Many companies pay lip service to the idea of creating a great workplace. But a company picnic here and there plus a few inspirational speeches from management doesn’t cut it anymore. Employers must understand what today’s workforce really wants—and provide it for them. One Westchester company that gets this is Purchase-based Quorum Federal Credit Union, which was just named, for the fifth year in a row, one of the Best Companies to Work For in New York (by the New York State Society for Human Resource Management and the Best Companies Group). Quorum, which served as the exclusive credit union for Kraft Foods employees when it was founded in 1934, today serves more than 50 companies nationwide, such as Ogilvy, Avon, Philip Morris, and many others, and has over 65,000 members living in all 50 states.
Glenn Shuster, HR vice president at Quorum
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The key to creating a thriving office life, according to Glenn Shuster, vice president of HR at Quorum, is to foster an environment that leads to an engaged workforce. “From an HR perspective, that’s the number one measurement,” Shuster explains. How do you accomplish that goal? Here is Shuster’s formula:
Empowerment is Essential: “Our philosophy as an organization is that whatever function you have, you own that function, you’re accountable for that function, you drive that function, and you can make it what you want it to be, or what it needs to be for the business,” Shuster explains. “So employees feel that ownership and that accountability at all levels—at the front-line level all the way up to the CEO, and I think people appreciate that; they feel that empowerment.”
Recognition Reaps Rewards: “We do a lot of recognition in the organization, both at the individual level as well as the company level,” Shuster says, pointing to its “Essential Pieces,” which managers give to employees who have “gone above and beyond the call of duty,” based on the company’s five core values. The recipients get a $25 gift card and a memento to display on their desks as a badge of honor. Quorum also has a peer-recognition system: Qudos (Kudos with a “Q”) Cards, which are given to employees by employees. “If I’m working on a project and I’m your peer, this is the way for me to say thank you for helping do X, Y, Z task,” Shuster explains. The Qudos cards can be traded in for cool company-branded merchandise. Once a quarter, Quorum also picks an “employee of the quarter,” who is recognized by the CEO at a company breakfast, as well as a President’s Award given out once a year to a worker “who is truly outstanding,” Shuster says.
Get Rid of Silos: “If employees are siloed in a structured, specialist type of role, it’s very hard for them to feel like they’re part of something bigger, part of a team. I think people really struggle with that,” Shuster says. That’s why silos are an enemy at Quroum. Instead, it’s about employees working across departments and being able to tie their individual performance, individual goals, and daily tasks to the overall success of the organization. “If you can see, wherever you are in the organization—a frontline employee, or back office, or executive—how the work that you do brings revenue or other gains to the organization, it ties you so much more to the company because you feel like you’re contributing at a high level to the success of the organization,” he explains.
Embrace Transparency: “Making sure that you’re being transparent and honest with your employees about their performance goes a long way,” Shuster says. “That means recognizing the leaders and the employees that have potential, making sure that they know how they’re doing and how they can grow and continue to perform well.” And for employees that aren’t performing as well? Transparency is crucial there, too, Shuster says: “Being honest with them, telling them these are the things you need to work on, and not beating around the issues is something that I preach at our organization.”
Goodbye Private Office, Hello Collaboration: This past December, Quorum moved its office and selected a new one with an open-space environment—something that may have disgruntled some higher-ups who lost their private offices. (“Now, the staff get all the windows and all the nice views,” Shuster says.) But the benefits translate to all employees. “We have a lot of collaborative areas and it really feeds into our culture, which is very collaborative and entrepreneurial. We see our employees really engaging each other even more so than at our other place,” he notes. “Being able to collaborate with peers—and not just in a formal setting like an office, but on a bunch of couches—is what people want from their workplace now and I think they enjoy it.”