How To Care For Your Employees
At a recent conference, a Michelin engineer, Tim Skaar, shared with me a story about his plant being affected by the tornadoes you might remember in Tuscaloosa AL. The storm destroyed much of the town, and took many lives.
I'll let Tim tell the story:
The tornado happened on a Wednesday afternoon around 4 or 5pm. I knew that the tornado had hit Tuscaloosa because one of my employees left to check on his mother whose house had been hit. However, because radio and TV were down at my house, I didn't know the extent of the damage until the next day when I returned to work. All of 15th street leveled (the images you probably saw on TV were of 15th street) and a significant portion of Alberta City, which has a lot of projects and low income housing, was destroyed by the tornado.
We had a contractor who loads tires onto trucks for shipping who lived in Alberta City. That job doesn't pay much more than minimum wage and it is hard, physical labor. He was in his apartment in Alberta City when the tornado struck and his apartment and everything he owned, including his car, was destroyed. He was scheduled to work that night starting at 11pm. After losing everything he owned, he walked 10 miles to be at the plant at 11pm and work his job that night. I've never known anyone as dedicated to his job as that. We secured a hotel for him the next morning when management got to the plant and found out what happened.
The next morning, when management returned, the focus of the plant was trying to find out what happened to all the employees. We spent Thursday calling and trying to track down employees. Several were stranded, but OK. Of the 150 or so employees that work in my department we were able to make contact with all but one (Sam Avery) by the end of the day Thursday. On Friday morning, I met with my managers and asked, has anyone been able to get in touch with Sam Avery? Despite repeated attempts to call we hadn't gotten through. We found out that Sam lived extremely close to 15th street where the tornado had done significant damage. I sent two of my managers out on Friday with the mission of going to his house to find Sam. They had a very hard time getting to where he lived because he lived right by the tornado damage, but they did manage to finally get to his house. Sam's house was one of the only houses in his neighborhood that hadn't been destroyed. At the time my two managers walked up to his house, members of Sam's family and his church also came to his house looking for him and his wife. Sam and his wife were at the house and fine. The power and phone lines were down so they couldn't get in touch with anyone. Sam and his wife cried when the two managers came to his house with members of his family and church all making sure he was safe; it was the three main aspects of his life coming together in one moment because they cared about him.
None of the 1,400 employees that work at the plant were killed. Many were stranded, several lost homes and several others lost loved ones. Most of the rubble from 15th street is cleared now, but very little rebuilding has been done. Last time I was in Alberta City, there was still rubble to be cleared out. It will take years to rebuild all that was damaged.
This is how it's done, folks. Mission First, People ALWAYS. It doesn't cost to care, but it pays.