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Analyzing Work and Integrity at the Century’s Turn

Workwise: Mildred Culp

The new workplace is gaining in integrity. Companies are helping employees find fulfillment, even when companies have no payoff.

Some employers are taking steps to create meaningful work environments for employees. From this perspective, David A. Shapiro, in “Choosing the Right Thing to Do” (Berrett-Koehler, $15.95), reminds readers that “every choice we make goes into creating who we are …” Shapiro recommends tying your actions to your values: “In this way, the work that we do and the way we do it becomes an authentic expression of who we are and what we believe in,” he says. Most important, he advises treating colleagues well, not out of self-interest, “but because it’s the right thing to do.” Integrity may cost companies money, especially in sometimes difficult employee-related decisions. David Bassiri, president of Cougar Mountain Software, a $4.5 million accounting and point-of-sale software publisher with 62 team members in Boise, Idaho, is always looking for excellent programmers. Recently, one created an unexpected dilemma.

“Held just graduated from Montana Technical University, and we’d paid to move him to Boise,” Bassiri says. “During the move, he

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took more than a week off with compensation, although he hadn’t accrued any vacation. Almost 10 months later, he asked for a leave of absence to go to Chicago to see his mother, who was extremely ill.” Because the programmer couldn’t afford to go without salary, he agreed to work on the road.

“He spent close to a month in Chicago with his family,” Bassiri continues, “during which time his mother passed away. His productivity during this period was virtually nonexistent.”

The man decided to look for a job in Chicago, where his father seemed to need him a great deal. Returning to Idaho, he worked for a few days before resigning.

Bassiri notes that the company lost approximately $10,000 in tangible costs. There were intangible costs, too: “lost opportunity to release our products on time; stress on other team members to make up for him; and damaged morale, because they knew he was getting paid while they did his job.” But, Bassiri points out, the company retained its integrity.

Patrick Sylvester, partner at Management Recruiters International in Philadelphia, re-situates good performers whose interests change.

“I can’t force my goals down an employee’s

throat,” he says. “I’m going to lose the person eventually anyway because of changed interests.”

Over time, one excellent performer realized that she didn’t like the sales side of recruiting. Rather than make them both, plus her co-workers and their clients, miserable, Sylvester turned her into an outsourced human resources consultant paid through his organization. At the end of the contract, he placed her in a company seeking an entry-level permanent human resources generalist.

“Without taking action, I’d have found myself with an outsourced employee and a quarter of heartache so that I’d have ended up with nothing,” he observes. The benefit to his company is that while he lost her high productivity, he had a client with an extremely happy employee.

This isn’t an isolated incident. As the office was growing to its $5 million in sales and 21 employees in 1998, billing functions were redirected to the corporate office, which eliminated the controller’s job. Sylvester introduced his controller to a few clients, then helped her land at CDI, the parent company. He also transferred another person who enjoyed training to headquarters, where she now conducts regional training for new franchisees.

Sylvester uses the same principle in conducting outplacement services to a company such as Deloitte & Touche when employees there develop a lifestyle conflict with the demands of their jobs. He and Deloitte’s senior partners move them to other companies.

This tactic follows the same logic: “Deloitte knows that the person will leave anyway, and they’re able to develop hundreds of alumni in influential positions.”

Helping a good employee find professional fulfillment is part of Sylvester’s overall strategy to develop advocates for his services. Does this approach to employee change internally and among client companies pay off? In 1998, Sylvester’s office received Office of the Year over 700 others.

Culp sponsors the annual WorkWise Award. For information, visit (www.work-wise.com).

& #352;2000 Universal Press Syndicate


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