Communication Is Key To LoyaltyWritten By: Mary Sedor
Article Date: 06-01-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Bramco is voted one of the best places to work in Kentucky.
"Anyone can talk to top management - even the little people." "It's easy to work together because of the family atmosphere." "Bramco cares about us." These are just a few of the reasons the 482 employees at Bramco, the non-operating holding company that provides support services for Brandeis Machinery and Power Equipment Co., believe the company is one of the best places to work. In 2005, the Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management State Council agreed. Bramco was selected as one of the Best Places to Work in Kentucky.
Similar to the "100 Best Companies to Work for in America" list created by Fortune magazine each January, this award was created to inspire companies to "focus, measure and move their workplace environments toward excellence."
Winners were chosen for both medium and large companies. Participants were judged based on an assessment of the company's employee policies and procedures and the results of an internal employee survey.
In 2000, Bramco received the Governor's Gold Cup award for its leadership, planning, data collection, employee treatment and processes.
With a turnover rate of 8 percent, it's clear Bramco employees are staying for the long haul. So what makes it such a great place to work?
Developing the Best Policies
With nearly 100 years of experience under its belt, Bramco knows that in order to hire and retain the best employees, it's important to provide employees with the best possible work environment.
In 1990 Bramco began quality process improvements and recognized that changes to the company's systems were necessary.
"We tried to focus on fixing the systems and documenting processes in the company to let people do their jobs more effectively," says Carla LaRocque, vice president of human resources and quality advancement.
From this analysis, an annual appraisal process for all employees was created. During the process, employees can decide if they would like to speak with their managers about other jobs in the company, and managers are asked to identify employee's areas of strength and which employees are good candidates for promotion.
"There is a process we have to follow that outlines what the employee wants and defines what skills are required for the position," says LaRocque. "Then, the manager and the employee come up with a mutual plan designed to
help advance the employee."
Employees are promoted from within whenever possible, and a succession plan identifies the next generation of managers.
"We're very transparent about where the opportunities are," says Jay Paradis, chairman. "If the employee has something they want to do, we work with them on their career path."
Through the appraisal process, any training the employee may need is identified. Some training is completed in-house, including a three-day training class for current and potential managers on quality process improvement tools designed to help better the business.
While it's important to determine an employee's skills and qualifications, the key to the entire appraisal process - and the company's open work environment - is communication. Without open communication the entire work environment would be different.
"A lot of what we've done has been employee-driven," says Paradis. "When we started with the process improvements, we realized we would go through cycles of improvement. The key is that we talk to the employees and listen to their needs."
Some of the answers from employees regarding their needs have been surprising.
"Money is important but it's well down on list," he says. "Employees are looking for a chance to do a job they'd like to do the way they want to do it. We're empowering them with the tools, training and freedom to act.
"I would attribute our high levels of employee satisfaction to spending a lot of time communicating," says Paradis. "We talk about how we're doing, our success and what we're trying to improve."
Communication occurs in a variety of ways at Bramco - through face-to-face meetings, in the company newsletter and even on a company blog. This web page is dedicated to employee news - everyone in the company can read what's going on, and anyone can post news.
In addition, any time an employee has an issue, he or she can discuss it with any manager. The key to a happy work environment is addressing issues while they're still small.
To ensure the company is on the right track, employees complete satisfaction surveys. In addition, employees complete reviews on their managers. In the first two years of a manager's career, the employee reviews are kept confidential. After two years, if the manager is not getting good scores, an improvement plan is created.
It's A Culture
In addition to open communication and reviews, Bramco works hard to maintain a positive company culture through its statement of principles, and reward and recognition programs.
"We spend a lot of time on our culture and atmosphere," says Paradis. "It's a lot different from when I came to work here almost 30 years ago. We have clear standards of conduct, which makes a big difference when you have a place to work that's not intimidating."
Bramco follows a "Statement of Principles," which outlines how an employee is expected to act and how the company is run. The statements include obeying the law, treating fellow employees with respect and care, aggressively promoting manufacturers and seeking new ways of creating value for customers.
"A lot of people say they like our "Statement of Principles" because they like working in a place where they don't have to ‘lie, cheat or steal'," says LaRocque.
In addition, Bramco has an employee suggestion system that is taken very seriously. Any time an employee has an idea for an improvement, they submit their suggestion, and a committee reviews it.. For example, currently a committee is reviewing the possibility of using biodiesel fuel because of an employee suggestion.
By allowing employees to make suggestions and listening to them, the company stands to benefit from increased revenues and decreased costs.
In addition, Bramco rewards and recognizes employees for a number of things, such as attendance, volunteer work, birthdays and teamwork. These rewards are carried out in a variety of ways, whether it's a gift certificate or a mention in the company newsletter, the entire Bramco family knows when an employee is doing a good job or has been recognized in some way.
"We recognize or reward people for almost anything, and that recognition instills a sense of pride in the employee," says Paradis. "We truly have a family atmosphere built on communication, teamwork and respect."
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