Company culture is an essential component of Hancock Lumber.
Last month, Hancock Lumber was named a “Best Place to Work in Maine” for the seventh year in a row.
The Casco, Maine pro dealer’s Chairman and CEO Kevin Hancock said the importance of company culture moved to the forefront after he acquired a voice disorder - spasmodic dysphonia - in 2010. “From that voice condition I came to know what it was like to not feel fully heard,” Hancock told HBSDealer.
Roughly two years later, Hancock began spending time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where he met an entire community that felt like a piece of their authentic voice had been taken or marginalized.
“Putting the two events together, I realized that there are lots of ways for people to lose their voice in this world and that leaders had often done more to restrict the voices of others than to liberate them,” Hancock explains. “This is how I decided I wanted to help create a work culture where power was dispersed and every voice felt authentically heard.”
Hancock has written two books about the subject and his journey: Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse and The Seventh Power, released in January.
Since initiating a shift in company culture, Hancock says he has learned that everyone wins when a company makes the employee experience a top priority.
“We all know the old saying, ‘the customer comes first’. Well, I don’t actually believe that’s true anymore,” Hancock notes. “I believe the people who are going to take care of the customer should come first. If the employees are havIng a great experience they will take best in class care of the customer and their company in return.”
Using a piece of Maine slang, Hancock says customer service is pivotal - but “The customer comes a wicked close second.”
“We love our customers and they are exceptionally important to our success and mission—but, they don’t come first. The people who are going to serve them come first and our customers support this.”
A vital component of company culture is the ability to measure the employee experience at a company. Hancock Lumber does this two ways. Each year the company participates in the “Best Places to Work in Maine” survey with every employee spending several confidential minutes online answering questions about their experience at Hancock Lumber.
“When everyone takes the survey, this becomes the collective voice of the employees and the survey produces a score in a variety of important categories. We then track our progress against those scores across time and locations.”
The CEO describes the data received from the survey as “exceptionally rich.” He also calls the actual data as “the answers to the test.”
“Our employees are telling us exactly where the opportunities to celebrate and the opportunities to improve lie. It really simplifies the running of a company.”
Hancock says the company doesn’t participate in the Best Places survey to capture another award. Rather, the dealer is participating so it can capture metrics about employee satisfaction.
“We want to know what employees are feeling and thinking; the survey is one valuable way to access that information,” Hancock says. Once the data is analyzed, managers respond to what employees are saying.
The company also spends a great deal of time listening to individual employees and small focus groups. For the activity to be true, employees are safe to freely speak and provide honest opinions.
“Listening for understanding, not judgment is the key skill,” Hancock explains. “In this approach it becomes important to realize that there are no wrong answers, just honest perspectives that we want to hear and understand.”
“When a company is safe, people will relax and focus on helping the organization improve,” he adds. “The politics, the fear, and the distrust simply dissolve. Ego dissolves as well. People are allowed to just be themselves at Hancock.”
(This article originally appeared in the September 2020 edition of HBSDealer.)