Culture Surveys

Keller Schroeder President-Jeff GormanJeff Gorman – [President]

The importance of measuring key performance indicators, or knowing the ‘score’ of your progress toward goals, is a widely held view among leaders.  Without some consistent manner from which you can evaluate your progress, it becomes difficult to maintain clarity within an organization regarding the current state of key efforts.  Successful businesses frequently apply this mentality to financial performance, budgets, timelines, and other key initiatives.   Seeing the trend in share value, a comparison of year-to-date financials to budget, or comparing project milestones to forecasts are all great tools of measuring ‘lag’ indicators, those indicators that show the final impact of previous actions on current performance.

At Keller Schroeder, we strongly believe a key performance differentiator for our business is our ownership culture.  Because our employees are owners in the business, we believe they engage with a different level of commitment, they more strongly value client relationships, and they feel more connected to the purpose of the business.  To help assess and measure our performance with respect to our culture, we regularly perform employee-engagement surveys.  We have engaged with nationally known organizations who focus on effective ways to measure culture and employee perceptions of key aspects of the organization with the expectation that we want to compare how we align against those who set the standard nationally for having great workplaces.  Much like reviewing a financial statement, we use the output from the surveys to identify areas where we need to focus for improvement, and we look for areas where we are performing strongly and discuss how to leverage those strengths.  We use the baseline numbers from the top organizations as our ‘budget’ for knowing where we are currently against where we want to reside.

Best Small Workplaces 2017 LogoI am very excited and proud to share, based on the feedback from our employee-owners this year, Keller Schroeder was named to the Fortune magazine and Great Places to Work ’50 Best Small Workplaces’ in the United States this year.  Our results were scored against hundreds of other companies with surveys covering over seventy-thousand employees of small and medium businesses across the country.  From our collective scores and information provided about our benefits, our behaviors, and our focus on the community, Keller Schroeder was rated as #21 on this year’s list.  We have plenty to work on to continue to improve as an organization focused on making positive, personal impacts on our employee-owners, our clients, and our communities, and yet we are very proud of where the scoreboard shows us in our pursuit of that purpose.

It is consistently insightful and invaluable to get candid feedback from a wide swath of employees to create a scoreboard for your culture. It can be both very humbling and very rewarding.  It also should be a requirement if you support the view that the organizational health of your company is the most critical ‘lead’ measure, having direct impact on the ‘lag’ measures you have been using as a scorecard for years.  Research consistently shows the value to an organization, in all measurable ways, of ‘engaged’ employees over ‘content’ or ‘discontent’ employees.  Determining the best way to build a scoreboard to allow an organization to start tracking that key metric should be getting consideration.  We view our culture as a key difference maker in how we add value to our clients; we would encourage others to invest the time to measure those traits in their own organizations.  The benefits to knowing your culture ‘score’ can have a direct impact on all aspects of a company’s performance, and in a marketplace where competitiveness for business and for employees is extremely high, the insight gained from the assessment can help an organization turn culture into a positive differentiator.


Thanks to our Totally Rad Clients!

Each year in October, Keller Schroeder invites our clients to join us for an on-site event that serves as our opportunity to thank them for their continued business. Around 400 of our clients, prospects, and staff members get together for lunch, prizes, and a lot of fun. Each attendee receives a thank you gift for attending (we’ve given laptop backpacks, Maglites, Tervis tumblers, lunch coolers, etc.), and are also entered to win prizes which are drawn every half hour during the event.

Keller Schroeder Totally Rad 2017 Client Appreciation Event

KS Client Appreciation Event Tent

In 2017, we went retro with an 80s-themed “Totally Rad Client Appreciation Event.” We are proud to say we took this theme to the max with lots of neon, Rubix cubes, cassette & VHS tapes, Slinky’s, floppy disks – the works!

 

KS Client Appreciation Event Prize WinnersKS Client Appreciation Event Retro Arcade

Thanks to the Cisco Team at Tech Data, we were even able to secure a retro arcade- complete with Pacman, Galaga, Frogger, Asteroids, and more. Attendees were also entered to win some pretty sweet 80s-themed door prizes including a 50” 4K TV along with a Nintendo NES Classic, an adult-sized big wheel, a retro-style turntable with 80s vinyls, and an updated Polaroid camera.

KS Client Appreciation Event Give Back TentOur Client Appreciation Event also involves a unique charitable aspect, as we ask our employee-owners and clients to bring along a donation for a different charity each year. They are always exceedingly generous, and our chosen charities come away with truckloads of useful items they have requested. This is a major contributing factor in the Client Appreciation Event being our largest and most anticipated event every year.

Albion Fellows Bacon Center LogoFor this year’s event, we partnered with Albion Fellows Bacon Center as our give back organization. For over 35 years, Albion Fellows Bacon Center has been strategically working toward preventing domestic and sexual violence in our community and offering services to empower victims. Their services assess barriers to safety and self-sufficiency as well as the emotional and psychological needs of victims.

Albion Fellows Bacon Center Dryers

The generosity from our clients and employee-owners was once again overwhelming, and Albion left with tons of needed supplies. Keller Schroeder as a company was also able to provide two high-capacity dryers and laundry supplies for Albion’s shelter.

Thank you once again to our clients, employee-owners, and our vendor partners for making this year’s Client Appreciation Event an incredible success!


Stories

Jeff Gorman – [President]

In the past year, I have had the opportunity to visit a variety of businesses and college campuses outside of our region for various reasons.  Each destination stands apart as unique from the others in obvious ways.  Geographies are different.  Employee and student demographics vary.  Values, mission statements, and marketing approaches are each distinct.  These all serve a purpose in helping establish an image with employees or prospects, but amid a myriad of options for organizations providing services, those factors alone tend to get lost in a mountain of data and ambiguity.  What strikes me as creating true clarity and uniqueness of an organization are the stories told by its members and its actions.

While values and mission statements are important and set the clarity waypoint for acceptable behaviors and desired outcomes, in essence defining whom an organization aspires to be, the stories shared with outsiders become the true artifacts that define how an organization actually exists.

I recall, for example, a company I visited shared their company values with the visiting group.  I do not recall any of their unique values other than their concern for the environment.   I remember that value because of their stories around providing stipends for workers that lived within a small distance from their office to allow them to ride their bikes to work, stipends for workers who purchased hybrid vehicles, and the company providing free bike service to employees.  The value of environmental awareness is aspirational and admirable, but the stories of how they are living those values are memorable and differentiators.

Similarly, while on a visit to another organization a topic of discussion was their concentration on measuring output toward specific goals.  Clearly, that is not a unique differentiator; all performance driven organizations work to measure against goals to track success.  This organization, however, worked with employees to determine interactive ways to have ‘scorecards’ accessible and highly visible to all employees, regardless of their access to online resources.  Tubes with colored golf balls became bar graphs for plant-floor employees.  Magnetic name and skillset badges on metal boards were used to track staff availability, display critical needs, and perform resource planning daily.  The organization’s collective collaboration provided the memorable evidence of their non-unique goal.  I am confident if it made a lasting impression on me in a one-day visit, it has made an exponentially greater impact to the organization in terms of employee engagement and clarity of purpose.

If you have not spent time doing so, I encourage you to take time to look at your organization’s values and peel things back a bit to determine what your stories are that support those aspirations.  As all companies work to market their differentiators amid a world of competition, some of your unique differentiators may be readily available in the stories that demonstrate your values.


United, We Serve

Carissa Eatmon – [Marketing and Communications Coordinator]

One of the most unique things about Keller Schroeder as a company is our caring group of employee-owners and their generous hearts. The culture we have fostered emphasizes making positive impacts on people, and our employee-owners continually do this through charitable giving, camaraderie, and joining forces behind causes that directly impact our community. This fall presented us with many opportunities to work together to give back to our community, including to one of our own facing her own battle.


day-of-caringUnited Way’s Day of Caring – September 9th, 2016

Each fall, businesses in the surrounding area allow their employees to spend time volunteering alongside the United Way of Southwestern Indiana on a single day known as “The Day of Caring.” This year’s “Day of Caring” was held on September 9th. Volunteers first met at the Old National Events Plaza for a kick-off breakfast. They then headed to areas in need all over the community. This year, our President Larry May worked with Payne Wealth Partners to assist the Evansville Association for the Blind.

 


Komen Evansville Race for the Cure – September 28th, 2016rftc-the-girls

September also marks our community’s annual Susan G. Komen’ Race for the Cure. Thousands of runners and walkers gather along side breast cancer survivors and their families to raise funds and awareness. This year’s Race for the Cure was particularly meaningful for our Keller Schroeder family. Our Inside Product Manager Dezarae Loewen is currently battling Stage 2 breast cancer. Our employee-owners banded together to walk or run to help find a cure and show our love and support for Dezarae. It was a hot one, but we had a blast “Doing It for Dez!”


United Way Giving Campaign Company Picnic – October 4th, 2016united_way_logo-svg

The end of September brings Keller Schroeder’s United Way Giving Campaign, where employee-owners commit to giving to the United Way of Southwestern Indiana for the following year. Our campaign for 2017 was another huge success, with our employee-owners opening their hearts and wallets to support this amazing organization. To cap off our campaign, we always host an outdoor picnic to celebrate. We used this year’s picnic to thank and celebrate our staff for their generous pledges, and as a way for our group to come together to show our support for Dezarae Loewen. It was a great day filled with food, prizes, fun, and lots of love. Thank you once again to our employee-owners and their families!
cornholeanita-smaddez


Vision Trumps Strategy

We businesspeople love our strategies.  We conduct strategy meetings and summits, develop strategic plans, and more.  And yet on a recent mission trip to El Salvador I was reminded, perhaps more vividly than ever, that vision trumps strategy.  If you don’t know your destination, a map for getting there is pretty useless.

 Sus-HijosKurt Ackermann is a missionary and founder of Sus Hijos (Spanish for “His Children”), a non-profit organization in El Salvador dedicated to serving orphaned and abandoned children, under-resourced families, and the homeless in this impoverished, crime-laden Central American country. This year was the second time I had served on a team hosted by Kurt and Sus Hijos.

To summarize Kurt’s passion for El Salvador, I would say he wants to help kids and families from “hard places” find their way socially, economically, and spiritually.  It should be no surprise, then, that a Sus Hijos mission team agenda typically includes serving and doing projects in orphanages, prisons, and transition homes for older youth.  Would it surprise you, though, if Sus Hijos opened a United States-themed diner in an upscale business and retail district in the capital city of San Salvador?

States DinerOn a trip with Kurt four years ago, I heard him share his dream of opening the “States Diner” as it is now called, a place where young adults who “age out” of orphanages can find employment, job skills training, and income when they would otherwise have nowhere to go but the streets.  Kurt didn’t come to El Salvador to start a diner.  He was drawn there by a vision to help lift up struggling kids and families in a country where there are very limited government support services.

While enjoying a couple of meals at the diner on my recent trip, I had the benefit of seeing its impact firsthand.  I saw hard-working, hope-filled smiling faces who are learning how to work, improving their English, learning new skills, and planning for their next step up after the Diner.  It was and is a highly-effective strategy for helping kids from “hard places,” and the strategy was born out of a compelling vision, not the other way around.

As business leaders, we can learn from Sus Hijos.  “Start with Why” (as eloquently suggested by Simon Sinek in his book and his popular video at TED.com), building a clear vision of why your organization or team exists.  Then “begin with the end in mind” (per Stephen Covey in his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).  The strategy for getting there is important and a worthy investment of time and energy, but only after your organization is healthy enough to know why and where you are going.

Planning and strategy have always been in my comfort zone as a businessman, yet the longer I work the less stoked I get about planning and strategy, and the more I find myself asking about the purpose and the destination of those plans and strategies.  The more I focus on the destination, the more I find my colleagues joining me with inspiration and aspiration for excellence.  As Kurt is so effectively demonstrating in El Salvador, a leader with a purpose can make a deep and lasting impact.

Larry May[President]


Building a High-Trust Culture

Building TrustTrust is a powerful thing.  It serves as a foundation for organizational success.  It builds bridges between people of different persuasions, allowing them to move forward together in a common direction.  I suppose our politicians, and our country as a whole, could benefit from a higher level of genuine trust… ya think?

In Keller Schroeder’s most recent, internal survey (we collect feedback anonymously about every three years), responses from our employee-owners were 95% favorable to the statement, “Management delivers on its promises”, and 96% favorable to, “Management’s actions match its words”.  Lest we too quickly conclude that trust is all about management, our staff also responded 99% favorably to both of the following statements:  “People care about each other here”, and “People avoid politicking and backstabbing as a way to get things done”.

While all of us at Keller Schroeder are humbled and blessed to work in such a positive, high-trust culture, we never endeavored specifically to build one.  No one ever said, “You know, we really need to increase trust here!”  So how does trust happen, and what contributes most to trust in the marketplace?

Avoidance of any major violations of trust is certainly important.  Keller Schroeder consists of about 85 high-integrity individuals who are trustworthy and honest.   But I would suggest that trust is more than a moral issue.  Of all the bosses in my career, the one I respected and trusted the least was, by most standards, a trustworthy person with high moral standards.  I trusted his morals, but I doubted his intentions.  Conversely, the people who have influenced me most have been ones in whom I could place complete trust.  These mentors, peers and bosses each had two things in common:  (1) all their cards were on the table – I knew their intentions – and (2) they had a genuine interest in me and in others, ahead of themselves.

These may sound like very different attributes – clear intentions and other-centered interests – but upon closer examination I believe they are very much related.  It is difficult to have all your cards on the table – to be completely open and honest about your intentions – when those intentions are primarily self-indulgent.  And, when you are genuinely interested in what is best for those around you, it is not difficult at all to be candid and transparent about your thoughts and plans.

We all know people who we absolutely do not trust, based on obvious reasons or personal history, but the overwhelming majority of those we interact with have the basic moral fiber to be trusted.  The development of a high-trust culture for your organization depends on your intentions and your interests.  If it is first about you, trust will be compromised.  If the well-being of your colleagues ranks high among your priorities, trust will grow.  This is a leadership principle which may start at the top, but we all have the opportunity to influence how our organization’s culture evolves.

So before we too quickly point upward or outward as it pertains to trust and culture, let’s look inward.  No organization can build trust.  Only individual members of an organization, on an encounter-by-encounter basis, can demonstrate the authentic interest in others necessary to build a healthy culture.

Larry May [President]