The following insight was excerpted from a feature story about Best Practices in SCN’s October 2016 print edition.
At the heart of Whitlock’s mission is to retain, acquire, and develop the most respected workforce (we call it Employee RAD) and customer relationships (Customer RAD) in the industry. While Whitlock has always had a good reputation for employee culture, and we have several success stories to point to around employee development in our 60-year history, as we got to a certain size, long before we surpassed 800 employees, we recognized our previous approaches did not scale. You cannot identify something as your primary success factor to sustainable and profitable growth and work on it part-time. This includes recruiting, on-boarding, training, and development.
As I was able to off load some of the day-to-day running of regional leaders and sales three years ago, I took over our HR and recruiting efforts and began investments and focus around becoming that RAD employee environment we aspire to be. We recognized it was a journey with no quick fixes, and we had to attack it from several areas.
Believe in Your Mission: First, we had to invest in our own recruiting team and ensure that they ate, drank, embodied, and articulated our culture. While there is a place for outside staffing companies, we didn’t believe we could achieve our goals by going that route. Today, whether a vice president, director, or technician, we hear, “Wow, your recruiting team got me interested and sold me on the Whitlock culture.” They believe it, they live it, and they know that culture trumps everything at Whitlock.
Hire Slow: Next, we had to start hiring a lot slower, getting more subject matter experts involved, putting attitude, initiative, and alignment with our mission, vision, mantras, and culture over hard skills and experience. To bring in attitude over proven skills, you have to have an intentional effort to develop that talent, and you are typically are pulling from staff focused on delivering to your customers. We brought in expertise from outside the industry to complement our subject matter experts and have begun building very intentional, custom, and focused on-boarding and development plans for our employees. We have steering committees and tap into our expertise from around the company, while have strong leadership in human resources, recruiting, and development that wake up every day with Employee RAD top of mind.
Never Stop Improving: All of this represents progress, but the last step is the most critical, leadership training, and development. This only scales if your leaders are bought in to your culture and they are measured by employee development and engagement. We have come a long ways in this area, but recognize we have a long ways to go to reach our mission. This year, as Whitlock was nominated as one of the greatest places to work by a new employee, we respectfully declined and asked them to check back with us in a few years as we continue to attack turnover and employee engagement.