The Heart of Our Message

At Barry-Wehmiller, we count hearts, not heads.

Every month, our Culture & People Development Team compiles a report we call a “Heart Count,” to track retention and turnover in our companies.  This naming convention helps us keep in perspective what’s really important: those team members aren’t just numbers on a page; they’re more than 8,000 lives in our care, each someone’s precious child.

Several years ago while visiting a military base, out of curiosity, I asked the general in charge, “How do you train or condition people to ‘kill’ other people?” His answer was, “We don’t, we teach them to ‘take out targets that made bad decisions.’” When you focus on people as people, instead of just ‘head count,’ it makes a difference. Click To Tweet

We do the same thing in business.  The military uses language to dehumanize the taking of lives. We refer to people as “head count” to dehumanize them. When we “reduce headcount” we have de-humanized the act of hurting people by “laying them off.” We don’t have to think about their lives, their responsibilities or their family. If we truly cared about the people whose lives are entrusted to us, we would know the damage we are doing to people.

In a recent profile of Barry-Wehmiller by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Professor Dylan Minor points out that in manufacturing, workers are often looked at “as just a cog in the wheel.”

While visiting our BW Container Systems facility in Romeoville, Ill, the Kellogg School team was able to witness Truly Human Leadership firsthand.  Minor said that Barry-Wehmiller has a competitive edge in our industry because “it’s not the norm to really value people and try to make a great place to work.”

“They’ve made the commitment—that clearly is not profit-driven—in how they’re developing that culture,” Minor said.

When you focus on people as people, instead of just ‘head count,’ it makes a difference. Not just in your business, but in a very real way in people’s everyday lives.

Read and listen to “Where the Employees Are The Leaders” from the Kellogg School of Management.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

1 Comment

  • Kit Tennis says:

    As always, Bob, you lead the way in humanizing the organization. I’m going to add “heart count” to my examples of B-W’s people-centric leadership as an exemplar of the best that is possible. Cheers!!

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