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On the Scene: Companies That Care symposium

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On the Scene
Thursday, May 12, 2011

By Emma Hall

A company's engagement can not only advance its business, but can also provide a good work environment and improve the community-at-large. The Center for Companies That Care 2011 Symposium focused on just that, by honoring Pacific Northwest and national companies as well as providing tips and case studies on just how engagement works and why it is so important to any business. Local companies in attendance included Nike, Umpqua Bank, Columbia Sportswear and Keen Footwear.

The Center for Companies That Care is a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization that encourages engaging employees, customers and local communities. The organization judges companies based on 10 characteristics in order to determine who they will recognize as making their "Honor Roll." The 10 characteristics of a caring company are:

  • Sustaining a work environment founded on dignity and respect for all employees
  • Making employees feel their jobs are important
  • Cultivating the full potential of all employees
  • Encouraging individual pursuit of work/life balance
  • Enabling the well-being of individuals and their families through compensation, benefits, policies and practices
  • Developing great leaders, at all levels, who excel at managing people as well as results
  • Appreciating and recognizing the contributions of people who work there
  • Establishing and communicating standards for ethical behavior and integrity
  • Getting involved in community endeavors and/or public policy
  • Considering the human toll when making business decisions

This year, the symposium was sponsored by Knowledge Universe, and was held at The Nines Hotel in downtown Portland. Companies That Care Symposium participants broke up into tracks focusing on employee engagement, customer engagement and community engagement. Panelists included Scott Welch, global corporate relations manager for Columbia Sportswear, and Scott Hamlin, co-founder of Looptworks.

The keynote speaker was Joseph Grenny, a New York Times bestselling author who refers to himself as a social scientist. His speech at the symposium focused on the topic of his newest book, titled Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success — copies of which were given out to symposium attendees at the end of Grenny's keynote speech.

Grenny's research focuses on Human Agency, the philosophical study of a human being's capacity to make choices and impose their choices on the world, or as Grenny put it, a capacity to change our own behavior. He started researching what he calls "change problems" four years ago, which are when people want to make a change in their life, but are unable to do it. The changes range from wanting to lose weight, stop smoking or to move up the corporate ladder. Out of 5,000 research participants, he found 4,400 failure stories. Some of the early findings from Grenny and his colleagues' research was published in The MIT Sloan Journal in 2008.

Grenny instructed symposium participants to interact with each other throughout his presentation. Attendees explained to their partners what "career limiting habits" they may have, from procrastinating, to avoiding conflict or being disorganized. Grenny then gave examples of ways to change these bad habits. Changes could be making your your goals into a game and rewarding yourself for small wins, or just changing cues and words. He explained that you already manipulate yourself with propaganda each day, when you convince yourself that the bad choice you are making is acceptable.

The bad choice Grenny makes in his own life that he's trying to change is texting while driving. With a smile, Grenny explained that the propaganda he uses to convince himself it is acceptable to text and drive is that he is simply more coordinated that other drivers. "That's the sentence, that's the PR game I'm playing with myself," Grenny said.

Emma Hall is the Web Editor for Oregon Business.

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