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Does Kindness Pay?

by Betty Dowdy (TNU 2008)


       In an article titled Workforce Management, Jessica Marquez asks whether kindness pays off.    In 1995, Rocky Flats, Colorado was not a place where people wanted to work.   Dangerous levels of radiation prompted an FBI raid at a former nuclear weapons plant.  The plant soon closed and the difficult process of clean up began.  The Department of Energy estimated the cleanup would take 70 years and $36 billion dollars to finish.  Kaiser-Hill, a Denver based engineering and construction firm, won the contract for the cleanup.  The company beat the Energy Department estimates by 60 years and came in $30 billion under budget.


           Company executives attribute their success to a corporate culture based on using positive strategies to motivate employees.  CH2MHILL, the parent company of Kaiser-Hill, has spent more than $5 million since 1999.   The company put 700 senior managers through the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business training program The school focuses on a philosophy called “positive organizational scholarship.”  The program is based on the idea that by using positive communication, companies can demonstrate superior performance.  “Their approach of embracing the desire to not only be the best in the world but the best for the world really spoke to the core of its culture.”


        The company puts 120 executives through the program each year.  Its annual overall training budget is more than $20 million.   CH2Mhill is part of a trend to spend training dollars on creating a kinder and more positive culture.   


       Disciples of positive organizational scholarship admit they cannot correlate culture and results.  Even so, they believe it is worth the investment.  CH2MHILL says its positive culture has allowed it to grow into the international firm it is today.  During the period from 2001 to 2006, both the number of employees and the company’s revenues doubled.  Executives say employee surveys back up the theory that company culture is the driver of its growth.  “Our employees say the top motivator to work is the challenging nature of what we do.”    However, the second reason they come to work is the respectful nature of the workforce.  Money comes third.


         Company executives were clear about the challenges they faced at Rocky Flats when they won the contract.  On top of the dangerous work, there was a huge sense of mistrust among the former workers.  Previous contractors at the site had operated in a “command and control” style.   Rarely would hourly employees feel that they could go to the company president about an issue.  Despite the challenges, the company kept the workers instead of replacing them with its own people.  However, the company replaced much of the former management to instill a new culture.  Executives worked alongside the employees while they tore down a building of executive offices.  This act was to show the workforce they were valued.    


        According to Amy Lyman,  “Over time there is a cumulative effect that says the100 Best Places to Work are better financial performers than others.  These companies have established trust, which is the glue that helps employees work well with each other.”


         This article definitely correlates with the class readings.  The organization had very effective leaders who assumed their responsibility and got their jobs done effectively.  Obtainable goals were set and incentives were available and given to the workforce.  The organization knew the challenges they were dealing with.  They willingly took the time to help restore some of the broken trust that had previously existed.  Deeply embedded in the core of the executives’ beliefs is the vision of what their company represents.   


 Works Cited


Marquez, Jessica.  “Kindness Pays…Or Does It?”  Workforce Management. Costa Mesa: 25 June 2007: 86. ProQuest. Trevecca Lib., Nashville. 15 March 2008:



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