USG Safety, In­no­va­tion and an En­gaged Work­force

When USG Cor­po­ra­tion landed a pres­ti­gious work­place en­vi­ron­men­tal health and safety award in 2016, the crys­tal tro­phy made a grand tour of com­pany plants so em­ploy­ees could cel­e­brate the ac­com­plish­ment. The Robert W. Camp­bell Award, pre­sented by the Na­tio

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“We’ve al­ways known that build­ing great prod­ucts takes great peo­ple, and we have some of the best in the in­dus­try who work in our man­u­fac­tur­ing plants, sales teams, in­no­va­tion cen­ters and cor­po­rate head­quar­ters,” says Brian Cook, USG Cor­po­ra­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer. “Many of our em­ploy­ees op­er­ate in en­vi­ron­ments that carry risk, and there is noth­ing more im­por­tant to us than en­sur­ing their safety.”

Through em­ployee en­gage­ment and ed­u­ca­tion, USG has achieved a lost­time in­jury rate 17 times bet­ter than the in­dus­try av­er­age, which is no small feat for a com­pany with 6,600 em­ploy­ees across 48 plants in North Amer­ica.

“USG has a cul­ture of safety worth rec­og­niz­ing and repli­cat­ing,” says Deborah A. P. Hers­man, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Na­tional Safety Coun­cil. “By en­abling and en­cour­ag­ing their em­ploy­ees to pro­tect them­selves and their col­leagues, USG has cre­ated a more sus­tain­able busi­ness.”

Em­ployee Ideas Key to USG’S Suc­cess

“We are a 115- year- old man­u­fac­turer of build­ing ma­te­ri­als, so you might not im­me­di­ately con­sider us as for­ward- think­ing, but we con­tin­u­ally look for ways to pro­vide in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to our cus­tomers’ big­gest chal­lenges,” says Cook. He points to the $ 3 bil­lion com­pany’s re­sponse to the 2007– 09 re­ces­sion as a stel­lar ex­am­ple of USG em­ploy­ees’ spirit of in­no­va­tion and de­sire to do things bet­ter, smarter and faster for cus­tomers.

Since a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of USG’S busi­ness is re­lated to res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion, it faced chal­lenges when the hous­ing bub­ble burst. Us­ing what limited re­sources it had, the com­pany de­voted its ef­forts to re­search and devel­op­ment. A ded­i­cated group of em­ploy­ees at the com­pany’s in­no­va­tion cen­ter out­side of Chicago worked to­gether to de­velop a revo­lu­tion­ary light­weight wall­board, its Sheetrock ® Ul­tra­light Pan­els. Cook calls it “the most sig­nif­i­cant break­through in wall­board in years, and an in­cred­i­ble step for­ward for the in­dus­try.” In­tro­duced in 2010, the pan­els have since earned nu­mer­ous awards for prod­uct in­no­va­tion.

USG’S abil­ity to thrive dur­ing tough times is di­rectly re­lated to the com­pany’s peo­ple-fo­cused cul­ture, says Cook. “While there have been ups and downs dur­ing the past cen­tury, our peo­ple have stuck with us—a di­rect tes­ta­ment to the sense of care and mu­tual trust we en­cour­age at USG.”

Ca­reer Op­por­tu­ni­ties, Col­le­gial En­vi­ron­ment

“Whi le some com­pa­nies em­ploy safety ini­tia­tives solely to ad­dress reg­u­la­tions, com­pli­ance or work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion is­sues, safety is re­ally at the core of who we are and how we work to­gether," says Cook. "Our ap­proach to safety, health and well­ness demon­strates how we treat our em­ploy­ees, cus­tomers and com­mu­ni­ties. Peo­ple like work­ing here and en­joy who they work with. It truly is a col­le­gial at­mos­phere.”

In ad­di­tion to land­ing a place on the 2017 Forbes Best Em­ploy­ers list, USG earned recognition for its work­place- flex­i­bil­ity poli­cies by the Sloan In­sti­tute. The com­pany’s in­no­va­tive poli­cies and op­por­tu­ni­ties for ca­reer devel­op­ment help it com­pete for top tal­ent. "For ex­am­ple, when we hire en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates, they like be­ing able to put on safety shoes and get out in the plants right away,” Cook says. “They im­me­di­ately get re­spon­si­bil­ity, ac­count­abil­ity and the op­por­tu­nity to ac­com­plish things and grow their ca­reers from day one.”

USG em­ploy­ees across its 48 plants cel­e­brate be­ing one of the world's safest com­pa­nies.

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