Are You ‘Among the Best’

By John Hollon

Apr. 25, 2009

Despite how much I like to write about bad management practices (as I did here last time with my annual Stupidus Maximus Award), most people gravitate to the good stuff. They want to know about the really wonderful business initiatives that make great companies stand out.

I can’t say I blame them. Learning about what makes successful organizations tick helps anyone who is serious about business figure out what it takes to take their own organization to the next level.

There are lots of awards, books and case studies that focus on top-notch business performance, from “best places to work” lists to such books as Good to Great and Built to Last. But none of those focuses on the people management practices that drive an organization’s bottom-line business results. And, that’s where Workforce Management’s annual Optimas Awards come in.

Now in their 19th year, the Optimas Awards honor organizations that exemplify the skill and ingenuity it takes to succeed in the 21st century. The organizations we honor each year have reinvented the workplace, streamlined government HR processes, created innovative partnerships, confronted talent shortages, saved a corporate reputation, nurtured a learning environment in a fast-paced business setting, and sidestepped the pitfalls of an acquisition, to name but a few of the Optimas winners’ accomplishments.

More important, Optimas Award winners prove that astute workforce management can be practiced anywhere: in family businesses and the public sector, in the Fortune 500 and in small organizations, in big cities and on the farm—in industries of every sort, in other words.

The Optimas Awards process is fairly simple. Organizations can nominate themselves, or, they can be nominated by someone else (a consultant, for example), in one of 10 different categories. All of the information is on our Web site, at www., but the real key to a winning entry is the ability to demonstrate how a workforce initiative achieved measurable bottom-line business success in response to the organization’s business needs, issues or challenges.

Previous Optimas General Excellence winners range from mega-companies including Levi Strauss, Hewlett-Packard, McDonald’s and Google to lesser-known organizations such as the Bank of Montreal, the city of Hampton, Virginia, and last year’s winner, Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, New York. In fact, this is one competition where size truly does not matter; it’s the quality of the workforce management initiative—and the impact on the organization’s bottom line—that matters most.

Optimas Award winners are “among the best” (which is what optimas means in Latin) and must reflect the leadership, vision and energy that define workforce management. In that vein, I’m highlighting the call for 2009 Optimas nominees now because the deadline for this year’s competition is April 24 and coming up fast.I frequently get asked just what Workforce Management judges look for in choosing Optimas winners. When that happens, I like to point to a quote from Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich. The bank was a 2005 Optimas General Excellence winner. Kovacevich described how his company pulled off a massive merger and yet managed to both minimize layoffs AND increase profits by 13 percent.

“Everything we do at Wells Fargo starts with our people,” Kovacevich said. “Why? Because when people are properly incented, rewarded, encouraged and importantly recognized, they provide better service, generate more sales and produce even better business results. This generates more revenue, which results in greater profits.”This is the essence of the Workforce Management Optimas Awards: smart business practices that focus on better leveraging an organization’s greatest asset—its workforce—to better drive the bottom line.

I hope you agree that people practices are paramount, and better yet, I hope you’ll enter this year’s contest and tell us what your organization is doing that is worthy and impressive—and delivers superior bottom-line business results. I would love to honor your organization with one of our 2009 Optimas Awards.

Workforce Management, April 20, 2009, p. 34Subscribe Now!

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