Thursday January 31 2013

Latest from the Top Workplaces Fund

Posted by: Doug Claffey

The Top Workplaces Fund was up 12.6% in 2012

Top Workplaces

We’ve been enjoying tracking the progress of our Top Workplaces Fund over the last few years. The good news is that it continues to perform well.

Review of 2012

The fund raced out of the blocks at the start of 2012, was quiet over the summer and then had a strong end of year. Overall it was 12.6% higher than it started – matching the progress of the S&P 500 index.

There were a couple of stand-out companies:





Start of 2013

The fund has enjoyed a good start to the year – up 6.3% versus 5.3% for the S&P500 index.

There has been a stellar performance from one company in particular:


We look forward to seeing how our fund of healthy companies continues to perform over the rest of 2013!

Thursday January 31 2013

Employee Confidence Trends Lower in 2012

Posted by: Doug Claffey

Employee Confidence has trended gradually lower throughout 2012. This is a turnaround from 2011 when Employee Confidence made strong gains. While we haven’t hit the lows of December 2010 when confidence sat at just below 50%, the index finished 2012 at 52.8% – levels that we haven’t seen since March 2011.

The index is based upon over a million survey responses in the US each year, with an average of 85,000 employees responding each month in 2012. It represents opinions across more than 5,000 organizations that have carried out the WorkplaceDynamics employee survey. The level of employee confidence is a 3-month moving average.

Sunday October 7 2012

‘First Business’ TV show covers benefits, how-to of Organizational Health

Posted by: Rob Karwath

What does it take to succeed in business? What do employees really want from their jobs? It’s one and the same–Organizational Health–as Doug Claffey, CEO of WorkplaceDynamics, explains to “First Business” host Bill Moller. ”First Business” is a nationally syndicated business program that appears daily on dozens of TV stations across the country.

Wednesday October 3 2012

Top Workplaces fund up 1.3% in September and Virtus Investment Partners added as new member

Posted by: Doug Claffey

Our Fund of exceptionally healthy companies was up 1.3% in September.

The fund is now up 104% over that last four years versus a 53% gain for the S&P500.

The star performers this month were:

  • The bank of Kentucky +15.1%
  • Viropharma +14.2%
  • Higher One +11.6%
  • Google +11%

In addition we welcomed Virtus Investment Partners into the fund. They have recently been recognized as a Top Workplace  by the Hartford Courant. You can read their profile at

The Top Workplaces Fund is comprised of the healthiest public companies that have been surveyed using the WorkplaceDynamics’ employee survey to assess their Organizational Health.


Tuesday October 2 2012

The Container Store organizes itself for workplace health and financial success

Posted by: Rob Karwath

Kip Tindell’s business is helping you organize your closets. With dozens of outlets nationwide, Tindell’s The Container Store chain has become synonymous with helping people better straighten, pack, crate and keep their items—and their lives—in order.

But to hear Tindell talk, his job isn’t about closets at all. It’s about organizing the company he leads to empower and place his people in positions to succeed. Along the way, a funny thing happens: Tindell’s company has succeeded, too.

“As much as I love organizing closets, I really love this stuff,” says Tindell, CEO of the suburban Dallas-based chain. “It starts with having a workplace where employees can be as productive as possible.”

Tindell and crew are doing something right. The Container Store repeatedly has been recognized as one of the best places in America to work and is ranked No. 1 in WorkplaceDynamics’ list of America’s Top Workplaces. In confidential employee surveys administered by WorkplaceDynamics, the country’s largest assessor of employee satisfaction, workers gave The Container Store high marks for providing clear direction, fostering a culture of high execution and creating strong employee connection with the company’s overall mission.

Those three factors are the hallmarks of what WorkplaceDynamics calls Organizational Health, the traits that make up a Top Workplace. Since October 2008, the Top Workplaces fund of publicly traded companies compiled by WorkplaceDynamics has outperformed the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index by 48 percent.

To Tindell, it’s no mystery. It’s simply about taking good care of the people who work at The Container Store and letting them do the rest.

“We say we put the employee first,” he says. “It’s the employee, not even the customer, who comes first. But if you do that, the employees take better care of the customer. And if those two are ecstatic, then, not surprisingly, your shareholder is, too.”

Tindell is famous for saying he’s willing to pay more—sometimes even twice the going rate—for a top-performing employee. He notes that it’s a bargain if he gets an employee who works three times as hard, as he says his best often do.

But he’s quick to point out that it’s not all about pay—not even mostly about it. The Container Store stresses a culture that provides outcome goals but then lets employees use their judgment—their “creative genius,” as Tindell calls it—to make decisions. This allows them to feel strongly connected to the company and to contribute to an environment in which high execution is the cultural norm.

“The whole concept of a team is one of the best parts of life, particularly when you can really be yourself on that team,” Tindell says. “We allow each employee to achieve the means to the end, but we have agreed on the end. They unleash their creative genius to solve a problem as they see fit. You get much higher productivity. And you hear, ‘I just love it here. They allow me to be me.’ It’s a wonderful thing.”

The approach, he adds, empowers employees to find solutions that a strict set of orders couldn’t possibly envision.

“But you have to provide a workplace where people are not afraid to make mistakes,” Tindell notes. “You have to make sure they are creative and daring enough to use their intuition. When they use their intuition, that is creative genius. If we all recognize that mistakes sometimes happen in the pursuit of creativity, then the company will enjoy much greater productivity.”

For Tindell, the approach goes beyond The Container Store to a broader approach to business and life.

“I have a friend who says, ‘It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for,’” Tindell says. “For us, it’s about standing for something more than just making money. But ironically, you make it better for the shareholders when you do that, too.”

With clear direction, a culture of high execution and strong employee connection, the Organizational Health trifecta is working for The Container Store. The chain is expanding and producing strong earnings. It also boasts an employee turnover rate in the single digits, amazing for a large retailer. It didn’t lay off anyone during the Great Recession.

“I think it starts with a realization that if you’re lucky enough to be someone’s employer, you have a moral obligation to make sure those employees want to get out of bed and come to work every day,” Tindell says. “I love the idea of having employees who love to come to work every day.”

Monday September 24 2012

Lessons we can learn about Organizational Health from the Mailers

Posted by: Rob Karwath

We called them the Mailers, and they were an interesting bunch.

They were one of the organized labor groups at one of my former newspapers, and their name hardly described what they did. They routed papers coming off the press through machines that inserted coupons and other preprinted materials, and then they bundled and loaded the copies into delivery trucks.

Theirs was back-breaking labor but work in which they took pride—and work they performed with aplomb. Though their contribution to what we called the “daily miracle” of the daily newspaper was not the most glamorous part, we considered the Mailers the best union at our paper. They worked hard, loved their jobs, policed themselves and felt a commitment to what our company did every day.

You might say this little work group was a healthy workplace. Indeed, they were, and they succeeded because of it. Among all of the unions at the newspaper, the Mailers were the best at flexing, bending and working with other unions as well as the management team. They started and finished negotiations on their labor contracts first and showed the most insight into a changing industry. They were compensated well because they did such a great job and because they helped the organization solve problems.

When we talk in business about Organizational Health and what it takes to be a Top Workplace, it’s easy to think of big companies. And some big companies have created amazing cultures within multinational organizations. But the concept of what it takes to be a healthy workplace ultimately comes down to what this small group of Mailers had and what they did—and what all of us can learn from them.

The union demonstrated all of the fundamentals of what WorkplaceDynamics calls Organizational Health:

  • Direction. The team knew where they were going and what they had to do every day. Critically, they also understood direction in a larger context, including their role in a changing newspaper environment, where fewer copies were printed and more complexity had been added to each of their jobs.
  • Execution. There was no room for slackers here. The Mailers took pride in their work and wouldn’t stand for new hires who didn’t get with the program quickly. The management team never worried about productivity among the Mailers.
  • Connection. They were the workhorses, not the show horses, but the Mailers understood their role and responsibility in producing the paper every day. One winter when a blizzard threatened to keep us from producing and delivering an edition, a full team of Mailers reported to work despite the snow. One Mailer even plowed out the alley with his pickup so the delivery truck could reach the loading dock.

Organizational Health doesn’t require an antiseptically clean modern building with the latest ergonomic furniture. It can and does develop as well in scruffy newspaper mail rooms and on busy factory floors. Organizational Health and a Top Workplace can reside anywhere people feel in harmony with their company and their colleagues and work hard because of it.

Is your workplace like that of the Mailers? Maybe it’s time to contact WorkplaceDynamics to find out.