Datotel is a St. Louis company whose name explains what it does. The name combines the word data with the word hotel, and it uses its computers to safely store backups of its client companies' data. It's a fast-growing business, and for founder David Brown, one important challenge has been making sure employees know the company appreciates them even as everyone is scrambling to keep up with the demands of expanding a small business. With about three dozen people to think about, Brown first tried a methodical approach: He created an employee-of-the-month program in which the lucky recipient would receive a thank-you e-mail message, a $25 gift card, and recognition for all employees to see on the company's intranet. Brown saw this program as one he could readily find the time to implement, and he hoped the reward and recognition would inspire high levels of job involvement and organizational commitment.
One advantage of a small company is that you can quickly see people's reactions to your efforts. Unfortunately,
what Brown saw on people's faces and heard in their conversations was that recipients of the employee-of-the-month rewards were not exactly excited. The program was just too formulaic and impersonal. If Datotel was to keep employees engaged, it needed a different way to show that their efforts mattered.
So Brown tried a different approach, even though it requires more effort. He committed his eight managers to noticing and reporting employee accomplishments. To implement this, he sets aside part of regular management
meetings - part of each daily phone meeting and 15 minutes of each weekly in-person meeting - to discuss
employee accomplishments. Whenever a manager notes that an employee has done something extraordinary, Brown asks for one of the managers besides the person's direct supervisor to thank the employee in person. Brown has also made a personal commitment to write thank-you notes. In fact, with e-mail the norm at his technology company, he makes some of the notes stand out by writing them by hand and mailing them to the employees at home. One employee who thinks the extra effort matters is engineer Stephanie Lewis. One day Lewis returned home to find a note from Brown, observing that he had heard during management meetings that Lewis had done exceptionally well in working with a customer. Brown thanked her for the effort. Lewis's reaction: "It made me feel important to get something so personal and unique" from her company's busy leader.
Just as communicating "thank you" has helped with motivation, going the extra mile to communicate has helped Datotel's managers stay connected with one another and the company's mission. As the company grew and jobs became more specialized, Brown recognized that he would have to bring people together formally to share information about what was happening. He began to call meetings once a quarter, and so that the environment
will be positive, he establishes a theme he thinks will get employees thinking and generate some fun. When the
theme was "Rumble in the Jungle," the company leaders dressed as boxers, and when the theme was "Top Gun,"
they dressed as aviators and met in an airplane hangar. The effort to allow for fun is interwoven with the company's core values: passion, integrity, fun, teamwork, "superior business value," and "improving the community in which we work." These aim to unite the employees in a commitment to customer service that gives the company an edge in the industry. The values are also meant to be an advantage for recruiting and retaining the best people. On Datotel's Web site, the careers page lists 10 reasons for wanting to work at the company, and the top reason is the core values: "Our Core Values represent everything that we stand for, and we take pride in them."
SOURCES: Nadine Heintz, "Building a Culture of Employee Appreciation," Inc., September 2009, www.inc.com; Jeremy Nulik, "Never Stop Being a Student of Business," Small Business Monthly (St. Louis), July 2009, www.sbmon.com;
Christopher Boyce, "Engineer Finds Solution to Business Problem," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 12, 2009, Business & Company Resource Center, http://galenet.galegroup.com ; and
Datotel, corporate Web site, www.datotel.com, accessed April 15, 2010.
1. Based on the information given, which sources of job satisfaction has Datotel addressed? What other sources
might the company address, and how?
2. Suggest several measures Datotel could use to evaluate the success of its employee retention efforts. Be sure
these are practical for a company of a few dozen employees.
3. In a company as small as Datotel, losing even one employee can present real difficulties. Suppose one of
Datotel's managers begins to have performance problems and seems unwilling or unable to improve. Suggest
how you, as an HR consultant, could help David Brown resolve this problem in a way that is fair to everyone involved and that keeps the company moving forward.
1. Based on the information above, it appears that this company has addressed the very important source of job satisfaction of making employees feel appreciated. Although the initial method of rewarding employee performance and in making top performers feel appreciated was somewhat impersonal, the employee of the month prize coupled with the hand written letter from the founder of the business greatly improved this aspect. Another very important source of job satisfaction that was addressed was making ...