#1 We're A Top Workplace!

posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2017

On this final installment of our highlights from 2016—the last post before we launch #billionplus with a bang—we’d like to recognize all of our managers and supervisors for earning the Top Workplace distinction yet again in 2016!

For the second year in a row, the highest scoring survey scores came from questions around how much managers care, how much managers help make the job easier and how much managers help their employees learn and grow.

“I try to get to know all of my team members on a personal level so we trust each other,” said Desarae Schwab, manager of Roose North GDU. “I spend more time with my employees than I do my family and it’s important that we have a good relationship.”

“If I have an employee who comes to me and says, ‘let’s try this,’ I never tell them it’s been done before and didn’t work, I try to find a way to try his or her approach and then build on it. I don’t want to discourage a new idea or plan,” said Craig Whalen, GDU Supervisor.

The Top Workplace survey was conducted in April 2016 when 586 Iowa Select Farms employees voluntarily completed the independent, third-party survey, scoring on the overall health of Iowa Select Farms. Employees also left 1,003 comments around the direction of the company, the cooperation amongst departments and acknowledging any negativity that might in the workplace.

The survey also captured honest opinions on how the company executes, the company’s values and ethics, how connected the employees are to the goals of the company and to their work, how effectively the teams operate, and how they view their manager.
Results from Iowa Select Farms’ employees were then compared to other Iowa employers within the categories of “small”, “medium”, and “large” employers—referred to as the benchmark.

The results? Iowa Select Farms ranked 14 out of 20 companies who earned the Top Workplace designation. In all categories—Alignment, Effectiveness, Connection and My Manager—average scores landing firmly between 3.75 and 5 on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the highest.

“We like the distinction, but it’s more about being good listeners, getting feedback and having metrics flowing in around how employees think and feel about Iowa Select Farms as an employer,” said Kerry Sweeney, Director of Human Resources.

The highest scores were offered in the category of, “My Manager,” where employees responded to questions such as “My manager helps me learn and grow (4.6 out of 5, 13% above the benchmark), “My manager makes it easier to do my job well (4.7 out of 5, 9% above the benchmark) and “My manager cares about my concerns” (4.6 out of 5, 8% above the benchmark).

“This is something we’re really proud of, because our managers are the heart of our company,” said Sweeney. “They have a lot of responsibility around meeting goals, overseeing their facilities and ensuring excellent animal care, and they are also accountable for managing and leading teams, which doesn’t always come easily.”

“One of my personal goals is to spend more time with each of my team members,” said Bert Becker, manager of Sow 29. “The more you get to know someone, the more you know how to approach them, work through issues and recognize them for a job well done.”

“I really care about my employees and what is going on in their lives,” said Melissa Houseman, Manager of Sow 20. “If they are sitting by themselves in the breakroom or I can tell they are having a bad day I try to help them through it. If they need to use my office to take a personal call, that’s not a problem.”

Kerry Sweeney, Director of Human Resources, said the HR and leadership team work to give the managers as much support as possible through training, development and just being on the other end of the phone when they need it.

“We’ve participated in the survey for two years now, which means we can now compare our results to last year, which is helping all of us get better,” said Sweeney.

And get better they did—in addition to the manager’s maintaining high scores year on year, Iowa Select Farms scored 26% above the benchmark in workplace positivity (16% improvement over last year), 9% above the benchmark in interdepartmental cooperation (3% improvement over last year) and 20% above the benchmark in effective execution (8% increase over last year). Compared to 2015, teams also executed 8% better, cooperated 3% better and encouraged new ideas 3% better.

Because no one is perfect, the areas the teams are working on improving are communication around important decisions, which is why important meetings are followed by notes and checklists, and a “Best Practice” communication and training program has been set in place to keep caretakers informed of changes to processes and protocols.

“I make it a point to keep my team informed about what is going on,” said Ryan Johnson, manager of Gast and Owasa GDU. He continued, “I expect that from my supervisors and make it a point to keep passing the information along.” Craig Whalen, GDU supervisors, agrees, especially when it comes to development. “If I cannot train myself out of a job, then I’m not doing my job. We should always be helping pull people up in the organization.”
“Improving in all of these areas is something we set goals around and have plans in place on how we get better,” said Sweeney. “The survey just one more way we stay plugged into what our employees are thinking and feeling,” said Sweeney.