It doesn’t matter where they come from, people everywhere want to know that who they are and what they do matter. We at Barry-Wehmiller have seen this in the companies we acquire throughout the world – stories we’ve shared on this blog about our team members’ experiences in France and Italy.
And recently, we met an industry leader from Russia who is working to make sure the people in his company feel they are cared for and know they are valued.
The Russian labor force seems more challenged than most. A recent Gallup report shows that “more than 80% of the country’s employees are less than fully engaged at work; they lack an emotional connection to their workplaces and are not enthusiastic about their jobs.
“Further,” the report continues, “almost one-fifth of all Russian workers are actively disengaged, meaning they harbor negative feelings about their jobs that prevent them from creating value for their businesses. Instead, they often do more harm than good and hinder Russia’s overall economic performance.”
Some of Gallup’s recommendations to solve these issues include improving the quality of “management and leadership” and promoting “a culture of trust and integrity.”
SFT Group is the number-one company in Russia in three industries: corrugating, paper production from recycled paper and waste-paper collection. Over the last 11 years, it has gone from a $20 million company in a single industry to a $300 million vertically integrated company, the first in the pulp and paper industry in Russia.
But SFT Group CEO Stepan Khomyakov knows his company can be more than just a market leader. He also wants his company to lead the way in treating the 2,000 lives under his care with Truly Human Leadership.
Stepan first visited Barry-Wehmiller facilities in Baltimore and Phillips, Wisconsin, a year ago as a customer of our BW Papersystems division. He was immediately struck by the demeanor of our people, saying he could tell by their faces that they were more fulfilled.
When he asked about this, one of the things Stepan was told was that it was because they felt listened to, they were part of the decision-making process. Stepan was also struck when a team member told him our company had helped train him as a leader.
“It’s not usual in other companies,” Stepan said of the experience. “It was amazing.”
Upon returning to Moscow, where SFT Group is based, Stepan began researching our company to learn about our culture, but he was also amazed by our financial performance – showing that valuing people can work in harmony with value creation. He bought my book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family, and shared it with those on his leadership team who can read English.
“It was a real story with real steps to take,” Stepan said of the book. “It’s not so academic. It’s not theoretical. These are real ideas. But, it’s not one step or one idea; it’s the philosophy of the entire company.”
A few weeks ago, Stepan came to St. Louis to attend a class with the BW Leadership Institute (now Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute, read more here) to learn more about how we transformed the culture at Barry-Wehmiller. He left inspired to instill Truly Human Leadership in his company.
“The most important idea,” Stepan said, “was thinking of people as someone’s precious child. If we think about [the people who work in our companies] as our children, we make another decision; we can work with them in another way with more patience.”
When your number-one priority is people, you’ll start to see a lot of things fall into place, not just productivity and performance. Stepan and SFT Group could be part of a Truly Human Leadership revolution in Russia. Imagine the possibilities!