Principle 1: Operate by principles that are optimum for employees and their families

This is our first business principle, and just like many others, it seems easy enough on the surface (be fair, be nice, etc.).  Well, those are good ideas, but we believe to fully live this principle, you have to look past the interests of the company and give primary focus to the employee.  This may sound a little crazy in todays competitive world–why would you “sacrifice” any opportunity to be profitable in favor of your employees?

You are correct, this thinking is a little backwards when you look at profits especially in our business environment, but we believe that strong companies are built by strong people from strong families.  Did you see how that worked?  Strong companies are a result of strong people with strong families.  No employer has the benefit of hiring only strong people–they may have that initially, but it has to continually be nurtured to expect any type of sustainability.

As an independent, family-owned company, we have been blessed to be able to make decisions that help nurture our employees (typically with a monetary cost) without having to answer to shareholders who are only interested in how much money they will be taking home at the end of the year.  And, the further you move into corporate America (where only money tends to matter), the harder it is to find companies that believe treating employees’ interests higher than their own will actually result in a profit.

Let me give you a real life example (well, as real life as prime-time TV can provide).  You may have seen CBS’s hit show Undercover Boss–the one where corporate CEO’s go undercover in their organization for a week to vicariously see how they can improve their companies.  I have enjoyed watching it, because I continue to see unavoidable examples of how employers must work to operate by principles that are optimum for employees and their families.  I have yet to see an episode where the CEO has not been touched (I believe it has mostly been genuine) by at least one employee who is just a hard worker and is good at what they do.  There have been some real personalities and examples of hard work, but even greater than these people is that there is always an example of how their job affects their family (someone working hard to provide for their family, single parent, special needs, extreme circumstances, etc.).  I know it is Hollywood, and it is well executed, and I am a sucker, but I also know that we have seen some of this reality here at Walker, and if your company is not prepared to meet these people where they are at, they may never be able to give you everything they have when it comes time to work (that is an investment in profitability).  After Mike White, the Chairman of DIRECTV spent an undercover week in his company; he said he now finally realized what his father had meant after all of these years of telling him:  “People are people”.  He went on to say: “When I started this journey, I really thought it would be an opportunity for me to continue to learn about our technology–actually, that was the least of the experience.  I mean, at the end of the day, it’s about cherishing our employees and being committed to their growth because they are so vitally important to our success.”

So, what does Walker do to Walk this Talk?  We try to offer a genuine and inviting atmosphere for our employees.  We do not pay the top wage in the area, but we are competitive, and we believe that the benefits we offer help add to the “bottom lines” of our employees.

Besides the statutory obligations (Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment, Worker’s Compensation, etc.) and some of the voluntary benefits we provide (Medical Insurance/PPO, Supplemental, Life/Accidental Death/Dental Insurance, Deductible Reimbursement, 401k, Paid Vacation/Holidays, Flexible Spending Account, Direct Deposit, etc.) here are a few other benefits that are offered:

  • Production employees who are on time every day are paid 1.5 additional hours of overtime for that pay period–this can mean close to an extra $1,000 a year for even our lowest wage earner
  • Weekly payroll – this seems like an unnecessary expense, but we believe that it keeps the company current with the employee (another example of increased expense, but we believe the payoff by far offsets the cost)
  • Annual profit sharing bonus–typically between 5% and 10% of annual pay
  • Spouse Travel – for any employee who is traveling on business for three nights or more, Walker will pay for your spouse to go with you
  • Walker Family Resources – a company-sponsored initiative that includes an on-staff Chaplain and programs for marriage counseling/enrichment, parenting/family seminars, dependency/addiction, and financial assistance (with the help of the Salvation Army)
  • Bi-Weekly Chapel
  • Resource Library containing books/videos/group studies to promote spiritual growth
  • Length of Service Awards at 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years ($10,000), 25 years ($5,000), and 30 years ($7,500)–Walker pays the taxes for all of the monetary awards
  • Mower loaners and purchase program for employees at a reduced rate (including parts)
  • Adoption assistance
  • A number of other items like: Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas party, Company picnic and other annual contact from the company to families

Sorry for the long list, but this is not something that was developed overnight–this is a reflection of years of trying to treat our people properly and what it takes to really put your “walk to your talk”.

Real life:  Last year, our business slowed down with the economy (- 38%), and we were faced with some tough decisions.  So, as our employment base outpaced our equipment demand, we were able to send some of our employees out to do community service projects.  We were blessed to provide about 590 hours of community service from our employees that were performed on company time.  It was a great way to reach out to our community and it built and strengthened many employee relationships.

Unfortunately, we also had to do two layoffs in the spring time, but we were forthright and honest with our employees, and we are able to look any of them in the eye even today.  (I am happy to report that we have recently been able to hire some of them back).

Scriptural Root to the Principle: Ephesians 6:9 says (Amplified Bible): You masters, act on the same [principle] toward them and give up threatening and using violent and abusive words, knowing that He Who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no respect of persons (no partiality) with Him.

Remember, earlier in this passage, employees are encouraged to work as servants of Christ doing the will of God heartily and with your whole soul; Rendering service readily with goodwill, as to the Lord and not to men.  Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord, whether he is slave or free.

We believe that if the “master” is doing the right thing, the “servant” will then be able to work heartily and with their whole soul–the company has to set a stage for employment that allows people to be strong. The concrete results are that employees are able to keep the commitments to their families that are also scripturally based (read the first part of this same chapter).

So, what has Walker received from all of this?  We benefit by having good employees–not perfect, but good.  We also benefit by an increase in employee loyalty (our average term of employment company-wide is almost 11 years, and our annual turnover rate is less than half of the national average).  The other results (sales, quality, etc.) tend to take care of themselves–this is not because we are so smart (we make plenty of mistakes), but we can only say that the Lord has been gracious and blessed us beyond measure.  All we can do is rely on His help and guidance as we continue to invest in the lives of our employees.

Concluding Thought: Long-Term Thinking – As we go through our operating principles, you will often hear me refer to “long-term thinking”.  Investing in employees over profits is long-term thinking, because you may not see immediate results, but you have to be willing to stick around long enough to realize the investment in your employees.  Some people may say that we are blinded by our own rose-colored glasses, but this is the risk you run when you believe in people.  Yes, we have been let down by some people, but, I would quickly tell you that we have also seen lives changed, people come to Christ, marriages saved, adults and children rehabilitated from the dregs of addiction and families strengthened in ways none of us had ever imagined.  As Christians, that’s what is all about–right?

Comments:
christik
November 21st, 2010 at 8:04 pm

This principle and the practical application examples of it that you presented are a valuable testimony to the impact of choosing best over good enough. With its long-term vision, Walker is able to remain committed to the decisions that will ensure it continues to prosper far into the future.

I couldn’t help but compare Walker’s employee focus to Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” principle of getting the right people on the bus, making sure they are in the right seats, and then continuing to reward and acknowledge their contributions to the organization’s success.

Although Walker may be spending money on their employee-focused initiatives, my guess is that the net savings of a sustained, trained, and committed workforce will always be greater, especially when the long-term picture is considered.

DJBeaton
November 21st, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Hello atcroms,
Incredible and touching story. Whoever reads has to wishing they worked for your company. God has blessed you with the leadership knowledge and abilities that we are learning today in our classes. I unfortunately have lived a double life my whole life. One for God when I am home and another when I am at work. And yes, the work me does not necessarily follow God’s rules, guidance and direction. I have vowed to change that and will work harder than ever to read Proverbs as my foundation for operating in the business world. Further, I will continue my Bible studies and my volunteering to the Church outside the business world.

But all that said and again, I cannot thank you enough for this post. It proves that there are companies that do live by God’s word. Something I was beginning to wonder existed or was fading quickly. Stay the course; you are touching people’s lives in ways some may not understand until they get to heaven.
Have a wonderful Holiday season.

Blessings.

DJB
November 22nd, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Good evening atcroms,

I wrote to this post this morning, but I must not have submitted the comment. So, I can almost bet that this post will be totally different than what I wrote initially. 
In reality though, I bet many people would love to work for your company. A true Christian based organization, that treats it employees more than fairly, and is open with them.

I believe that you as the “servant”, as well, are working heartily and with your whole soul for your employees. God will be blessed beyond your dreams, because of all these things “love is the most important”. You show that love to your employee’s everyday through the good and the bad. Your business foundation for God’s work is laid solidly on a rock and to now put forth your efforts to your employees shows a complete picture. And there you have said it; God has blessed you beyond measure. I am certain he will continue to grow to bigger and better things.

To see lives changed is something I hope that God gives me the ability to foster. You have already done it and what a blessing you will always be those people. So, when you get to heaven and you account for your deeds, again you will bless beyond your wildest dreams. Yes, I do believe that as Christians that is what it is all about.

Great post and you have touched my life with this post, so thank you and I will certainly thank God every day.

Blessings.

BCerros
November 27th, 2010 at 11:40 am

This is truly a walk-the-talk blog. This assignment could not have come at a better time for me. I have a very small business. I started the business to get a feel for managing a business, and I wanted to use the revenue to support missions and give more to my church. I figured if I could understand how to be faithful in the small business than I could be faithful in the large business as well. Over the course of the last month, I have had the strong desire to take the next move toward purchasing a larger business. If only there was a proven model I could follow, and here it is. I want to say thank you for your post…you have no idea the impact it has made on me and the future in which I am about to embark on. I will be visiting a business out here in eastern Kansas, which is for sale and extensively larger than the one I currently own. Your post will be in the back of my mind as I review the potential this company may possess. Your post has watered a seed in my heart which will greatly impact my approach toward walking-the-talk. Thank you and God bless…

CarrieA
November 28th, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Your business sounds amazing and quite idealic. I find it almost too good to be true. I have worked with several different companies of secular, non-profit, or Christian environments. I have found that many, if not all, have set a vision and ethical code for the company on very strong and powerful moral standards similar to this company. I have always found that actually implementing these values at all levels of the company and consistently upholding them has been the downfall.
Even with a strong foundation, I have also experience forms in which the devil intervenes and becomes like a cancer to the team.

What are some of the company experiences that have really tested these ethical standards? (Aside from the economic downturn)

Rad
February 12th, 2011 at 9:20 am

I am very impressed with your company’s desire and ability to take care of its employees. Many companies recognize that their greatest resource is their human resource but most don’t actually put them first. I have worked for companies that placed high value on their employees and others that used people until they burned out. I know that I was much more loyal and productive for those companies that I felt valued me.

Jesus’ ministry focused on those he led in order that they may lead others. I believe your company demonstrates this sort of servant leadership and I can imagine that your company has changed the lives of many people. Employees probably feel like family and look after each other since they themselves are looked after. I hope to be able to model the kind of personal care your company demonstrates to those I lead. Thank you for the incredible example.

Mike
February 13th, 2011 at 4:06 am

A business that is driven to help their employees is a wonderful thing to have. The more we invest into our employees, the more they are driven to be great. We, as humans, can never be perfect and do make mistakes, but are willing to strive towards that perfection and learn from our mistakes are things that most people strive for. The economy does sometimes force a business into some hard decisions. Looking forward to hearing more about the company and how investing in the employees is a better avenue then investing into the profits.

beck
February 28th, 2011 at 10:00 pm

There’s a saying, “a happy worker is a productive worker” however, quite a few HR studies have proven that this is not always the case. Notwithstanding, your statement to operate by principles that are optimum for employees and their families is admirable. Striking a balance between what will generate revenues for the company and what is best for the individual employee is always a challenge, which you seem to have met. I appreciate the programs you’ve been able to establish for your employees.

It is clear that you have displayed transformational leadership on several occasions by changing the live of those who work for you. You’ve also inspired your employees to high levels of productivity and loyalty by offering merit based incentives that provide not only for their basic needs but more. You’ve maintained competitive rates of pay in an economic downturn that signifies your own loyalty to your employees. This mutual obligation indicates a leader member exchange with high levels of mutual respect. Thank you for setting such an example!

33 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. Erin Tuohy says:

    I am very impressed to see a company that puts such effort into their employees. The best advice I was ever given was that a mangers job is to get rid of all the obstacles keeping their employees from being their most productive selves. Walker is doing just that, by giving them counseling they can get help from addiction, by sending spouses with them on travel they are not stressed about separation, by being on time they are rewarded instead of just looked over.

    I agree with my whole heart that the employees happiness determines how well they work. I just completed a research paper that showed the number one link to employee moral being low and high turnover rates is the un-balance of work-life home-life in a company. From my own experience I can say the same.

    As Christians we are called to always work to our best for it is not for us but for the Lord. When an employer serves you like at Walker that job no longer is a struggle to do. The work may be hard but the having the desire to complete it is not. One of my teachers at CCU actually use to hand out the notes with just fill in the blanks, I worked harder in that class than any other, for I wanted to serve well there as I was being served well.

    Simply put, I think this principle says it all.

  2. Jorja H. says:

    I think it makes perfect sense to cater to employees and their families. It takes alot of money to train new workers and any efforts to retain them is worth the money spent. When the employee knows that his family is well taken care of, he is less stressed; thus, he is sick less, takes less family leave, and is more productive.

  3. Don Clever says:

    This is a great principle and I wish more organization would do it. I feel that companies go through a cycle where they are high on employee engagement, then it tapers off to the same old thing till something happens, then here we go again putting this back on the radar. It take a lot of work from both the management and the employee to make an environment of employee worth last very long. For example, in order to get to know your employee you need to open up to them so they feel comfortable opening up to you. Some people are just not very good at this (this can be the manager and/or the employee). If the manager feels they really do not know what their employee’s needs are then they will revert right back to the old methods of just doing whatever they can to motivate and keep the employee working. As a manager, these are what I would call people skills. Not everyone feels comfortable in this department. I know for me this is one of my areas I am working to improve. Being a very shy introvert it is hard for me to approach my employees with the mission of getting to know them better. It is not that I do not think it is important, it is I often get flustered and quickly draw away.

    An organization will function better when the employees feel they are valued and what they say and do matter. The principle stated here will help an organization achieve this goal. Not everything stated in this principle will be easy, or cheap, but if they truly value their employees they should at least try it.

  4. DEVONNA D REYES says:

    I love this so much. As a person who has worked extremely hard at the bottom of the corporate ladder, I couldn’t agree more that honoring the employee’s need for a strong, healthy family makes a happy, productive employee willing and ready to contribute the success of the employer who enables this employee to provide for their family. It respects the humanity of the employee instead of treating them as expendable robots who are merely to achieve production numbers.

  5. Heidi says:

    This post was very inspiring for me. I know of many companies that see their employees as disposable and the bottom line is the only thing that matters.
    Walker exhibits servant leadership by considering the needs of their employees and valuing them for who they are.
    In return, the employees have more loyalty, honesty and work ethic. This was proved by their retention rate mentioned in the article.
    This makes complete sense: I’d be loyal towards a company who treats me well, and I wouldn’t take it for granted.
    These companies are rare.

    The fact that most American businesses are selfish and will do whatever their shareholders want all in the name of the might dollar, shows the power of greed that has taken over.
    To change this mindset, we need more company’s like Walker, especially in an economy where most companies are sucking the life out of their workers. They know there are not alot employment opportunities for people and realize their employee can’t afford to be out of work, so much more demands and expectations are placed on them. These increased hours and hectic work schedules are not healthy for people in any way.

    I really appreciated how Walker recognizes that strong people are made out of strong families. The families are the support of the person working at their company. I have never heard of the spouse travel benefit. That is such a thoughtful gesture and marriage building benefit.

    In a recent lunch and learn event I attended, the presentation gave statistics on the correlation of having a good boss who cared about the employees needs and increased quality of life. I believe most people would sacrifice top pay to have an environment like Walker offers. There is no price tag on quality of life.

  6. TO501 says:

    I believe that leaders need to take a stand and sacrifice for what they believe in. We are getting apathetic in our country and to be honest some of us need a kick in the pants. Servant leadership is far more effective than a golden parachute type of leading from my perspective. When you serve, you invest yourself whole heartedly. This is so important in a leader. The golden parachute type of leader where one is promised substantive benefits if their position is lost seems somewhat backwards to me. I feel like this would produce little motivation to do ones best. Serving and sacrificing for those around you brings respect. People want to follow this type of individual. Servant leadership is by far the better approach among the two in my opinion. We saw this a lot in our forefathers however the trend seems to have reversed. As of late it seems people are more concerned with themselves. I think its time for servants to step up again and stand for what is right.

  7. Ageorge says:

    That is a great philosophy and a great way to demonstrate that you walk the talk! People in general like to feel they are valued and respected. They want to know their opinion counts, even if it’s not implemented at once. Today everyone seems to be looking out for number one, especially when it comes to being in a leadership position. Just think of the impact you are making as an employer or employee to someone you work with who is a non-Christian, what a great way to plant a seed, by exhibiting a genuine servant leader. In his book titled Leadership (Northouse, 2010), “Being steward (servant) means clarifying and nurturing a vision that is great than oneself.” He goes on to say that this means not being self-centered, but integrating oneself/vision with that of others in the organization. To be an effective leader, we need to see our own vision as an important part of something much larger, in the organization and community at large.

    God made us in His own image, therefore we have innate characteristics built right into us that our conscience uses to remind us of things like choosing what is right and good, loving others and definitely keeping our promise, just as God has demonstrated throughout His Word, he never forgets!

    God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

  8. BPM says:

    Walking the talk! What a farfetched concept in today’s corporate society. Or is it? It is true that many leaders in today’s companies are only concerned about what the employee can do for them. They are less concerned about the number of hours they work an employee, the happiness of their staff, or even rewarding them now and again for a job well done.

    Executives of companies truly do not understand what is going on at the lower level. They create systems, processes and procedures, reorganize structure and change policies from their corporate offices in their high rise buildings. However, they make these decisions based on their own personal experiences and what they feel may work. The key concept that most executives fail to calculate is “buy in”. Employees have to be on board with executive decisions. They are the direct connection with the consumer. If employees are not properly informed of policy changes and how it will affect them, their jobs and their personal life, they will not fully embrace the change. There are some cases when the employees are informed of changes, however executives are clueless as to how it would affect the dynamics at the middle and lower levels. It is shows like Undercover Boss that allow executives to experience their own change first hand and actually walk in their own talk.

    The hope is that the experience from the show allows executive to really think about his own people in addition to driving profits and see that the two go hand in hand. Without the employees, the company cannot grow. If employees are not being taken care of, the upper management decisions made will not be executed properly.

    My current manager is amazing at ensuring that we have a balanced work and family life. My job is salaried and in my position, we can work extra hours that cut into our family life. We often work events to promote our company and the events often take place at night, in cities 2-3 hours away requiring an overnight stay, or even early in the morning before our normal start at 9:00 a.m. She makes certain that we flex our time so that the valuable time spent with our families is not stripped away. If she feels that we are spending too much time at work, she will walk in our offices, flip the light switch and tell us to call it a day. She occasionally takes our team out for lunch, gives us little gifts to let us know that she appreciates us, and really hears our feedback on issues that we see in the system and go to bat for us when appropriate. She is amazing! She is a walk the talk leader and I truly appreciate her.

  9. Diane Ventresca says:

    I think it is wonderful what Walker is doing! I have never worked for a company that cared this much about me or my peers. I think should I have the opportunity to work for a company with similar values and investment in their people I would also stay a long time. Having such a low turnover is only one benefit Walker sees. I imagine that consumers know how you treat your employees and if given the chance would rather support you over your competitor. I also bet your employees and their families sing your praises and share their testimonials with other potential customers, thereby increasing your profitability. I say, great job! Thanks for being a company that people can believe in!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    This sounds like an incredible company to work for. What a wonderful example of Walking the Talk. So few companies out there recognize that when a company takes care of the employee’s families, they have happier and more satisfied employees. It is also nice to hear of a company that actually recognizes that the family is an extension of the employee and actually lives by that, rather than saying they realize that but don’t act as though they do.

  11. Holly says:

    WOW! What a great company to work for, not only are you placing the employees first, but also their families. This is very generous, especially when the economy was taking a hit on many businesses. I would guess that employees love to work where they actually have a value to work with and towards! Many times you hear of a company that “talks” about having that value, but when it comes time to produce, they fall short and that is when employees start to lose interest and become unengaged with the company.
    Thank you for sharing an amazing experience and value towards others!

  12. Jon H. says:

    This really boils down to knowing and taking care of your employees. They are your most precious resource. Leader and manager engagement will help us hire, maintain, and grow great leaders and managers within our roganizations. If we take care of them, they will take care of us.

  13. Jacqueline says:

    Wow! As I expect many others who read this, I am thinking that I wish my husband or I worked for this company or one just like it.
    I love the idea that strong companies are built by strong people from strong families. That really is profound. Walker is to be commended for their efforts to make sure families remain strong through the benefits they offer that are outside of the norm.
    The success of the company is proof of what Christ said in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.” (NIV)
    They have their priorities straight and God has blessed them for it.

  14. John H. says:

    Reading through the principles that you employ within your business makes me think you are operating in a different time. A better time, where employers and employees bonded together as a team to accomplish whatever the mission of the company was. It is difficult sometimes to live out our ideals, but it sure seems like you company it making an honest effort to do just that and is obviously reflected in the employee retention rates you are seeing

    Too often these days it seems that companies lose focus of the fact that employees are people who have lives outside of work and life issues that will sometimes affect their ability to work. It has been my experience that the vast majority of the people I have had the priviledge to work with over the years are good people who want to do a good job. It is good to see a company that recognizes that and doesn’t put profit as the ultimate goal.

    I read through the “what we believe” principles posted on your company’s web-site. Really enjoyed the one declaring God as the senior partner for the business. It goes unstated too often, and overlooked even more. But what a true statement it is not only in business but in our personal lives as well.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. You put things in a way that is easy to read and makes practical sense. Thanks for the post and God bless!

    v/r
    John H.

  15. John H says:

    Reading through your post, it seems as if you are writing from a completely different time. A better time, when employers and employees bonded together as a team and often as friends and family to achieve the vision of the company. It seems too often these days that companies sole focus is one earning the next dollar and it is often done at the expense of the workers. I definately do not see that either in your post or on your company’s web site.

    Looked at the company web site and specifically the section that speaks about “what we believe.” Truly enjoyed the bullet about God being the senior partner in the business. What a truism that is, but often not thought about and more often than not, never said.

    I look forward to reading your future posts. You have a way of saying things that are easy to read and yet make the truth easy to understand. God Bless

    v/r
    John H.

  16. Brian Kramer says:

    I really like this post. For years I have always talked about this kind of model of leadership. It is very obvious that this company from the top are servant leaders. I hope and pray that your buisness will grow and be on the top to show the world that God’s way is the best way. I will pray for you and hopefully be able to duplicate this leadership style where ever I end up in God’s world.

  17. Brian Kramer says:

    This is an amazing post. I am very excited to see that there are companies that do live out their Christianity in the work place. This company to me is going to be very successful. Hopefully and prayerfully it will be very successful in the world. More and more buisnesses need to see this and how much better will our workplace be. Keep it up and may God continue to bless you.

  18. Sam says:

    I enjoyed reading this post and went back and watched the Undercover Boss episode you mentioned. It was truly touching to see the sacrifices people make and the selflessness they exude in working hard to provide for their families. “People are people” that is a true statement. Not departments, not tools of revenue or a force that lines the pockets of those in upper management. I believe this this verse is reflects what the Godly perspective should be between employees and their managers: Ephesians 6:5-8 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”

  19. Tess F. says:

    Having worked for a company that really cares about its employees I understand this approach. At my job, I wasn’t paid the highest wages at my job but I knew that my company really cared about me, they even allowed me to take time to go to school. Working for a company that cares is one of the best perks an employee could hope for.

  20. Tess F. says:

    This post has a good point about how benefits and organizational culture can mean more to an employee than the actual dollar amount on the paycheck. If people aren’t happy at a job and don’t feel appreciated they won’t stick around no matter how much they get paid. A lot of people will be loyal to a company who treat them right even if the pay isn’t the highest around.

  21. Kjirsten Wright says:

    This is such a refreshing change over the many companies that are profit focused and not employee focused. This is such a huge blessing to read to know that companies who care about their employees are out there. I wish more companies had this focus.

  22. Kjirsten Wright says:

    What a blessing to read this blog post! It is refreshing that companies like this exist, a focus on the employee rather than the profit. I wish more companies had this mindset. Leadership and management is long overdue for a change. Hopefully the changes will start happening soon.

  23. Julie R says:

    What a shining example Walker is! I love the philosophy, “if your company is not prepared to meet these people where they are at, they may never be able to give you everything they have when it comes time to work (that is an investment in profitability).” What a guiding principle. Employees may not care how much you know until they know how much you care. I would venture to say that the employees –and the owners and management – of Walker are blessed indeed. What a wonderful business model!

  24. Tim Farquhar says:

    Hi Tim,
    It must be great to work for a company that truly cares about its employees. It looks like Walker mowers has found a way to balance the need for profits and the needs of its employees. In looking at the articles that make up opportunity abounds shows how Walker mowers walks the talk.

    Tim F.

  25. Brent K. says:

    Corporations seem to underestimate the importance and impact of the employee as an asset to the business. Currently, it is more common to see a reduction in benefits to employees rather than a growing list of benefits as companies struggle to meet financial goals and stay afloat. It is nice to see an example of a company that has based its policies and practices on the employee as the focal point while still retaining a viable business model. As noted in the blog, there is some short term financial sacrifice, but the long term gains clearly outweigh the sacrifice.

    Unfortunately, as businesses have reduced benefits, it seems that a shift has also occurred within the mindset of the average employee. It is quite rare to find people staying within the same company for their entire careers. People are more likely to hop around looking for the best deal on the market. While there is nothing inherently wrong with doing this, it does come at a cost. The knowledge and mastery gained by working in the same position for an entire career is becoming rare. This increases costs to the businesses, as they are in a constant competition to retain and hire employees, and reduces the money that could be invested into the current set of committed employees.

    We all spend a significant portion of our lives at work. The environment and conditions of the workplace can have a profound effect on all of the other areas of our lives. Walker seems to understand this concept and has chosen to sacrifice a small bit profit in order to create a place people can truly be excited to work. This is a great example of leading boldly by one’s convictions, which is all too rare these days.

  26. Courtney says:

    I think it is absolutely wonderful that Walker sees the value in providing this type of support for their employees. You talk about the short-term risks involved and how investing in your employees and allowing them to maintain strong families is good for long-term sustainability. One of the topics discussed in an economics course I took as an undergrad was the long-term value of companies investing in the local community, especially in the case of a manufacturing company, which typically becomes one of the primary employers in a town and therefore becomes generational in that future employees will come from the families of current employees. Allowing your employees to build strong families carries a short-term cost but can actually be considered a long-term investment in the health, development, and well-being of children who may grow up to work for Walker.

  27. Eric R. says:

    I really appreciate the sharing of the Walker story. Interestingly, I have had the opportunity to work with Walker Manufacturing. They are the company described. Even to an outsider, it was obvious that everyone there is treated like family; employees, clients, service providers, and other partners. It excites people to be a part of the Walker experience, which drives them to give more than their best effort – and Walker reaps the benefit of this.
    It seems fewer and fewer leaders are demonstrating The Law of Sacrifice. Unfortunately, there has been a shift in focus to what is accomplished (goals), rather than how things get done (values). As Fred Reichheld noted, “Your can talk all you want about creating value, building loyal relationships, and putting customer interests first, but if the vast majority of your scorekeeping efforts go to measuring profits, then your customers and other partners will get the unspoken message” (Reichheld, 2001, p. 122). Leaders and their teams will do those things for which they are rewarded.
    Implementing a culture of service leadership is not a short-term project. To be successful, the employees and others being served must have faith that this is a commitment. With that buy-in, trust is established, and the normal operating are replaced by those of a service culture. The lesson to be learned from service leaders is that this strategy, when implemented on faith, can result in successful outcomes.

    Reichheld, F. F. (2001). Loyalty Rules! Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

  28. Drew Benson says:

    Working for a company that truly cares about it’s employees feels indescribably elating. I, too work for a company that focuses on the employees, their safety, the customer, and filling realistic demands that benefit the customer, shareholders, and employees. Recently, in my MBA coursework, I read an article by Lee Iacocca, successful businessman and most recently the CEO of Chrysler. Iacocca writes, “Had Enough? Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where…is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder” (Iacocca & Whitney). With that in mind, if there are not many good leaders in contemporary society to look to, how does one know how to be one?

    Iacocca’s most notable book, “Where Have All the Leaders Gone,” lays out nine points of leadership which provide an excellent standard to develop one’s leadership operandi. They provide quick and comprehensible ideals that are easy to understand, but challenging in practice, rendering them timeless and viable goals for any manager.

    Most Christians simply choose to (imperfectly attempt to) set the bar where God has it set. Scripture says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (King James Version). The Christian ethos is transversal in nature and can be applied to any environment. That is why I enjoy the logic and motivation behind Iacocca’s methodology of setting standards for leaders to follow.

    With all of these fruit-filled tidbits in mind, the most important thing leaders can do in the workplace is what Walker is doing: developing employee loyalty.

    “We benefit by having good employees–not perfect, but good. We also benefit by an increase in employee loyalty (our average term of employment company-wide is almost 11 years, and our annual turnover rate is less than half of the national average).”

    The store I manage has amazing loyalty and other store managers seem rather amazed at times; not because I am a some “incredible” manager, because I am not. My numbers are above budget, but never the highest in the region. Other managers have simply commented on how they wish their employees were so loyal. Each one of them knows their place in the business, and each understand that there are all legs to a stool. The more legs that work, the more solidified the structure.

    With that said, operating by principles that are healthy and simultaneously loyal to both employees and their families, is a timeless and necessary principle. This was my first time on this blog and it is encouraging to see a place devoted to encouraging these practices and having these discussions.

    Iacocca & Wright. (No date provided). Where have all the good leaders gone? Information Clearing House. Retrieved from: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17516.htm

  29. John Higgins says:

    The first business practice that was discussed on this blog, to operate on principles that are optimum for employees and their families, obviously makes sense from a Christian worldview but also makes a lot of business sense as well. From a Christian viewpoint the programs that Walker Manufacturing Company has put in place is wonderful. Christ, who is the head of the church served many while he was on this earth and served us all by dying on the cross and rising three days later. On the night that Jesus was betrayed he washed all of his disciples feet, even the feet of the one who would betray him. Jesus always served those who from a worldly view were below him and those in need. As executives and leaders of companies, we need to serve our employees and their families not only from a Christian perspective but also from a business standpoint too. By creating an environment where employees feel important and enabled to be independent and creative, you create a climate for growth but also a climate of retention. As executives, when you look at a cashier or a customer service representative you most likely thing of them as being on the low end of the company and easily replaceable but a customer service representative that only makes $18,000 a year cost $58,000 to replace them. By implementing the practices that Walker Manufacturing has in place, you could actually be saving money. While Walker does increase the amount they pay for each employee with these benefits, the cost of these benefits most likely does not reach $58,000 per employee. In this blog, the author spoke about looking at the long-term picture and that providing for employees is one of the best long-term plans to have. In our society of instant gratification, most of us only look at the upfront cost and what we get in return in the foreseeable future and not all the benefits we may get from this action in ten or twenty years. As part of that, implementing web-based performance systems that allow for personal growth and freedom in how one does their jobs, is a way of doing what is best for your employees and providing them with the skills they need to be successful but also gives them reason to stay with the company and to give back to the company through time, dedication and knowledge.

    Statistics taken from about.com

  30. epb says:

    After reading the story of the Walker family and the way they conduct business, I completely agree, that protecting employees the way they do insures loyalty. When one’s family is well taken care of, employees can be productive beyond expectations. It is beneficial for both employer and employee to act according to God’s principles. They both can be greatly blessed by abiding by the Word, honesty, integrity and good morals can only benefit the business relationship.

  31. 0405972TJP says:

    I especially like that employees are encouraged to work as servants of Christ doing the will of God heartily and with your whole soul; Rendering service readily with goodwill, as to the Lord and not to men. Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord, whether he is slave or free. I would love to work for a company that encourages Christianity! It is easy to see the Walker’s have faith. Faith in their product, faith in their people, and faith in their leadership. The fact the pay attention at how their job affects their families is such a testimony to how God works in His children.

  32. Todd says:

    I think it is unusual in this day and age to find a corporation that actually makes the effort to place family on an equal footing with profit when dealing with their work force. I sincerely believe that this absolutely must lead to increased job satisfaction and retention in addition to lower stress levels for the employees and their families. Apparently, in the end, this translates to a successful business. I am very impressed by the unique benefits offered by this organization. The monetary benefits offered are uncommon in today’s work environment but are arguably insignificant when compared to the spiritual and family benefits provided. These benefits clearly are given with the family in mind, even allowing maximum opportunity for employees to spend time with their families when travelling for business. I hope these policies continue to help your employees and your business prosper.

  33. pt says:

    Although I generally agree that employees are one of the stakeholders that need to be considered, I think it is a little extreme to use a blanket statement such as “Operate by principles that are optimum for employees and their families.” Both Friedman and Freeman would agree to a certain extent that looking out for employees and their families would in many ways benefit the company overall, however making a general statement that the corporation should operate in such a way that is optimum for employees and their families might mean spending money on employees that could be going into shareholder pockets. When deciding on the principles that a company should operate by, they should use a model similar to King’s Values Aligned Leadership decision making model. A pre-set model will decrease the temptation to make inconsistent decisions in different situations or practicing situational ethics. A corporation’s operating principles should be devised after they decide on the key and most important values of the corporation and all the stakeholders listed in order of priority. If for a specific corporation, their most important stakeholder is their employees and families, they should disclose this to all other stakeholders. This way, shareholders can decide if that is the company where they want to make their investment. Each investor has the right to know how their investment is being used, and with a transparent decision making process of how the corporation makes decisions regarding operating principles, they can make that choice wisely. If all the investors and stakeholders accept that a certain corporation wants to operate by principles that are optimum for employees and their families, then there is nothing wrong with that. However, if a corporation is not transparent about their decision making processes and their operating guidelines, then placing priority on employees and their families at the expense of shareholders might not be considered fair.

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