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Productive principles Featured

6:02am EDT January 27, 2006
Although employees may be putting more time in at work than ever before, that doesn’t mean they are getting more done.

Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz decided to do something about that, and in 1984 founded ComPsych Corp., a supplier of employee assistance programs.

“We want to help organizations attract and retain the best and the brightest and create superstar cultures,” says Chaifetz.

Today, the company has grown to more than $156 million in revenue and serves more than 23 million individuals in 6,000 organizations.

“Our growth is fueled primarily by our reputation of being the leading provider of employee assistance, behavioral health, work-life and related services,” Chaifetz says. “Our clients see our innovation, they see our passion, they see our overdelivery on their expectations, and they know they can count us. We strive to make ourselves better every day. And with that comes a reputation in the industry that allows us to not only retain our customers but grow at the rate we have been growing, despite our size.”

Smart Business spoke with Chaifetz about how to provide superior customer service and get the most out of your employees.

How do you ensure that you are providing quality customer service?
We have very strong guiding principles which essentially revolve around an expectation that our employees have a passion and dedication displayed in their work for our clients that is second to none.

We approach each customer with a built-to-suit mentality, so we don’t have to take a cookie-cutter approach. Customers are treated as special customers regardless of whether they have five employees or 500,000 employees.

We have a very innovative program model, and we expect our people to come up with new ideas and challenge the status quo. We expect them to over-deliver on customers’ expectations, coupled with an expectation that they provide our services and deliver our responsibilities with the utmost integrity. And that integrity needs to be demonstrated both professionally in the office and in their conduct and behavior outside of the office.

We make sure we provide long-term value and quality [to] our customers so that we build long-term relationships. There is nothing more important than retaining customers for life.

I believe the best way to do that is to overdeliver on their expectations, give them high-quality services and make sure you charge them fairly.

How do you encourage employees to be more productive at work?
If we can help employees remove the distraction of everyday stressors, they are more apt to focus on their job, perform at a much higher level and also be more aligned with the company that they work for because they see that organization as finding their best interests to be as important as the company’s interests.

We offer a comprehensive employee assistance program, work-life services, flexibility with scheduling. I’m a big believer that employees need to have very clear objectives, and they need to be given the support to achieve those objectives with a sensitivity to the personal issues that may impact their ability to do well on the job.

It doesn’t mean we let people do whatever they want to do. It means we give them the flexibility to accomplish their goals and set very clear expectations of what those goals are.

How do you give employees the support they need?
We set guidelines and expectations for employees. We don’t baby sit everything they do. On the other hand, I am a big believer that we don’t advocate the responsibility of being a manager or supervisor by ignoring things until it is too late.

A strong manager or supervisor is an excellent coach, and they trust their employees with a fair degree or a logical degree of verification that, in fact, things are being accomplished in the time frame and at the level that was agreed upon. It’s not a free reign, dot-com type environment but an environment where independent thinking, flexibility and out-of-the-box ideas are welcome.

How do you find quality employees?
This is a very entrepreneurial environment. This is an organization where people have a lot of flexibility to come up with new ideas, innovate and get rewarded for outside performance.

Individuals who are extremely bright, who want to be challenged, who want to test the limits within the boundaries of good business sense, who want to get rewarded for performance as opposed to just showing up and understand the importance of having compensation tied to results thrive in our environment.

We use a very stringent selection process consisting of extensive interviewing, extensive background checks, psychological and intellectual tests, reference checks, role playing, etc., to make sure that people fit our organization both from a cultural and performance expectation perspective.

We have a very well-defined staffing model that predicts significantly ahead of time what our staffing ratios need to be, so we hire proactively and are always somewhat overstaffed to ensure that the customers have the best services available to them at all times. What you want to do is reduce the surprises in your growth story and anticipate needs and care for them before they become issues.

What should companies take into consideration as they grow?
We add a variety of services every year as we see the demands, issues, stressors and concerns of employers and employees changing as our world changes. People didn’t think about terrorist attacks 10 years ago. We didn’t worry as much about work-life balance 10 years ago as we do today.

(Take into consideration) things that are appropriate to the aging population — the baby boomers leaving the work force and becoming displaced, the challenges of retaining younger employees as the baby boomers retire, the challenges of dealing with the baby boomers who are still in the work force. Things change, and you have to react to those changes and anticipate what those changes are going to mean for the issues of productivity, performance, retention and attraction.

HOW TO REACH: ComPsych Corp., (800) 851-1714 or www.compsych.com