I am constantly looking for organizations that are doing new and creative programs for its employees. Too often organizations sit back and think that because they are giving their employees a job, that is enough. Unfortunately, in this ever increasing competitiveness for labor, organizations that offer perks, are a bit unique, or a bit different, and meet the employees' needs are the ones likely to capture that valuable, high-performing talent.
Which leads me to an organization called Premier Bandag, which retreads tires. This organization employs mainly blue collar individuals, working in a hot, sticky, and stinky environment. Yet, they have virtually no turnover and almost all of the employees have been with the organization for at least 5 years.
One of the reasons for this low turnover is the company has a Corporate Chaplain. This Chaplain is from the organization, Corporate Chaplains for America. In speaking to Rich Elliott, President of Premier Bandag he says, "The Army has a Chaplain, NFL teams have a Chaplain, so why can't this organization?"
The Chaplain program started coincidentally enough in September 2001. Corporate Chaplains of America supplies the Chaplain for the Indianapolis plant, but unfortunately does not go to the Mishawaka, IN plant. So Rich found a local pastor who was willing to be the Chaplain of the Mishawaka plant. The Chaplain has free reign of the plant and can walk the line freely and is available to discuss any topic with the employees; financial concerns, family problems, spiritual problems, etc. The Chaplain can, and has, performed weddings, funerals, and is available for any counseling needs of the employees and is available 24/7 via a pager.
In speaking with Rich, he first got the idea as he was thinking about how the organization does a lot to take care of the employee's physical needs but does nothing to take care of the emotional and spiritual needs. If the employees have their emotional and spiritual needs taken care of, they can be more focused on their job, and less worried about family, financial, or other issues. This leads to increases in productivity and high levels of employee loyalty.
I asked Rich, in this day of political correctness where religion can be such a lighting rod topic, if there was any resistance to the Chaplain program and if employees complained that religion was being shoved down their throat. His response was an emphatic, "None. Not one complaint the entire time the program has been in place."
In fact, when the program started, one employee said, "This company has always cared about its employees, but this really shows it." This employee is now struggling with Stage 4 cancer and Rich can't always get up to Mishawaka to be with this employee but the Chaplain is there on a regular basis and has become a key piece of his support structure as he deals with this illness.
The Chaplain program is not one I had heard of before, and as I was speaking with Rich, I was getting excited about it and I am not even part of it. Focusing on the emotional and spiritual aspect of the employee makes sense and it is a wonder more organizations aren't doing something like this. When I was talking to Rich, he said he would be happy to speak to anyone about the benefits of the program and answer any questions. If you would like to speak to Rich, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can put you in touch.