Tasty Catering Delivers On Employee Engagement

About a year ago I posted a blog about transparency being crucial to employee engagement (post here).  I have seen companies be transparent and get great gains from it.  Add another company to that list.  Last week I found a blog post (here) about Tasty Catering using transparency in order to keep their employees engaged in the company’s improvement and operation.

After hearing CEO Tom Walter share how he drives engagement with his employees through transparency and shared decision-making, it became apparent how Tasty Catering has received so many awards.

Starting off his talk, Walter said he isn’t concerned with modern technology or tweeting.  “I’m concerned about people and communicating with them. I want to connect with their values,” he said.

It sounds like Walter understands communication is a two-way street.  It is not about just putting something out where someone can read it on twitter or facebook or the company newsletter.  It is about connecting with the individuals and having a meaningful dialogue.

Walter also feels very strongly that all his managers understand Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (pictured to the left).

Walker feels that if his managers don’t understand it, they don’t really understand how employees think. He sees the”Love and Belonging” rung of the hierarchy as the communications piece.  ”We share the risk, and then we share the rewards,” Walter said.

In addition to having meaningful dialogues, Tasty Catering also publishes the financial results every month as part of the newsletter, called “Inside the Dish.”  They don’t make it looks slick.  They present the facts.

Newsletters are usually thought of as slick, four-color publications with articles and graphics. But that”s not what “Inside the Dish” is at all. Picture this:

  • Several sheets of paper stapled together at the corner
  • Absolutely no photos or graphics
  • 10pt Arial font in black with single-line spacing
  • Every section chock full of financials, including profits and losses (P&L) and other data such as sales and operations numbers

I would ask why no pictures or graphs to help illustrate the point.  With lean, we prefer visual management and part of that is trying to make the numbers easy to understand by representing them graphically somehow or show a process throw a process map.

Financial information can be difficult to understand and Walter knows that.

You may be wondering how all of Tasty Catering’s employees understand the financial data because they aren’t all accountants. Walter is so committed to making sure his employees understand where the company stands, he has the CFO conduct one-hour sessions each month with every team.

From a lean lens, I see these meetings as a large amount of waste.  Lean accounting would say to create plain English financial statements that are easy to understand.  This way the CFO doesn’t have to waste a day or more of his time just explaining the numbers.  This would allow him more time to be able to look for ways to improve the business instead of talk about the past performance.

How has this transparency paid off into employee engagement?  Here is one example:

During the recession, Tasty Catering was really struggling. To keep the company afloat, Walter was planning to institute a 10% pay reduction and let five hourly staff members go. When he proposed this solution, one employee suggested an alternate solution. She said to ask everyone to drop down to 25 hours a week. They could survive on that until the company recovered.

Walter also offered discounts on food from the company inventory during this time to help out as well as low interest loans to be paid back when they could.

Tasty Catering may not claim to be a lean company, but they seem to act like one.  The transparency shows respect for the people allowing them to want to be engaged in the company’s direction and decisions.  Sounds like a company doing the right things.

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Posted on April 25, 2011, in Engagment, Leadership, Respect for People, Waste and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Transparency is so important these days for those businesses that want to be successful, retain employees, etc. I always appreciate a company that shares as much as they can short of the P & L statement. One way to keep people engaged is to…keep them engaged! Just the fact you are pulling back the “curtain” will send a positive message to your workers. Indeed, respect is a two-way street.

  2. Transparency is important for employees. It’s also just as important for customers.

    Some time ago, I wrote about CustomInk, a company that allowed unfiltered customer feedback to be displayed real time on its website. That’s transparency:

    http://jamieflinchbaugh.com/2010/02/take-customer-feedback-seriously/

    • I remember that post. It was great to see a company being that transparent. Showing the good and the bad. If you don’t want something bad posted then you better delivery great service and quality.

  1. Pingback: How to help your boss.

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