Employee Engagement

Editor’s Note: Collaborating with the C-Suite

debbie-bollaBy Debbie Bolla

Executive Editor

“One word defines our corporation and that’s collaboration.” – Stu Thorn, CEO, Southwire

These words really struck me when interviewing Thorn and Southwire’s executive vice president of HR, Kathleen Edge, at the 2014 COMMIT!Forum in October. As part of the conference’s focus on building a sustainable workforce, our discussion centered around collaboration: between employees and peers, employees and managers, and Thorn and his own leadership team. Southwire encourages frequent meetings between departments and at all levels -sometimes even with Thorn’s presence -to drive change. And feedback is taken seriously. Edge said this approach creates a feeling of empowerment across the workforce.

“Collaboration creates a real sense of glue between the organization,” Thorn explained. “It creates an environment where people want to stay.”

But when employee attrition does occur, Edge had an interesting perspective. She used Millennials as an example. This younger group of workers is often reported for wanting to work for up to seven companies across their careers. This means a three-to-five tenure per organization. Since this attrition is inevitable, Edge urges organizations to reshape their thinking. What was the experience of the leaving employee? Would they recommend the company to their peers?

“Someone leaving is not bad if they are touting the experience they had,” she said. “It’s bad if they leave running and didn’t get what they wanted out of their relationship.”

Southwire also strives to get in front of problems before they occur. The Pulse Board initiative brings operations transparency to the workforce. In the company’s facilities are flat-screen televisions that show real-time performance metrics. Quality, safety, and employee morale, among others, are measured on a monthly rotation. For example, for morale, Southwire polls employees on a specific question -do you feel engaged? Is the company friendly toward diversity? Then Southwire uses a red, yellow, or green light as an indicator of the result of the workforce feedback.

“If things are red, it’s a collaborative discussion … of why it is happening,” said Thorn. “Then we assist (with) process to change it to green. We are using technology to create a sense of connectedness.”

To find out more about Southwire’s incredible approach to human capital management, see Sustaining Success.

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