Putnam Surveys Open Employee Dialogue

By Jessica Marquez

May. 30, 2006

It takes guts for a CEO to conduct a first-ever employee survey just months after the company he’s just taken over has been named in SEC and state regulatory investigations.

    In May 2004, seven months after becoming CEO, that’s exactly what Charles “Ed” Haldeman did.

    Haldeman wants employees to feel comfortable providing feedback on what they like and don’t like. Too often companies conduct surveys for the sake of doing them, but Putnam’s approach shows what can come if companies use surveys as a starting point for dialogue with their employees.

    The online survey found that employees who didn’t directly interact with Haldeman didn’t feel there was the open culture that he was trying to create.

    Haldeman met with Putnam’s human resources team to discuss what to do.

    “Ed made it clear that he wanted the employees’ voices embedded into all of the human resources programs,” says Richard Tibbetts, a managing director and chief of human resources.

    For example, employees suggested creating an Employee Advisory Council. Set up in October 2004, the group of 12 employees meets with Haldeman four times a year.

    One issue that the council brought up was Putnam’s parental leave policy. The policy allowed for 12 weeks of paid time off for executives, but only six to eight weeks for the rest of Putnam’s employees. Putnam responded immediately to the issue, and by January 2005 the firm had changed the policy so that all employees now get 12 weeks off.

“We want to ensure that the employees’ voices are not just being heard, but being responded to.”
 –Richard Tibbetts,
chief of human resources

    Another concern that employees voiced was that Putnam wasn’t doing enough to create a diverse workforce. Haldeman met with a number of employees, including Thalia Meehan, managing director and team leader for tax-exempt research, and Richard Robie, chief administrative officer, to discuss this.

    Out of that meeting came the creation of the Diversity Advisory Council, a group of 30 people, including two members of Putnam’s executive board.

    Haldeman meets quarterly with the Diversity Advisory Council and with the Women’s Leadership Forum, a group of 12 female employees.

    Based on feedback from the council, Putnam offered its first diversity training session in November. The two-hour program focused on raising awareness of what employees can do to promote a culture welcoming of minorities and women. More than half of the firm’s 3,000 employees attended.

    Also, in response to a request from the council, Putnam published a new recruiting policy in the fall. In it, the company promised to make its best effort to look at a diverse set of candidates.

    Putnam is no longer recruiting only at Ivy League schools and top business programs, widening its scope to include several local schools, such as Boston University and Dean College.

    Over the past five years, the percentage of women and minorities in vice president and senior vice president positions has increased 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

    But the real test of how well the company is keeping its communication promises is being judged now. Putnam just completed its second all-employee survey and is reviewing the results.

    “We want to ensure that the employees’ voices are not just being heard, but being responded to,” Tibbetts says.

Workforce Management, May 22, 2006, p. 21Subscribe Now!

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