact. When we run into these situations, we communicate with the employee one-on-one to find the right course of action.  Sometimes that's a note, time, or some behind-the-scenes help.

Let your employees loose

When the "Care" signal goes up at the office, nobody rallies around each other like Beryl's employees. Recently we had twin brothers whose apartment burned to the ground and they ended up losing everything. And while Beryl the company did provide some help to get them back on their feet, it was Beryl the family that put together bake sales, raffles, cookouts, donations, and more to raise additional money to make them whole again. This did not involve official Beryl oversight or organization, just a culture and family taking care of their own on their own.  And that's the kind of culture that will carry you through the tough times.

So now, even I'm a hugger. Note writer. Card sender. Yes, even a song singer.  But, more importantly, every day our culture of caring affords our people the opportunity to positively affect our vendors, suppliers, customers, clients, coworkers, and every person they interact with as they connect more than 12 million people a year to healthcare.

So, who needs a hug?

Last updated: Dec 21, 2011

PAUL SPIEGELMAN is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. You can read more at PaulSpiegelman.com.
@paulspiegelman




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