Meet Jim McFalls, executive director of KenCrest, which provides services to children, youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities; Janet Lorenzon, associate executive director of Artman Lutheran Home, providing care for older adults; and Judith M. Krupnick, president of Cherry Hill Volvo.
Philadelphia Daily News reporter Jenice Armstrong talked to our three executives about creating a Top Workplace environment.
Question: I'd like to congratulate all of you on being named one of the Top Workplaces. That's major recognition. Can you tell us what you do to keep your employees happy and motivated?
Jim McFalls: We like to think of ourselves as one big family. Trying to get around to meet with people, go out to the sights, interact with people.
One of my favorite things that we do is we have a Shine Story, which is a [printed] recognition in every paycheck of someone who has done something that we call "positive approaches." And the stories that people, the employees themselves, send in to just acknowledge somebody they work with or something they've seen, it gets picked and it gets [printed] and put into a paycheck.
Then I take that person out to lunch. So, wherever it is - I've gone to Connecticut, Delaware - obviously, mostly in Pennsylvania, but have them pick a place they want to go for lunch or dinner or even breakfast, because we have people who work 24/7. And just take them out to lunch and talk to them about their Shine Story.
Janet Lorenzon: We also do stories from people that have gone above and beyond. We have a health and wellness incentive. We have a gym and a pool right on our grounds that employees can belong to at a much reduced rate. And we have healthy incentives. We have a snorkeling-sensation program going on right now. We have a Biggest Loser contest going on right now - many things like that.
Judith Krupnick: Everything gets done unilaterally and it's very egalitarian. We make decisions as a team and very, very few decisions are made by one person.
We have a tremendous amount of longevity in our store. Our service manager has been there 38 years. His son works there. We have brothers in the shop who have been there 15, 18 years. Our buyer, our used-car manager has been there 17 years.
I'll be 63 this month and there's a man in our Parts Department who has known me since I was 16. So, people typically come and they stay.
Q: How would you describe your individual leadership style?
McFalls: Well, a lot of my background professionally is group process. I'm always the one saying, "The more, the merrier."
Krupnick: Well, it empowers people, so they feel positive because they have that input.
McFalls: But some people get scared. Some leaders get scared that somebody'll say something that they can't accommodate to. And when you bring people together like that, something always does come up that you didn't plan for. I think that's fun, but some people don't think that's fun.
Lorenzon: I'm a huge team player. We work in teams a lot. I am not a micro manager. Personally, I have more difficulty with someone who wants to be micro managed.So, we do a lot in teams and group decisions and respecting everybody's opinion and they're not going to be the same. Some people do find that intimidating, some people just figure out that [it] helps you get the best answer.
Krupnick: I try to have a lot of humility. I came into this position knowing that I didn't deserve this job. It was just because of my dad, so I'm very humbled by where I am.
I try to have the management team make decisions together.
Q: These are some tough economic times. Judith, the automobile industry in particular has had a tough time. How do you manage through that?
Krupnick: We've been very fortunate, we've been in business - this is our 50th year - so, we have a real strong foundation. We cut expenses, we cut employees, we cut back, we laid off people. But we have a core group. We have three employees who were in their mid-40s, I guess, who have never worked any place else in their lives. So, we worked very hard as a team to get through where we were and I think because of the business my dad established, his business practices were able to continue.
McFalls: KenCrest has been in business for 107 years. We've been through a lot of ups and downs. I have to truly say that what's coming now is probably the worst. The [Pennsylvania] governor's budget has really put a major pinch on the way we do our business and I'm in the process of having to make some pretty tough decisions in the next six months.
The core of our business, though, is our direct service staff. They are the ones that I'm trying to protect the most because they are the ones who actually deliver the services that we give. Letting people know that and keeping people informed about what's going on as we make some of these decisions is what keeps people with us.
It's kind of ironic that we're getting [this award] in the midst of this - it's going to come out at a time that's going to be right in the middle of some tough decision-making.
Lorenzon: We watch our finances regularly. A few years ago, we did have to do some layoffs and the entire organization went through some tears. We had different plans of what to do and upper management didn't get raises. Some of that is coming back, but it's something that you have to watch all the time.
Q: There are a lot of companies that didn't make the Top Workplaces list, a lot of bosses who didn't make it here. What advice can you give to other leaders?
McFalls: I would say trust people. Trust that people have everybody's best intentions in mind.
Lorenzon: Listen, take the time to listen and respond and be fair. "Be fair" is what I know I've heard staff say. They understand that there are going to be some decisions that are made that they don't particularly like, but as long as there are reasons behind it and you're fair and you're listening to people. . .
Krupnick: Empower people, empower subordinates and have a team effort. I think, also, to hire people who have a good soul. I always say I can teach a person to do a skill, I can't teach them to be a good person, to have a good soul.
I read an article recently that says to fire quickly. If you know that somebody is not doing their job - after training and meeting and all of that, maybe it's time to get a divorce.
Q: Could any of you give me and example of a management challenge you've faced and how you handled it?
Lorenzon: Nursing homes have always kind of been based on hospital models and we are getting away from that.We've flown people around the country to see models, see this philosophy in action. And it's wonderful, but it's change and it's major change. It's not the nurse in the big nurse's station kind of calling the shots.
We've kind of divided our 61-bed unit into three different "neighborhoods." And each neighborhood has a nurse and a household coordinator, it's kind of like the mom and the dad of the household. So, it really is bringing up the rest of the social, the emotional, the spiritual - to be on par with the clinical and the nursing care, which has always been the king of nursing homes.
But getting from here to there is very difficult. We just broke into our neighborhoods Jan. 9, so it's very new. We have a lot of positive energy. There's also plenty of tears and a lot of conversations. And again, just listening and assuring people that, because of this, they're not losing a job. Yes, their job may change a little bit, but you're going to be involved in that process, it's not me saying, "This is what you're going to be doing."
McFalls: When I came into the field was when group homes were being developed and that was the model of how to serve somebody. Over the years, we've evolved and we've developed what's called Life Sharing, which is kind of a foster care and home-based supports, where we go into a family's home and work with them and their child so that they don't wind up having to go into more intense kinds of care, more residential care.
But when somebody's been in a group home for a long time and we think it's time for them to grow some wings and move out of the group home into some kind of supported living - it might be an apartment where they get 30 hours of support a week, instead of around-the-clock support. It's really a challenge to work with the staff who have worked with that person for years. It's kind of like parents letting their kids go. And there's a lot of resistance.It turns out to be sometimes more energy to put into the staff to help them change than it is for the person that we're serving.
That's where I appeal to the staff to say, "Look, what's best for Johnny? Don't you want him to have the opportunities that he can only have if you're not around all the time?" That does appeal to them.
Q: What are your goals for 2012?
McFalls: Despite the negative stuff I was talking about, we are trying to be in a growth mode. We just won a grant to do work with families who have kids with autism and we're partnering with Child Guidance to do that. We just got a couple of contracts in Connecticut to do more work up there.
And everything is going pretty well in the state of Delaware. So, we're looking at growing those services there. So, trying to keep a positive attitude in what's going to be some tough times in Pennsylvania, trying to grow through it.
Lorenzon: We really can't increase the size of the building, but hope to be doing some renovations. I'm not sure exactly when that's going to start, but I'm hoping by the end of the year - at least we have the plans and they've been to the state and maybe even have them out to bid at that point. We want to do a secure dementia unit, also, which is a need in the area.
Krupnick: We're hoping, obviously, to grow, to maintain our position in the market, to increase that position in the market, grow in the country. Just to keep our team together and continue to be focused.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your organization?
McFalls: It's kind of hokey, but I love our staff so much, they do such good work. And as you know, the pay in our industry is not the best.
But we have people who are committed well beyond the pay and well beyond recognition. They love what they do and who they're working with. And some of the people we serve can be pretty challenging behaviorally and medically. They're just unbelievable and they hang in there.
Lorenzon: I think I would just have to agree with everything Jim said. The staff is amazing. I know Artman's reputation is really important to everybody, they want to make sure that stays where it is. And they're great people - again, we're a nonprofit, our pay scales are not the best out there, they could go somewhere else, I'm sure, and make more money. But the commitment that they have and just the way that they serve our residents - it just amazes me on a daily basis.
Krupnick: I agree with Jim and Janet that the employees are the reason we're sitting here, so they deserve the credit.