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Everyone Feels Equal at Yarde Metals

December 30, 2002
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Labor Relations, Featured Article, Training & Development

At Yarde Metals, an unusual corporate philosophy called social leveling getsrid of the tension between labor and management, has everyone working togethertoward one purpose, and uses peer pressure to prevent abuse. As a result,management isn’t the heavy anymore.

    Craig Yarde has 485 people working at his company, but he doesn’t like tocall them employees. "That sounds like I own them," says Yarde. "I’drather call them associates."

    His associates at Yarde Metals, a Connecticut-based distributor and processorof stainless steel, aluminum, and other metals, are the beneficiaries of aconcept that Craig Yarde calls social leveling.

    As he sees it, the friction between employees and management at mostcorporations makes for an inefficient waste of energy. "If we can get peopleworking together as a team, we can accomplish anything," he says. "Here weall feel equal together. We just have different job titles and pay grades."

    Getting folks to work together toward a common purpose may sound like ahopelessly unachievable HR fantasy, but Yarde says he knows how to walk thetalk. He lets employees in on the company’s financial picture. Regularly.

    "We open the books to everyone once a month," he says, "and we trainour associates to read financial statements so they can understand how thecompany is doing."

    The financial training, a 20-hour course, is offered at least once ayear--oncompany time. "It gives everybody a good handle on what's going on, what'stheir responsibility, how they fit into the big picture," says Yarde. "Itshows them that we value our associates as our most important stakeholders. We all take care of our customers, because everyone understands our values."

    Because his associates are empowered to understand their roles in thebusiness, they don’t abuse their privileges and responsibilities. With theopening of a new facility in Southington, Connecticut, which Yarde just spent $7million refurbishing, the privileges are cushy. Nap rooms, a game room, a gymwith showers and full locker room, a coffee-roasting room, a smoking room, andeven a dog kennel with five runs appear on the list of amenities.

    "We bring in fresh coffee beans daily and roast them daily," says Yarde."We’re also about to develop our own line of tea, which we’ll sell, withthe profits going to continuing education for our associates and scholarshipsfor their kids. We want to become the Paul Newmans of the metal industry."

    The smoking room, located directly off a dramatic new lobby, is there becauseYarde doesn’t want people to have to go outside in the winter. "We’retrying to have compassion for our smokers," he comments.

    The dog facility is there to help create a homelike atmosphere. "We wantpeople to bring their dogs and kids to work," says Yarde. "We want this tobe a home away from home for our associates. Our vision is to get everyoneworking hard, having fun, laughing."

    "Peer pressure regulates abuse situations here," he continues. "Ifsomeone is going to bark at someone, they’re gone. If someone abusesprivileges, it gets known real quickly. Someone would talk to the person,saying, ‘Hey, you're not getting the product out the door.’ "

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