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This article first appeared in the PB October 2008 issue of Pro Builder.
2009 NHQ Coverage Continued

You'd expect a company following a year of high attrition to miss the mark when it comes to employees' respect for human resources. Not the case with K. Hovnanian – Northern California. The division boasts what the judges called “superb HR processes and systems at all levels of the operation.” That, coupled with strong marks in customer service, earned the Sacramento, Calif.-based K. Hovnanian division an Honorable Mention in the 2009 National Housing Quality Awards.

Layoffs have employee workloads increasing, and perks such as summer barbecues are nearly out of the question. But the randomly chosen employees judges spoke with still praised support employees received and a company culture that has endured.

"Our leaders recognize the link between associate satisfaction and engagement to successful business results," says Sean Larsson. Photo: Martin Klimet/Getty Images

Amid the cuts, employee training programs haven't suffered — an amazing feat. That's primarily because education takes place in so many ways: cross-training, online and in day-to-day life. Cross-training, where coworkers from different department swap jobs to get a better understanding of the business, isn't as common within the division during the current market, but that's where extensive online programs kick in. Employees complete tutorials in topics from construction to business. Walking around the office, you can see certificates of completion pinned up in employee cubicles.

The variety of training is part of the Leadership Development Program, and one employee said managers are “adamant” about it — which several workers credited with boosting loyalty. And the group the judges spoke with also noted senior leadership's relationship with employees. “Larry [Young, the division president] has kept in tune with people and managers,” said one employee. Added another: “I get a sense of them knowing me personally.”

The division sticks to its annual performance review schedules, and the feedback is comprehensive; it takes into account both an employee's self evaluation and manager remarks. And to help workers meet their career goals, which they identify throughout the year and specifically during evaluations, managers work in opportunities to train prepare them, with the goal being an eventual in-house promotion.

Judges also applauded the company's attention to customer satisfaction. Sean Larsson, director of quality, links that success directly to workforce development and performance management, which, he says, “reinforce the skills and competencies needed to achieve customer satisfaction, quality and other business goals.” The division also employs M.A.G.I.C. training (“Making A Great Impression on Customers”), and lives and breathes its 1-2-3 Program, which drives employees to respond to home buyer service requests in one day, schedule an appointment within two days and complete the service request within three weeks.

Processes such as these abound and are reflected in employee conversations; you can't talk to an employee about his or her job without hearing about that person's drive for customer satisfaction. “Employees feel responsible for the customer satisfaction,” the judges' report noted, “and are an integral part of making the customer satisfied.”

2009 NHQ Coverage Continued

  • "T.W. Lewis earns Gold National Housing Quality Award for 2009" by Paul Deffenbaugh, Editorial Director
  • "K. Hovnanian’s Virginia division has cultivated trades who love them" by Felicia Oliver, Senior Editor