Show Us Your Best

By John Hollon

Jul. 29, 2005

Building a great company is a tough job.

    Dick Landgraff, a vice president of the Ford Motor Co., summed it up pretty well a few years ago when he said, “It’s very difficult in this business, and I suppose in a lot of businesses, to try to be the best. Because to be the best means you have to spend more, you have to work harder and you have to have some vision. And those things are not in abundance in any company as far as I can see.”

    A lot of businesses talk about wanting to be the best, but very few actually know how to get there. That’s what makes Workforce Management’s annual Optimas Awards so special.

    Put simply, the Optimas Awards recognize initiatives that create positive business results for organizations. Since 1991, some 150 businesses of all sizes–from Fortune 1,000 organizations to entrepreneur-driven small companies–have won Optimas Awards for creatively adapting workforce management practices to deliver stronger, definable corporate returns.

    The list of the Optimas general excellence winners is impressive and includes companies like Levi Strauss, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, McDonald’s, Texas Instruments, the Container Store, Sears, Google, SAS Institute, General Motors and Wells Fargo. But the Optimas Awards recognize more than just general excellence; they also recognize 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.

    Regular readers of this magazine may be getting a sense of déjà vu right about now. Not too many months ago, in our March issue, we announced the 2005 Optimas winners. The list included Wells Fargo & Co. (the general excellence winner), Herman Miller, Convergys, Sun Microsystems, UPS, Bell Canada, Saint Francis Medical Center, Adolph Coors Co., Progeon and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

    Now we’re starting the Optimas Awards process all over again and are looking for those organizations that will be named Workforce Management’s 2006 Optimas Award winners. Previous winners have been a diverse bunch, and their accomplishments helped open new markets around the world, reinvented city government, slashed bureaucracy in the federal government, established Mexico’s first HMO, took health care to rural America, revitalized failing business units and improved the acquisition process.

    The 2006 Optimas winners will be notified this December and honored at the award ceremonies in New York in March. To enter your company, go to for a complete list of categories and contest details. Nomination forms must be returned by September 16, and winners must demonstrate how their initiatives achieved measurable business results in response to the organization’s business needs, issues or challenges.

    Optimas Award winners are “among the best” (which is what optimas means in Latin) and reflect the leadership, vision and energy that define workforce management.

    Organizations frequently ask just what it is that the Workforce Management editors look for in choosing Optimas winners. I like to respond to that by pointing to a quote from Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich about how his company pulled off a massive merger and yet managed to minimize layoffs (by retraining staff) as well as 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.”

    Kovacevich’s words capture what the Optimas Awards are all about. Is your organization doing something equally worthy and impressive, all while delivering superior bottom-line business results? If it is, I hope you’ll tell us about it and enter your company or organization, and perhaps be one of our 2006 Optimas Award winners.

Workforce Management, August 2005, p. 8Subscribe Now!

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