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4 Ways to Engage Your Employees

Focus on health, mentoring, feedback and life balance

Personal trainer Michael Tengan leads the Kaikor staff in
circuit training twice a week at its Kalihi warehouse.
It's an on-the-clock benefit for office employees.

Health and Wellness: Kaikor Construction Co.

What’s one way to build camaraderie and energize your employees? Hire a personal trainer for twice-a-week exercise sessions on company time.

Janis Loo, office manager and corporate secretary at Kaikor, originally suggested the idea of regular workouts to her husband, co-owner Garrett Sullivan. The program began in November 2007 and today a personal trainer comes in at 2:45 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday. “Because our work day officially ends at 3:30, people can just go home sweaty rather than being in the office,” Loo says, laughing.

Kaikor’s field employees don’t participate because of union restrictions, but Loo says everyone in the office has joined in. Bookkeeper Linda Elder says, “I enjoy it the most because I am one of those procrastinators that wake up feeling good, say OK, I’m going to go home [after work] and do this, and I talk myself right out of it because I’m tired or I worked all day. It really has energized my life.”

It also builds camaraderie and accountability among employees. “It’s company time and you’re with your coworkers and it motivates you to go,” says accountant Anna Herrera, adding there’s slight teasing if you miss a workout. It’s also motivated her outside of work. “Actually, I joined the gym after we started this!” she says.

Leadership and Mentoring: KMH LLP

It’s tough adjusting to a new job. You might know only a few people, stay at your desk trying to figure out the e-mail system and end up eating lunch alone at the place that everyone else in the office knows is lousy.

Enter KMH LLP’s senior buddy program. “When you first start with the firm, you get assigned a senior buddy, who is like your big brother, big sister, someone you can talk to more informally about things,” says Erin Nakamoto, a tax associate at the financial services firm.

Nakamoto says you’re free to talk about anything, like how to get through the busy tax season, what to expect from longtime clients or how to unwind after work. “Or even to lead you in the right direction, because, not too long ago, they were in our shoes, so they’re familiar with what we’re going through.” Senior staffers try to pair new hires with someone they already know or someone who seems to be a good match. Buddies might not even be in the same division. Employees say KMH has a collegial atmosphere that makes them feel comfortable talking to other people about anything.

Peter Hanashiro, partner at KMH, says the senior buddy program is a holdover from its former self as Arthur Andersen, and they’ve kept the program because it is effective. “We have a lot of new people coming out of college, and the senior buddy is a good person to talk to for transitioning from school to work, or just for working out a problem,” he says.

After a six-month orientation, employees choose a mentor to help map their career goals. They meet formally once a year to check on their progress, but can meet informally at any time.

Employee Feedback: Booz Allen Hamilton

In a firm that employs 18,000 people worldwide, it’s easy to feel like a small voice that will never be heard by “The Man.” But at Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology consulting firm that mainly services the U.S. military, employees feel that higher-ups are listening.

One way employees provide feedback is through a “people strategy” survey every two years. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that the response rate is very, very high for that survey,” says Bob Lietzke, principal at BAH’s Honolulu office. “It certainly takes in internal communications within the firm, folks talking from the top all the way down, and this is really your chance to be heard. I think it’s important that leadership stresses it and, more importantly, people are seeing that there’s action taken after it.”

Case in point: Honolulu employees asked for and now get internal training more frequently. Before, most training came from the corporate office in McLean, Va., and certified instructors rarely made it to Hawaii. “There was somewhat of a disconnect. The internal training that our counterparts got at other offices (which are) closer to the Virginia corporate office, we weren’t experiencing that same level of frequency,” says Jon Paul Akeo, human resources director.

Akeo says that more training is now being done regionally and that employees in different offices can learn to become adjunct professors and teach courses themselves.

Work/Life Balance: It’s All About Kids LLC

When your company is named It’s All About Kids LLC, it’s a no-brainer to care about your employees’ children.

Liane Liu keeps her daughter Jordyn busy while at the
office of It's All About Kids, LLC. IAAK,
which sells educational technology to schools,
is flexible with employees' childcare needs and doesn't
mind letting the kids in during office hours.

About two years ago, the small educational technology company started letting employees’ children use its software and formally made it a benefit in July 2008. “If we weren’t comfortable letting our children use the programs that we were selling, offering or servicing to kids, it was really inappropriate for us to be selling it to schools,” says COO Craig Crisler.

Although the company is a technology firm, it tries to emphasize the human side of technology to its employees. Crisler likens it to what you experienced in high school: No one ever says they loved a textbook, but they’ll remember the teacher.

Since the company is small, the atmosphere is relaxed and informal and employees can bring their kids in when they need to, Crisler says. He says employees have flexibility because they are cross-trained to cover each other.

Administrative assistant and mother-of-four Renee Moniz says her 6-year-old son uses one of the company’s four software programs and it’s helped improve his reading and math skills. Moniz says the company understands family needs, explaining she missed work for a week and a half while caring for her ill 3-year-old twins. “That makes coming here a lot more enjoyable, knowing that you have people who care about you and people who will be there every step of the way with you,” she says.



Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Old to new | New to old
Apr 9, 2009 07:17 pm
 Posted by  crafty808

I like the leadership and mentoring. Set your employees up for success, not failure!

Apr 9, 2009 08:20 pm
 Posted by  ITGEEK

Sounds like a super cool place to work. It's great to hear that companies like It's all about kids can still add benefits rather than take them away. Especially in today's economy.

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