Purpose, Values, and Voices:
Dec 11, 2020
Collaboration remains a cornerstone of the company’s success. In 2018, when ClarkDietrich began its search for a training partner to help it create a managerial training program, the company found an experienced, proven partner in American Management Association (AMA).
As the largest manufacturer of cold-formed steel framing in North America, ClarkDietrich has continued to grow through innovative designs, product development, and leveraging new technologies. This success has been fueled by the company’s loyal, innovative, and talented employees who have embraced the constant changes in the construction industry.
Executives attest that collaboration requires a commitment to innovation, problem solving, and creating opportunities for everyone to succeed. ClarkDietrich’s decision to invest in the development of managers and supervisors is just another reflection of the company’s “Do the Right Thing— Do Things Right” commitment. The key role of a manager at ClarkDietrich is to engage employees around the United States to continue to grow and identify opportunities for the company’s people and the business. Executives say this commitment requires a high level of trust, communication, alignment, and relationship-building to support a culture of high performance.
“More transparent organizations inspire more engaged and committed employees,” says Todd Barnett, recently retired VP of human resources. “When employees can take greater ownership in the success of whatever venture it is that the company’s embarking on and feel they’re part of the inner circle, it affects the overall success of the organization. [Without that transparency] folks begin to wonder what’s going on. And when they do that, they expend energy in a nonproductive way. If they don’t know what’s happening, they can’t put their actions in the context of what’s going on across the board of the organization. And so, it is a very delicate balance.”
“Good management boils down to trust,” Barnett says. “Especially when there is a lot of change going on. [When there is trust] there’s a sense of camaraderie, and teamwork is enhanced, and I think their overall contribution is greater than it might be otherwise, because they don’t have to worry about what’s going on.” Research supports that employee productivity is strongest when managers not only are able to manage projects and workflow but also are able to navigate that delicate balance of communication and relationship-building.
Managers need to effectively communicate change, manage conflict, and inspire workers when things get tough. Research reveals that more than 70% of team performance issues are related to the performance of managers and supervisors,1 and that inefficient management leads to lost productivity of $1 trillion annually in the United States.2
“That transparency and communication has to happen at every level so everyone’s on the same page,” adds Jennifer Smith, VP of human resources. “It helps with team building, engaging and motivating employees, and retention.”
With this goal in mind, ClarkDietrich’s human resources team explored how they could help their managers create a more productive and useful performance management process. This led the team to identify a number of managerial skills that would benefit from a “refresh” while providing a chance for many newer supervisors and managers to be exposed to these skills for the first time. The team decided to provide classroom training that would deliver the additional benefits of team building, networking, and sharing of knowledge and experiences.
“We’ve also definitely put a focus towards succession planning in the last few years in terms of developing our people,” Smith says. “We want to empower our managers to feel good about having crucial conversations with their employees, and to talk about where they see themselves in a year versus three to five years. This initiative was to support that [goal] and get them where they want to go in their careers.”
THE PROJECT: A NEW WAY TO BUILD HIGH PERFORMANCE
ClarkDietrich began working with a pilot group of managers to develop a new approach to performance reviews. The company identified new ways of providing feedback and coaching over time to replace the annual performance review.
“Trying to sum up a year’s worth of performance on a formal written document does not really feel like building a bridge with team members,” Smith says. “It caused a lot of stress for both the manager and the employee. What manager wants to do that?”
According to a Wakefield Research study,3 94% of employees prefer getting feedback and coaching in real-time, on the job, and not in performance reviews, which they feel are outdated. “Based on feedback from staff, we decided, let’s do more frequent, less formal communication to really build those relationships,” Smith says. And those relationships led to more effective discussions about employee roles and performance gaps.
“Sometimes employees are promoted and don’t quite realize what the full job of being a manager entails,” agrees Mary Lehr, director of human resources. “So, we initiated training to reinforce what it means to be a manager. It gets everyone on the same page on what a manager does, the role of HR, and how to handle difficult issues. Different people like to be communicated with in different ways, and we wanted to enable our managers and supervisors to have that flexibility in communication styles.”
To help employees transition from a formal performance management process to a more engaging coaching model, ClarkDietrich partnered with AMA. AMA worked with ClarkDietrich’s HR team through each step to develop a fully customized, instructor-led program that was delivered over two days onsite at the company’s West Chester Township, Ohio, headquarters for approximately 100 managers and supervisors. The sessions were provided for groups of 25 participants per session to ensure plenty of time for activities and discussions. Each group contained a mix of managers and leaders—from team leads to plant managers to leaders from every department across the company. This mix provided a great opportunity for cross-functional networking and collaborative learning.
With AMA’s support, ClarkDietrich’s team was able to accomplish a number of the identified development goals:
- Promote self-awareness of the leaders’ preferred communication styles and how they affect those around them
- Help managers adapt to the communication styles of their direct reports and colleagues to build better relationships
- Improve their ability to communicate direction, plans, goals, and objectives
- Practice their listening skills to uncover underlying issues and better manage conflict
- Establish trust Refine their communication skills to engage and empower their direct reports
ClarkDietrich’s internal use of a Styles Assessment Tool was also reinforced within this training program. AMA’s training facilitator was able to build on what ClarkDietrich had begun to gather internally to further maximize ways to use this important knowledge.
DRIVING LASTING ENGAGEMENT AND RETENTION
Response to the management development program has been overwhelmingly positive. More important is the notable improvement in engagement and positive behavioral changes.
“There are several managers that come to mind,” Lehr says. “The training has really changed their behavior at work. In the past, it’s been really hard for some managers to manage change.” She adds, “They are more open and more communicative, and it really makes a difference.”
“I think the best indication that we’ve truly engaged our employees is our retention rate,” Smith says. “We’ve had a lot of organizational change this last year. Because of that, we’ve had a lot of positions open up, and many internal candidates vying for those positions. Turnover is low. Employees want to stay, they want to grow with ClarkDietrich. We’re really proud of our retention efforts, and this program was a fundamental part of building those relationships.”
“We expect a lot from our vendors and partnerships,” Smith continues. “The fact that AMA was willing to work with us, and work with us so well, customizing a program for our employees, won us over. The content was backed up by research, the facilitator brought in real-world experience, and the delivery was amazing.”
Because the 2019 training was so successful, ClarkDietrich has extended the program and has scheduled an additional 100 managers to be trained in fall 2020.
“I think training and development for our leaders only makes us stronger as a company,” says President and CEO Jim Collins. “The more knowledge our leaders have, the more confident, empowered, and prepared they will be for the future. Over the last several years, we have made strides to build our bench, and the leadership training delivered by AMA was a great way to do this.”
1 Clifton, J. and Harter, J. It’s the Manager. Gallup Press, 2019.
2 Hamel, G. and Zanini, M. “Excess Management Is Costing the U.S. $3 Trillion Per Year.” Harvard Business Review. September 2016.
3 Reflektive. “New Study Uncovers Major Gap in Employee and Employer Expectations for Performance Management and Growth.” April 2018.