The Employees First Approach Of a Billionaire Yogurt Maker

Article main image
Aug 13, 2019

“If you’re right with your people, if you’re right with your community, if you’re right with your product, you’ll be more profitable, more innovative, and you will have more passionate people working for you and a community that supports you.”

The new CEO

I must say I am a huge fan of Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya. I first came across his profile in reading an article as he was company was going public. He decided to give his employees who were mostly factory workers, stock as his company was going public. He was criticized widely for this give away. It totaled a reported 10% of his shares, which turned some of his long-time employees into millionaires.

“Some people said it’s PR. Some said it’s a gift. I said, ‘It’s not a gift’… They earned it with their talent and their hard work.”

He has made a point of hiring immigrants and refugees, who make up 30% of his staff.

Another holy business canon he has challenged is that organizations exist to maximize profit for the shareholders. Ulukaya says that is the dumbest idea he has ever heard. His maxim is that business should take care of the employees first.

The former president of Starbucks, Howard Behar, states in a speech that to grow the business, you have to grow the people. Helping the people understand the values and mission that the organization is about. Getting their commitment, helping them when they are suffering so that they contribute inside as well as outside.

Leadership culture is changing

This “new” philosophy is a 180 turn from the CEO mindset of years past. In my estimation, this new dynamic is a winning formula. A CEO that gets this will undoubtedly build a cohesive workforce in the “we are all in this together” sense. Like the sport of crew, everyone is paddling in unison, all focused in the same direction.

This alignment allows for connecting the people to the organization as the winning formula. In the end, it will all cascade down to your workforce. In regression modelling, you place all the independent variables (possible causes) in a formula to try to come up with a strong model to find the cause (dependent variable). When this process is completed you see the strength of the relationships.

Trying to create a high performing organization cannot be done if you do not include all your variables, especially your people and all their concerns and issues, whether it be engagement, career development, better bosses, etc. Are you taking care of your most important asset?

People make the difference

There is so much change going on today from the challenges of the business environment to the shifting demographics of the workforce. The only winning formula is going to be the talent side of the equation. Make it right first, then the business will grow. However, so many organizations put the cart before the horse.

I once read an article about a company that puts as much focus on the people and talent as they do the P&L. Not surprisingly they were very successful.

So C-suite buckle up, because unless your formula changes, you are in for a bumpy ride.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!