Things were looking up there for a while, weren’t they? At least the long-term forecasts still look strong. But this omicron variant is causing us to tear our hair out, worrying about the health and safety of our people (let alone our loved ones at home). Just this past week, we saw 82 of our associates call in sick—that’s 5% of our company. Just as bad, something like 8% of our company has tested positive for the virus in January.
Then, we got hit with the news that our school system was shutting down for a week or more because of the incredible wave of infections ripping through our community. That means we have parents forced to stay home or find childcare options at the last minute, which just puts enormous stress on everyone.
The bright side to all the bad news is that despite how contagious it is, omicron infections seem to be less severe than prior variants. It also seems like the wave of infections might peak in another few weeks—which might be the light at the end of the tunnel.
In the meantime, we continue to encourage our associates to do everything they can to control the spread (from masking and social distancing to getting vaccines and boosters) while also taking vitamins and getting enough sleep to keep their immune systems strong should they get infected.
As this pandemic evolves into an endemic, something that promises to be with us for a while, like the flu, we all need to adjust to that new normal.
And the best way we can do that is by sharing as much information with our people as possible.
<<Jack wants to know your thoughts! Leave a comment at the bottom of this page and Jack Stack and Darren Dahl will comment back and/or answer any questions you might have. >>
Beyond Open Book
Years ago, a journalist named John Case from Inc. magazine coined the term “open-book management.” John was inspired by companies like ours that were opening their financials to their employees, and teaching them what they mean, to drive better results.
What we’ve found in our company since then is that just opening the books isn’t enough to satisfy the appetites that our people have for information. They’re ravenous for everything they can get their hands on, including the financials—which are just stories about people anyway.
One way we give our people as much information as we possibly can has been to hold a Zoom call every week to two weeks in which everyone in our company is invited to hear the latest information that ranges from the latest Covid outbreak to how we’re performing as an organization. It’s also an opportunity for what we call “shout outs” where anyone and everyone is encouraged to recognize their peers for going above and beyond.
For instance, on our most recent company-wide call, we covered everything we planned to share during our next Board of Directors meeting that was coming up. In other words, we were sharing the key information driving our business with our associates before we shared it with our board. That’s how much we believe in radical transparency inside our organization.
For example, we shared updates on our Critical Number—retention rate—and how our Human Relations team had somehow recruited and onboarded 808 people to join our team in the past year at a time when the War for Talent has been raging. Despite those heroic efforts, we still have more than 100 job openings—which is something we need all our associates help to fill through referrals and word-of-mouth advertising.
We also talked about the continued challenge we face regarding healthcare costs, which increased 21% on a person-by-person basis over the past year. As a self-insured organization, our people need to know how those costs impact the bottom line of our business and what we can collectively do to control them.
And yes, we also talked about our financial results for 2021—which are really exciting—and our forecasts for 2022. We expect 2022 to be volatile and will see some growth, but it won’t be as dynamic as we enjoyed in 2021. But that’s okay since we need the breather to catch up.
Leadership Development In Action
What we love most about these calls—despite all the work that goes into preparing for them—is that they go beyond just the sharing of information. They’re learning opportunities for our associates. It’s an opportunity for us to dig deep and find ways to use these sessions to teach our associates—many of whom have been with the company for less than five years—what drives our business.
We’ve found that the more we share, the deeper our people want to go with the information. It’s a ratcheting effect. More than simply sharing the information on our P&L, we tear it apart and dig into the ratios that tell us about the real stories behind the numbers.
We also use these sharing and educational moments to demonstrate to our associates how they can build a career that works for them inside our business. But don’t just take our word for it: You can hear what two of our associates, Kim and Juan, say about their experience has been like working inside our business.
Kim and Juan are perfect examples of how we use radical transparency and education to build a new generation of leaders and a business of businesspeople.
Jack wants to know your thoughts! Leave a comment at the bottom of this page and Jack Stack and Darren Dahl will comment back and/or answer any questions you might have.
Looking for more on how to increase employee engagement? Join us for our next workshop focusing on Implementation + Strategic Planning.
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