Define It, Do It, Love It

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It’s hard to do well — or even want to do — a job that is poorly defined, lacks clear measures for success and depends on information from others to complete.

June 01, 2002
Good communication leads to job satisfaction at Macatawa Bay Development Co. “We’re dependent upon the information and intelligence each brings to the process of building a customer’s home,” says project manager Kim Steenwyk (front row, right).

It’s hard to do well — or even want to do — a job that is poorly defined, lacks clear measures for success and depends on information from others to complete. In short, say employees of the these 101 companies, job satisfaction involves more than just putting the right people in the desired jobs and turning them loose.

Project manager Kim Steenwyk oversees the three to five luxury homes that Macatawa Bay Development Co. in Holland, Mich., builds each year. She works closely with the three other full-time employees in the company. “What makes this job so satisfying is the communication that exists between everyone involved in a project,” explains Steenwyk. “We really take the time to listen and learn from each other because we know that we’re dependent upon the information and intelligence each brings to the process of building a customer’s home. Doing the job that needs to be done and doing it right is more important than a title or a job description.”

In action, this means Steenwyk, trim carpenter Scott Alderink, office manager Amber Decker and founder Rick Van Til all interact with customers and prospects, and that all must be skilled in their own positions and knowledgeable about the others’. Only then, says Steenwyk, are customers assured of getting the right answers to their questions from the first person they ask.

The team environment also helps satisfy the desire of a relatively young group of employees to acquire new skills and more responsibility. “This is a small company, but they recognize the need to challenge employees, give them opportunities to build on their skills and tackle new challenges,” says Steenwyk. In part to meet this need, Macatawa recently expanded its business beyond single-family homes and now is developing and building luxury townhomes. Plans also are on the board for single-floor flats in the city center of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Leo Taylor, vice president of human resources at Pulte Homes, hires more for aptitude and attitude than experience.

“For the business to grow, there is always something new to be learned,” Steenwyk says. “The chance to learn and then act on that knowledge with people you trust is what satisfaction is about.”

Similarly, at Giant Pulte Homes one of the keys to creating a workplace that is fulfilling, fun and financially rewarding is hiring the right people at the outset. “It’s the double-A skill set we’re after,” says Leo Taylor, vice president of human resources. “Aptitude and attitude matter more to us than experience. We know that an applicant with the right attitude and the necessary aptitude, regardless of experience, is more likely to love their job, thrive in our organization and delight our customers.”

Regional customer care coordinator Dawn Dorch says Pulte’s commitment to hiring the best associates makes her job easier. “I’m surrounded with talented people. It is comforting to know that if one member of our team stumbles, the strength of the group is there to support him or her while the work goes on. We don’t miss a beat.”

Dorch joined Pulte three years ago in the marketing department. While she was effective in her role, Dorch’s real passion was in training and teaching others. To that end, she worked with Dallas regional managers to establish a training program called LEAD, which stands for lead continuously, educate teammates, achieve goals and delight homeowners. Launched in 2001, this program helps grow leaders in Pulte’s various communities throughout the Southwest. The first class included 120 employees.

“Creating this program allows me to pursue my interests, to grow professionally and to impact the firm in a way that matters,” says Dorch. “At Pulte, there is no one with a sign that says stop.”

Chicago salesperson Matt Burke says, “It starts with the managers. When I’m asked a question, it’s because they really want my input — good or bad. I’ve never been afraid to point out a problem or suggest a solution.”

Burke says the firm is 100% invested in helping him succeed. Many company-sponsored training programs are offered, but Burke says, “I’ve never been and I’ve never seen anyone else turned down for any class we wanted to take. There is an expectation that employees will succeed. We work hard for promotions or raises, but we know the company supports us every step of the way.”

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