April fool’s day 1996 I was sitting at my desk at The Boeing Company when my boss Jeff Turner walked by and asked if I was ready for my next promotion. “Ha ha, April fool’s” I said. But Jeff was serious. That afternoon he imparted a basic philosophy that has stuck with me to this day: “Your people don’t care about what you know until they know what you care about”.  My predecessor didn’t understand that morale, safety, and operating performance had suffered terribly because the people in his organization felt he cared little or nothing about them.

How does your company convey to the workforce what it cares about? Check out how a few of the 2011 100 Best Companies do it:

Adobe Systems – All employee charitable donations are matched dollar for dollar.

Baptist Health South Florida – Grew its ranks by 17% the past two years relying primarily on employee referrals.

Dream Works –  Any Dream Worker can pitch a movie idea to company executives — and can take the company-sponsored “Life’s A Pitch” workshop to learn how best to do it.

Google – Googlers can award one another $175 peer spot bonuses — last year more than two-thirds of them did so.

Intuit – Encourages workers to take four hours a week of “unstructured time” for their own projects and hosting “idea jams,” where teams present new concepts for prizes.

Marriott International – When business slowed and some associates couldn’t get enough hours to qualify for insurance, leaders changed the policy.

Mayo Clinic – Each year Mayo physicians use vacation time, days off, nights, or weekends to care for patients in underserved communities locally and abroad.

NuStar Energy – If employees don’t get a bonus the CEO doesn’t either.

QuikTrip – Training and promotion from within is gospel at QT; benefits include tuition reimbursement up to $4,000 and adoption aid.

Scott Trade – No one has ever been laid off, and no office has ever been closed.

USAA – Its 31-acre campus has walking trails, jogging trails, and three states-of-the- art fitness centers.

Wegmans Food Markets – Last year, 11,000 employees took part in a wellness challenge to eat five cups of fruit and vegetables a day and walk up to 10,000 steps a day for eight weeks.

So, what do these great places to work care about; Employee financial and job security, growth opportunities, ideas, health and wellness, giving back to the community? Some are communicating they care about the workforces impression of which philanthropies to support, who should be hired, what opportunities to pursue, who’s doing a good job, and sense of fairness.

These companies are reaping benefits in the form of lower employer turnover, higher performance, higher customer satisfaction, and growth; 55% of the top 100 grew their workforce during 2011.

As we gather here in Kansas to recognize the 2012 Wichita Best in Business you’ll hear similar examples of these great firms letting their workforce know what they care about. Are they reaping benefits as a result? Well, they’re being recognized for their achievements aren’t they?

What about your organization? What’s keeping you from joining the ranks of the Best in Business? It could be something as simple as what created that April Fools Day  promotion opportunity for me; the workforce doesn’t know what you care about!

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