At the SHRM- Atlanta December meeting the speaker talked about the concept of LOVE as an effective employee relations strategy. He mentioned that with the emphasis in most businesses on the bottomline many managers are skeptical of such an approach. At the outset you could count me among them. After listening to him I am not quite as skeptical.
I must admit I don’t like the term “love” being used in conjunction with HR. The field has long been critiqued as being “too soft” and I don’t think love as a management approach helps that image. I was even less enchanted when I found that the speaker had a book for sale by the title of Love Works and that was the title of his presentation. I made sure my groan of dismay was under my breath.
Joel Manby is the CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment Group. This is not a small organization. They manage 26 properties and have over 10,000 employees. Manby has been featured on the show Undercover Boss and he had a compelling story at that time. He says the philosophy of “loving” employees comes from the two brothers that own the organization. He said there philosophy has paid dividends and he gave the example of Stone Mountain Park where, since HFEG took over, there has been a significant rise in customer satisfaction. Naturally a place where customers are happy makes a great deal more money than when they are not.
Manby explained that the style of love used by the company is what is referred to as Agape, which translated means unconditional love. It is Greek and is used by many religions. Manby says that at Herschend they measure employees and managers on two things. First the numbers. Everyone has to perform and perform to expectations. Secondly they have to pass muster on how they exhibit unconditional love. At Herschend this means they have to demonstrate the following characteristics:
For each employee their demonstration of this type of “love” is fully one-half their annual increase.
Manby then explained how four of these were defined. He said that everything starts with unselfishness. In each interaction a manager has with an employee they are charged with thinking how they can make that employee’s situation better. Just as employees are charged with “thinking of themselves less” when dealing with customers.
Secondly he talked about kindness. At Herschend this means showing encouragement and enthusiasm, yet still holding people accountable. He noted that no one ever gets TOO MUCH encouragement. One of the most powerful tools he has seen used is the handwritten note. One of the owners spends the first half-hour of his day writing handwritten notes of encouragement to employees.
The third area was being truthful with everyone. This was being real with someone about their performance and not firing them until you have given them a chance to correct the behavior. Principles around which this is wrapped are not shooting the messenger, speaking last, and how you handle failure. In each situation you are letting people know three things:
- What performance you want to see the same as;
- What performance you want to see more of;
- What performance you want to see less of.
Lastly, you have to be dedicated, which mean you stick to your values in all circumstances.
After listening to this I came to the conclusion that this is just good human resources and employee relations practice. It is focusing on performance but remembering the “people” aspect of the work. It is practicing respect and regard and not being demeaning.
I just wish we could call it something other than “love.”