Household finance corp
HFC declares employees the key to success - Household Finance Corp - Yoder-Heneman Creative Application Awards
Employee satisfaction. Two simple words that are beginning to receive a lot of attention in the more sophisticated sectors of the service industries. Some members of senior management teams are convinced that employees who are fulfilled in their work are more flexible, produce more and think more broadly about the welfare of the organization. Pressures from competition, the effects of downsizing, and new technologies that increase customer expectations all have contributed to the need for more responsibility from individual employees. Obviously a mind-set that admits and accepts the strong link between personal success and organizational success is critical to company survival in today's high-end service sectors.
HR, of course, is in the midst of cultural change, or, if it's progressive HR, it is leading the charge. The HR function at Household Finance Corp. (HFC) is progressive. HFC's Success Through People program was started to align all HR initiatives to foster growth of the culture and the company vision, as well as demonstrate the company's commitment to employees.
"It is people, not technology, who transform the organization and make HFC the unsurpassed leader in the financial services industry. Success Through People became the vehicle for investing in our greatest resource," says Rose Smith, HFC group vice president for human resources.
Success Through People is the umbrella name for a number of HR programs introduced and marketed to HFC employees beginning in 1993. It includes programs for compensation and benefits, career development and employee communications. There are employee development workshops, an HFC University and comprehensive management development training program, a certification program for promotions, a diversity program, a mentoring program, and a performance management and cultural change program.
In changing the compensation plan to align it with HFC's business objectives, the company went through a number of revisions for both sales and processing employees. Smith says the revision process was heavily dependent on the input of line management, something that is not typically sought.
In a climate survey, employees had indicated that they wanted more information about compensation and salary administration and more open communication with management. So HR produced a comprehensive guidebook to help supervisors and managers with performance appraisal and discussion of employee development. The guidebook contains useful information such as the elements of a good performance appraisal: describing performance in terms of previously agreed upon job expectations and standards, using objective terms, creating and maintaining two-way communication, and reinforcing ongoing discussions between the supervisor and the employee.
HFC believes that customer satisfaction is highly dependent upon employee development, so the Success Through People initiative is loaded with programs and activities that have employee development as the goal. The HFC University is a management training program for all levels of employees, including account executives at more than 450 branches throughout the United States who have completed a formal self-study program. Last year, more than half of the employees within HFC either completed cross training, got promoted or made lateral job changes.
A mentoring program encourages employees to find a mentor either inside HFC, or outside in another division of Household International (HI), the parent company. With a mentor outside HFC, the employee has the chance to learn about the entire financial services industry. (The other HI businesses are in insurance and other types of financial services.) The mentoring program also helps the employee envision a career path with options, and it helps to foster change in the business culture by encouraging employees to think about customer needs all the way through the customer's life cycle--the products of the other divisions serve customers at different times in their lives.
The diversity part of the program emphasizes that the skills, attitudes and cultures of all types of employees can foster a stronger organization better ready to serve a diverse customer base if employees are managed correctly and given freedom to participate. Diversity is not thought of as a matter of race or gender, Smith says, but as every individual bringing his or her best talents to the table. The diversity program helps to illustrate that the costs of underudlizing employees include high turnover (and the resultant recruitment and retraining), internal complaints that take time and emotional energy, lowered productivity and poor morale.
Marketing HR initiatives under a central theme had never been done before at HFC. Smith says the efforts have produced outstanding results. Through an introductory videotape, brochures and other types of publicity, the program has brought a better understanding to employees of the services offered through HR. Productivity in both sales and processing has increased substantially. "We attribute this to improved employee morale and satisfaction, which can be directly linked to the messages communicated through the program," Smith says.
Linda Thornburg is a Woodbridge, Va.-based freelance business writer.