The Heart of Our Message

November 11, 2014
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

At Barry-Wehmiller, we count hearts, not heads.

Every month, our Culture & People Development Team compiles a report we call a “Heart Count,” to track retention and turnover in our companies.  This naming convention helps us keep in perspective what’s really important: those team members aren’t just numbers on a page; they’re more than 8,000 lives in our care, each someone’s precious child.

Several years ago while visiting a military base, out of curiosity, I asked the general in charge, “How do you train or condition people to ‘kill’ other people?” His answer was, “We don’t, we teach them to ‘take out targets that made bad decisions.’”

We do the same thing in business.  The military uses language to dehumanize the taking of lives. We refer to people as “head count” to dehumanize them. When we “reduce headcount” we have de-humanized the act of hurting people by “laying them off.” We don’t have to think about their lives, their responsibilities or their family. If we truly cared about the people whose lives are entrusted to us, we would know the damage we are doing to people.

In a recent profile of Barry-Wehmiller by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Professor Dylan Minor points out that in manufacturing, workers are often looked at “as just a cog in the wheel.”

While visiting our BW Integrated Systems facility in Romeoville, Ill, the Kellogg School team was able to witness Truly Human Leadership firsthand.  Minor said that Barry-Wehmiller has a competitive edge in our industry because “it’s not the norm to really value people and try to make a great place to work.”

“They’ve made the commitment—that clearly is not profit-driven—in how they’re developing that culture,” Minor said.

When you focus on people as people, instead of just ‘head count,’ it makes a difference. Not just in your business, but in a very real way in people’s everyday lives.

Read and listen to “Where the Employees Are The Leaders” from the Kellogg School of Management.

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