Paternalism to valuing employee initiative

The reengineering effort at Hallmark also involved a change in the way people relate to one another in other words, a change in their organizational culture.

Until recently, the culture at Hallmark was one of paternalism, according to observer Karen Matthes. Hockaday explains that the guiding principle was one that actually stifled employee initiative: We know what’s best; do as you’re told; you’ll be well taken care of. This attitude has changed though and is continuing to change.

Hallmark management has a history of treating employment well, and is maintaining that part of the culture. For example management has demonstrated its commitment to its employees through employee profit sharing and ownership. Hallmark always has had a strong employee relations focus and has offered progressive benefits, said Marilyn King, Hallmark’s manager of work and family services: I have not had to convince top management (to offer a benefit); the support was already there.

What has changed, however, has been the perception of the value of employees as individuals. Hallmark management now recognizes that employee can offer valuable input and have innumerable contributions to make. We want to strengthen the service to our customers, our employees said Jerry Kenefake, Hallmark’s director of compensation and benefits.

An increased emphasis on internal communication has paralleled Hallmark’s cultural change. The greater the number of Hallmarkers who know the issues, the more likely it will be that we can address those issues successfully.

Formal publications help keep employees up to date with what is going on at the company. Noon News, hallmark’s daily newsletter kept employees abreast of happenings for 36 years. In addition, Crown, a bi-monthly magazine for employee, and Directors, a newsletter for managers, keep employees in touch with products and company performance, explain new benefits and relate what’s going on with employee around the company.

In addition these publications are becoming more business focused. For example, Noon featured an account of an employee who had been able to take advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement program to pursue a graduate degree. Each year, one issue of Crown serves as an employee annual report, containing the information that an annual report would provide for the public if Hallmark were a public company.

We are in the business of recognizing the importance of relationships between people, said Hockaday. Hallmark management keeps demonstrating an understanding of the importance of relationships between employees and the company management. We see this in new efforts to enhance two way communication. For example the Benefits Line (known informally as B-line) offers an easy confidential way for employees to ask questions about their benefits and to make changes in some of their accounts introduced in November 1992 it was expanded in February 1993, with the introduction of the hallmark benefits service center.

Perhaps most important in all this is Hockaday’s support. In this continuing effort to keep in touch, he invites employees to share meals with him. He is learning all kinds of things about the company he never knew said author Robert Levering. He is astonished at the quality of the information structure. Employees receive honest, straight forward communication from management and work with management in cohesive teams that communicate openly and often.

At the Argon Group, a full service real estate management firm based in Calgary, Alberta, formal and informal channels of communication proved important when the company decided to consolidate the operations of three subsidiaries into one. Argon developed a three stage corporate communications strategy with the help of a communications consultant. Stage one included the development and design of a new corporate identify, including such things as name, logo, and stationary. Stage two included the introduction of the new corporate identity to relevant internal and external audiences. And stage three dealt with the ongoing communications process of promoting and solidifying the new corporate identity. To reinforce its identity, Argon also developed a corporate identification manual for internal and external use.