Behind the Scenes at a Best Christian WorkplaceBlog / Produced by The High Calling
"All these are small ways that my company works to develop and nurture its employees," writes Al Hsu. In this piece for our series What My Employer Gets Right, Hsu talks about three of the qualities that earned his employer a Best Christian Workplace designation.
In my mid-twenties, I was a copywriter for my employer, a Christian book publishing house. My job was to write descriptive copy for press releases, ads, and catalogs. I enjoyed the work, but after about a year or so I began to feel like I needed more interaction with people. The job was all project-oriented, and I just sat in my office with my Mac. As an extroverted ENFP on the Myers-Briggs, I was feeling antsy.
At the same time, my colleague Tracy was a publicity coordinator in the marketing department. Her job took her to conferences where she would interact with media, authors, and customers. But she was an extremely high introvert and found herself overwhelmed and drained by all the people. The job seemed like a mismatch for her personality.
For many employees like me and Tracy, the only options would be to stick it out in our current roles or to look for a more suitable fit somewhere else. But our employer had a different idea. My company has been certified as a Best Christian Workplace six times by the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, and my employer's response to Tracy and me is just one of many reasons why it repeatedly earns that distinction.
Helping Employees Find the Right Place for Them
Jim Collins’s Good to Great talks about getting the right people on the bus, and then getting them in the right seats on the bus. My supervisor and Tracy’s supervisor noticed that we both seemed constrained by our current roles, and they offered a suggestion: “Why don’t you trade jobs?”
It wasn’t quite that simple, but our managers worked together to reorganize our respective departments. At the end of the process, Tracy and I basically swapped roles. I became a publicist, where I could go to conferences, interact with media, and talk to them about our books and authors. It was great! And Tracy became a creative services specialist where she worked on catalogs and ads in the quiet solitude of her office. Both of us thrived in our new jobs, and we were grateful to our supervisors for being attuned to our personalities and abilities. They helped us reinvent ourselves in ways that were energizing for us and allowed us to contribute in new ways. It was a concrete way of living out 1 Corinthians 12, of being one body with many parts where each part finds its place and serves in a way that fits.
Investment and Trust in Younger Employees
My wife, Ellen, also works at the same company, and we love being down the hall from each other. Ellen started working there just a few months after she graduated from college. About half a year later at age twenty-three, she was invited to attend her first book publishing industry trade show to meet with international publishers. Two years later at age twenty-five, she went on her first international business trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. I tagged along, and at the time we thought of it as just an exciting, fun overseas adventure. Now we look back and realize that our supervisors had exercised an amazing degree of trust in sending us as official representatives of the company at such a young age.
I was invited to join our company’s publishing committee at age twenty-six, sitting in meetings where strategic decisions are made about the books we publish. I didn’t realize until years later that at other companies, those decisions are often made only by fiftysomething vice presidents. My company gave me remarkable access and influence at a young age, trusting that I would learn to make good decisions and contribute well.
Christians have always been intentional about mentoring and discipleship, like how the apostle Paul entrusted young Timothy with mission work on their missionary journeys. I’m glad my company likewise invests in younger workers to help them learn skills and gain confidence.
Corporate Culture Open to Contributions from All Employees
Regardless of position, department, or length of tenure, if people have good ideas, management wants to hear them. And our office culture is particularly open to things that are fun and build collegiality. One of our newest twentysomething employees started a series of “Fliptastic Fridays” where people could dress up for a different theme each week, whether Crazy Hat Day or College Sweatshirt Day. Another twentysomething organized the office’s March Madness NCAA basketball brackets. And our employee Facebook group is an open place where anyone can contribute, whether asking questions about best practices for handling email or posting pictures from a birthday party or baby shower.
One limitation of working at a small company is that there are not very many positional opportunities for advancement. But our supervisors look for ways to keep us engaged and growing, with new areas of responsibility or challenge. Our managing editor has the people on his team cross-train so they learn each other’s jobs, which is beneficial not only in covering for each other when somebody is on vacation, but it also lets them gain new areas of expertise. People from different departments might run exhibit booths at conferences, even if it’s not in their regular job description. Others might help plan company picnics or office parties, or they might have opportunities for outside training.
All these are small ways that my company works to develop and nurture its employees. We try to make our workplace an intentionally Christian community where everyone’s personhood is honored and concerns are heard. And when our employees experience job satisfaction, we also tend to do well in meeting our business goals. Treating one another with dignity is good for office morale, and it’s good for business.
Author Disclaimer: This article was written as the experience of an employee not as an official statement from the company.