Every year, EDSI donates time, money and resources to numerous charitable organizations across the country. In order to help those in need, we participate in various volunteer opportunities and embed ourselves in the communities we serve by doing everything we can to help improve the lives of the diverse people in each community.
Thank you to all of our employees who lived our values of “Show Up, Smile and Support” and gave so generously to others this past year.
The following are a few pictures from our volunteer efforts:
Far Rockaway, NY Office Volunteers at Jacob Riis National Park
Employees from the Rockaway Workforce1 Career Center in Arverne, NY volunteered at Jacob Riis Park, a National Park located near the office on the Rockaway Peninsula. The team worked together to remove beach debris to beautify and restore the natural environment.
Jim Bitterle, Managing Partner of EDSI Consulting, was invited by Tom Borg Consulting to talk talent! Tune in to this podcast recording to learn more about EDSI and how to develop talent in your organization.
Let’s be honest, work, no matter what industry, can be stressful. A question I ask on daily a daily basis is, how do we cope with the stress in a healthy way? Managing Thought by Mary Lore has an interesting perspective on how to manage yourself. Think of it this way, you need to learn how to manage yourself before you can learn to manage others. Sound familiar? It should because at EDSI, we have our daily ways: Show up, Smile, and Support. A part of Smile is “I am self-aware” which means that you know your strengths and weaknesses and you can recognize them in others. If you can understand how your body deals with stress, you are in a sense self-aware.
Here are the top 3 things I took away from Managing Thought:
1. To manage your thoughts, you must live in the moment and focus
It’s so easy to focus on the future. “I have to have these files done by Friday.” “Thursday is a workshop I want to attend but I have to do an application.” When you find yourself thinking about the future or even the past, pause, take some deep breaths, and think “what can I do right now?” When doing this, you open up your mind and release any extra stress that may be manifesting. It allows you to be inspired and as a result inspire those you serve.
Recently, I was researching different Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software systems. At one point, while making the comparisons, I just shook my head thinking customer relationship management is not software, it is a philosophy. Sure, CRM software can be a good tool, but that is all it is, a tool.
I think the key word in this philosophy is “relationship” and I can promise you, no software system out there develops relationships; people develop relationships. Developing business relationships is not much different than developing personal relationships. It takes time, trust and respect to build any kind of relationship. Once you have this mindset, I think the rest comes easy.
Jack Welch has a great quote, “The team with the best players wins.” For some, he could be referring to baseball or football, but in business we know the most important team is within the walls of your workplace. Your company likely spends lots of time and money finding people with the skill sets that most closely match your company culture, the challenge is keeping them.
What is the best approach keeping your best talent and avoiding having them swooped up by your competitors? What makes employees want to stay? Here are a few things to consider:
EDSI CEO, Kevin Schnieders, spoke on the topic of leadership development at the 2015 Signature Event of the Michigan Chapter of the International Society for Performance Improvement. Please watch the video below!
"All great and inspiring leaders of the world think, act and communicate in the exact same way, and it's the complete opposite as everyone else."
This is the premise of Simon Sinek's classic TEDx talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." During Sinek's TEDx talk, he delves into the biology of human decision-making, and explains why we are inspired by some people, leaders, messages and organizations over others.
Sinek references "The Golden Circle" (shown), and talks about the fact that most organizations/people usually communicate from the outside in.
Kevin Schnieders, CEO of EDSI, likes to say that EDSI puts people before profits. At other organizations, this saying may be a platitude. At EDSI, it is a fact. The Talent Team, comprised of HR, learning and development, and training, encourages EDSI representatives to connect their passions with their work. We have formal programs to connect individuals with learning and development opportunities, as well as a mission statement and values that keep us on track.
How do we show our commitment to EDSI representatives?
Hire People Who are Motivated by Your Mission
EDSI’s three-step interview process includes a culture fit interview. Regardless of position, it is important to us that our new hires understand and are motivated by EDSI’s mission: to create enthusiasm in our clients, see through their eyes, understand their needs and deliver more than they expect. New hires must exhibit EDSI’s daily ways and values of “show up, smile, and support.” Being passionate about helping others is also a must. By hiring people who seek to join a mission-driven organization, we are selecting representatives who we think will work hard to support their coworkers and encourage learning.
Lehigh Valley wanted to show their deep love and support for one of their EDSI coworkers, Eva Echevarria, who is battling breast cancer. On November 5, 2014, EDSI staff, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board and the Bureau of Workforce Partnership and Operations greeted Eva in the morning wearing scarves on their heads. After a memorable group photo was taken, each staff member handed over his/her scarf to Eva, one by one, and embraced her with a hug. Eva is a hardworking, strong woman with a positive influence in Lehigh Valley. Everyone is so happy she has returned to work so they can see her smiling face again!
Currently, there is a lot of buzz around organizational CULTURE, and rightfully so. If we don’t consider culture as foundational to a successful business, then we’re seriously shortchanging ourselves and our customers. Whether you’re providing a product or a service, it’s the people and culture in your organization that make a profound impact on whether or not customers do business with you.
So what is culture anyway? Simply put, culture is the behavior behind how we do business each day. It guides how we think, behave and make decisions. The CEO is responsible for determining the general direction of the company’s culture, while the employees are responsible to shape and nurture it each and every day. Oftentimes company VALUES will be used to help define the company culture. Values could be a series of words or perhaps a definition. Values must be simple enough for people to remember and recite when asked. Check out this quick video about how we succinctly communicate our values (Show Up, Smile, Support) at EDSI.
In addition, the culture that you desire is more likely to happen if you define BEHAVIORS to support your values. Over the past six months, we’ve focused on further defining the key behaviors which represent our values and have been excited about the impact and conversations this activity has sparked. We’ve coined these behaviors the “EDSI Daily Ways.”
Culture is certainly not one-size-fits-all. So if you understand culture is important, how do you create a culture that best fits your business? Once you determine the direction, how can you grow it across the organization? Let’s take a detailed look at these and other important questions.
UNDERSTANDING TODAY'S CULTURE
First things first, discovering the current state of your culture is the best place to start. Let’s say you’re listening to a speaker on a topic of interest and your attention wanders. What is it that brings your attention back to the presenter? Is it the fancy PowerPoint presentation with the 7 important bullet points? Or is it a story - a story that gives practical application to the topic? I’ll bet it’s the story. Stories tell us a lot about people and organizations - and they provide great insight into a company’s culture.
If you want to understand your culture’s current state, listen to the stories that are being told by your employees and customers. What do hear them saying? Is it a fun place to work? What type of testimonial is your customer willing to give? What do customers say about the people they interact with in your organization? Listening is a critical first step in understanding your current state.
Next, how do you feel about what people are saying? Are these the types of behaviors and values you want associated with your company? Is this the type of culture you want to emulate? If so, you've got a great starting point. If not, that’s okay - there are always several key people in the company who reflect the desired behaviors and by observing them, you can begin to build a good foundation for the future.
PLAN FOR TOMORROW'S CULTURE
Now that you understand the current culture, how do you move your organization to a more desirable, productive culture? This phase involves writing down all the themes you’ve observed during the current state analysis. It also depends heavily on the CEO involving trusted people who can help to shape the culture. If your organization already has desirable values, then you'll want to add behaviors to those values that further define them. This way people understand how to live out the values as part of your culture. If you don’t have values, this is a great opportunity to create them. Remember, you want them to be simple so employees can easily commit them to memory.
Once you’ve documented behaviors and themes, it’s best to take those ideas to trusted people within your organization for further review. Ask what these values and behaviors mean to them. Ask which values and behaviors resonate with them from an organizational perspective. Asking the right questions of employees will ensure that everyone’s on the same page. Though the CEO is responsible for setting the tone, it’s always important to include people who are already living out the desired values. This approach creates a broad base of ownership and participation in the new culture.
Culture does not change overnight. In fact, Kevin Schnieders, CEO at EDSI, states that “just when you think that people aren't getting it, you begin to hear the stories and think, okay, they've got it.”
PERPETUATE THE CULTURE CHANGE
Once the groundwork has been laid for the desired culture, it’s time to begin integrating it into the daily activities and routines of your business. Permeate the organization with the associated expected behaviors and values in order to effect lasting culture change. Below are just a few examples.
VIDEO MESSAGES – Have the CEO record a short video on company values and behaviors and why they are important to the business.
INTERVIEWS – Ensure the right culture fit is a part of the candidate qualification process. Utilize your values and expected behaviors to help you hire the right candidates. Create questions that get at the behaviors you expect to find in people who fit the culture.
PERFORMANCE – Once employees understand the expected behaviors, it’s time to incorporate these into your performance reviews. Defined behaviors encourage natural conversation and stories regarding performance, reiterating the importance of the desired culture and supporting values.
MANAGER REVIEWS – Have employees rate their manager on how well he/she performs in relation to values and expected behaviors. This creates a great opportunity for managers to see what they’re doing well and identifies potential areas for improvement. This could also provide an opportunity for clarification in the case of confusion regarding behaviors, values or culture.
RECOGNITION - Take time to send regular communications, create recognition programs, and positively identify expected behaviors when demonstrated by employees. Let people know that you notice. Retell the stories that exemplify the company culture. One of our defined behaviors to support our values is, “my word is my bond.” I've heard stories about people sharing, "I apologize that my word wasn't my bond today, I didn't get that deliverable to you in time."
Most importantly, have fun creating the right culture for your organization! Enjoy sharing the many stories and benefits of a company culture that is right for you and your customers.
Kevin Watson and I had the privilege of attending and representing EDSI at the MISHRM (Michigan Society for Human Resource Management) Annual Conference a few weeks ago. The conference was hosted at Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI, and it was nice to spend some time downtown. Reflecting on the experience, I appreciate all of the meaningful conversations with HR professionals and various exhibitors from the great state of Michigan. I’m looking forward to following up on the many conversations started at the conference over the next few months!
During the conference, we had the opportunity to hear John Fikany, Vice President of Microsoft, presenting as one of the keynote speakers. John was by far one of the best speakers I have ever heard. One thing that really stuck with me was John’s message about how we should always strive to treat others with respect. Though it may seem like a simple message, I really appreciated his passion and perspective. I truly try to treat everyone equally and with respect and try to do something every day that takes me out of my “comfort zone” to better understand others. Following the presentation, I had the opportunity to speak with John, one and one, and I was able to thank him for taking time out of his vacation to speak with all of us. My interaction with John left me feeling motivated in many ways!
EDSI also received the 2014 “When Work Works” award at the conference ceremony. This award is given to companies that have highlighted how effective and flexible their workplaces are and how they yield positive business results and help employees succeed at work and at home. I felt honored to work for a company that was among only 16 companies receiving this award in the state of Michigan!
All in all, I left the conference feeling excited and motivated for the months ahead! Already looking forward to next year’s event!
Do you have the right people on the bus and are they in the right seats?
In today’s workforce, the answers to these questions can often be the difference between success and failure. Having the right people on the bus, a term coined from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great,” is one of the key factors. It is important that your employees fit your culture and have the necessary skill sets.
In any employer setting, the culture and values for your organization are paramount. A culture whose foundation is constructed on training and professional development helps to build and sustain a high performing organization. Understanding the skill sets of your employees allows an opportunity for targeted, deliberate recruitment and creates a mechanism for professional growth.
Having a balanced, diverse workforce is critical; by truly understanding the skills sets of your current employees, your recruitment efforts can be deliberate. Hiring is an expense and by targeting for specific needs, you can reduce that expense. Conducting a Job Task Analysis for the positions to be filled will clearly define and clarify the skills needed to be successful in a job.
Have you ever spent thousands of dollars on training for your employees only to find out later that half of them already knew the information? Focused training on the specific skills that are critical to a job position will decrease training time and free up your budget. On-the-Job training is a great way to increase the skill level of employees! Identify a subject matter expert for that job and pair him/her with an employee that needs more experience.
Professional Growth and Development
In many of our training projects, the initial need discussion has stemmed from employees asking for more training and development. The majority of employees want to learn more, become an integral part of the company and pursue appropriate career paths.
While at a conference this past week on Workforce Planning and Analytics, I heard a lot of statistics presented and discussed regarding training, skill gaps and hiring. Out of all of the numbers, percentages and key information, the one critical piece to hiring that many executive level HR professionals agreed upon was “did they fit the company culture?” You can train almost anyone on the skills needed to perform a job well, but once you find that potential hire who fits your company culture and sees your vision and mission statement, hire him/her and invest in the training time.
Do you have the right people on the bus and are they in the right seats? If not, what are you planning to do about it?
A recent article written by Kevin Schnieders, CEO of EDSI, for CORP! Magazine
Greg Lederman, author of “Engaged: Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life,” said in a presentation I attended that as leaders we “need to take the values off the walls and put them in the halls.” I know that all 400 of our representatives could recite our values in any hallway in any office (Show Up, Smile and Support). More importantly, they know what those words mean to us at EDSI. They know the behaviors that represent each value, and they can tell stories about how they have leveraged those values for our customers’ benefit and the shared success of our teammates.
It can’t be that simple, right? Quite possibly, I believe. And, if you’re looking for more activities to protect the culture during rapid growth, here are some other intentional actions that we took:
Lead with the values in onboarding. You’re going to be hiring a lot of new people to address the growth. Make sure you start with the values. I send a card to every new employee’s home, one week before they start. It allows me to introduce the values before his/her first day.
Look in the mirror. Be certain that employees understand that you want everyone to be accountable for the behaviors that support our values. Our leaders practice servant leadership, because “support” is one of our core values. We ask people for frequent feedback about the direction of the company and our collective commitment to the values.
Recognize and reward the behaviors that support the values. When I send out thank you cards to employees, I reference the specific reason for my appreciation and the value that it reflects.
Listen, listen, listen and ask great questions that allow your leaders to listen some more. Develop safe opportunities for representatives to tell you when the organization is not living the values.
Measure your progress. There are great third-party surveys that can measure for high-performance culture. We want to get annual feedback about the consistency of our culture, especially when we are growing.
Ensure your leaders are talking with everyone, not just their direct-reports. Our leaders are trained to ask people for feedback on their performance. They ask, how are we doing as a company? Are we living the values? Is there anything that I could stop doing tomorrow?
Once we established clear values, and defined the behaviors that support those values, it became a process of constant maintenance. We want to make sure we are generating open lines of communication where our leaders ask great questions and listen for objective feedback, regarding our commitment to the values.
The result of all this effort recently showed up during a month of visits to our customers. All of them told me the same things about our company and our representatives. “You are the most accommodating company we’ve ever worked with,” and “I love working with your people.” “All of your people are so great,” and “I can tell an EDSI person when they walk in the room.” While that is amazing to hear, it also caused me to reflect upon a “how” question. How have we been able to establish and maintain a culture across 37 locations with a geographic spread from Chicago to NYC and down the coast to North Carolina?
After some reflection time, I know the answer goes back to that simple statement of our core values. At EDSI, we Show Up, Smile and Support.
Last month, I had the pleasure of representing EDSI at the Michigan Society for Human Resources (MISHRM) State Conference as we received our 4th Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility.
Reflecting upon the experience, it was an honor to again be recognized for our workplace practices. By continuing to live our values of “show up, smile and support,” I know EDSI will always continue to be a great place to work.
So much work and research is being accomplished in the “workflex” arena, and I wanted to share some information put together by the When Work Works Project. Click on the pictures below for a closer look at the information!
Thanks to the When Work Works project, administered by Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), for recognizing our efforts at EDSI to create a high performing and supportive culture.
People ask me about the keys to EDSI’s growth. I always find myself coming back to the same three elements – PEOPLE, PROCESS AND PERSPECTIVE. While there are dozens of things that have contributed to our good fortune, it is the unique combination of those elements, that we feel make EDSI special and unique.
1) Our People: Everyone says it, right? Everyone says that “their people” are the most important aspect of their business. It is referenced in countless marketing materials. I have always believed that you are able to feel the sincerity of those statements when you first walk through the entrance of a company. If they do put people before profits, it will be expressed in the actions of their representatives. We are fortunate to work with exceptional people. We feel that they are the very best, and we do our very best to support them in all that they do. We also work to ensure that everyone is applying their strengths to what makes them feel most energized 90% of the time. When we reference energy, we’re really talking about happiness. We want people to be as happy as they can possibly be in their professional lives. However, a lot of people still look at me like I’m crazy, when I start talking about happiness at work. Most of them act like I’m going to ask if I can shampoo their carpets in the very next sentence. So, we’ll continue to talk about energy, and pretend that we are measuring something very “practical,” that returns a “solid bottom line performance.” I’ll continue to smile, knowing that our people are really, really happy.
2) Process: We just passed our ISO 9001 audit for the 15th year. As one of the very first adopters of the system in our company, I can sincerely endorse that ISO’s Level III Procedures/Process Flows have helped us replicate our success across more than 30 locations. For us, it’s critically important that people understand what is expected of their efforts, and how they can make a positive impact across the organization.
3) Perspective: It is not unusual for us to call in a handful of people to assist one office or project. Our experts are EDSI representatives who work outside of that office, on a daily basis. We operate under the belief that when you live in the fishbowl, you are often too close to the work to see the required solutions. How many times do we step over shoes in our homes, or miss a dust ball in the corner of a room? Our improvement teams facilitate conversations that always lead to the most effective improvements. Finally, our Managers and Administrators work hard to practice Servant Leadership. The first question out of all of our mouths will be: “How can I help you?” That intent, combined with our effort to see through the eyes of others, leads to a cooperative perspective and a positive, sustainable culture.
Using the process laid out by EDSI helped us to create the right gatekeeper responsibilities and tasks, so we can ultimately focus more on the fit of candidates to the Cornerstone culture. Tom Willis; CEO - Cornerstone Charter Schools