Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS -

Q: How do you help new em­ploy­ees as­sim­i­late into your cul­ture?

A: One thing that re­ally helped with the last ac­qui­si­tion was part­ner­ing new em­ploy­ees with ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees, like an in­for­mal buddy sys­tem. We fig­ured that if the man­ager at a new el­e­va­tor lo­ca­tion was paired up with the man­ager of an­other lo­ca­tion 100 miles up the road, they would be able to get use­ful, prag­matic in­for­ma­tion from some­one who is in the same po­si­tion and can re­late to their is­sues. In­stead of look­ing at an or­ga­ni­za­tional chart and won­der­ing who to call at head of­fice when they have a com­puter is­sue, have to or­der wid­gets or they need den­tal forms so their kids can go for check­ups, they can call their con­tact di­rectly for an­swers. As a bonus, the next time the lo­ca­tion man­agers get to­gether for a meet­ing, they al­ready know each other and have es­tab­lished some fa­mil­iar­ity. Sud­denly, they’re not a stranger in a strange land any­more. Q: What qual­i­ties does Richard­son seek when re­cruit­ing new em­ploy­ees?

A: Ob­vi­ously, a cul­tural fit is im­por­tant and for us, that fit means an el­e­ment of self­less­ness. It’s a sense of hu­mil­ity; not to say a lack of pride or con­fi­dence, but a cer­tain emo­tional ma­tu­rity that says, “I don’t have to be po­lit­i­cal to find my way, I don’t have to show off or con­stantly seek the spot­light.” In­stead, they need to be ef­fec­tive, com­pe­tent and a good team player that’s fully sup­port­ive of and ex­pect­ing sim­i­larly to be sup­ported by their team­mates. We want some­one who can work within the con­text of the team and com­mit­ted to their role on the team. That re­quires a cer­tain self­less­ness. They’ve got to be able to say, it’s not about me, it’s about us — now how can we do this to­gether? Q: What lessons about man­ag­ing peo­ple have you had to learn the hard way?

A: Don’t as­sume that you un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion com­pletely at first blush; It’s al­ways good to let things di­gest for a while, so don’t jump to con­clu­sions too quickly. The di­chotomy of that is don’t linger over de­ci­sions that need to be made promptly. Par­tic­u­larly with peo­ple de­ci­sions, don’t let them drag on too long or hope the sit­u­a­tion will right it­self with the pas­sage of time. Com­pas­sion is use­ful but sooner or later, com­pas­sion can frus­trate the ob­jec­tives and needs of an or­ga­ni­za­tion. Some­times, you’ve got to say this is what we have to do for the good of ev­ery­one in­volved. Q: With a fairly young work­force, how are you de­vel­op­ing your tal­ent into the next

A: I be­lieve in giv­ing young em­ploy­ees hands-on re­spon­si­bil­ity en­hanced with tar­geted train­ing. I see it in my own chil­dren when they talk about their jobs: “They never let me do any­thing. I have no de­ci­sion-mak­ing ca­pa­bil­ity.” They want some re­spon­si­bil­ity, maybe not au­thor­ity, but cer­tainly re­spon­si­bil­ity. The so­lu­tion is to give them some re­spon­si­bil­ity and make them ac­count­able so that they have the space to suc­ceed or to make mis­takes. That’s why we try to pro­vide them with the in­cre­men­tal in­for­ma­tion to aid them in their day-to-day-progress of learn­ing how to op­er­ate within a busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, but then step back and let them learn from their fail­ures and re­joice in their suc­cesses. The peo­ple who we see as good fu­ture lead­ers share our val­ues, are com­mit­ted to learn­ing the busi­ness and are en­gaged pas­sion­ately in it. There­fore, we look for those who are gen­uinely in­ter­ested and in­quis­i­tive; we want peo­ple who ask not why but rather, “Why not?” Q: How do you en­sure em­ployee en­gage­ment once you be­lieve you have the right team in place?

A: We think the key is an on­go­ing com­mit­ment to com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the en­tire em­ployee pop­u­la­tion; tak­ing the time to be ac­ces­si­ble and ex­plain­ing things to peo­ple: this is why we need to do it, this is what we need to do and this is your part in mak­ing it hap­pen.

Re­cently, we hosted se­nior peo­ple from a ma­jor Ja­panese cus­tomer. Af­ter they vis­ited head of­fice here in Win­nipeg, they toured our el­e­va­tors in Mol­lard and Star­buck and then went to Kel­burn Farm, our re­search and de­vel­op­ment fa­cil­ity. Then they got on a plane and stopped at our canola seed crush plant in Leth­bridge, Al­berta, be­fore go­ing on to our Van­cou­ver grain ter­mi­nal. Af­ter­wards, the feed­back I re­ceived was that th­ese cus­tomers mar­velled at how ev­ery­one at Richard­son speaks the same lan­guage. They would ask ques­tions and whether they were talk­ing to se­nior man­age­ment or a lo­ca­tion man­ager or farm man­ager or some­one at the crush plant or some­one at our West Coast ter­mi­nal, the an­swers were sim­i­lar. Not mem­o­rized ver­ba­tim, but within the same con­text and mean­ing. To me, that’s a touch­down. That says tak­ing the time to com­mu­ni­cate and col­lab­o­rate is pay­ing off. If ev­ery­one is in lock­step with the same ob­jec­tives and how we’re go­ing to han­dle our­selves in achiev­ing those ob­jec­tives, then we will ul­ti­mately suc­ceed.

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