It started with a book that Miron Construction Co., Inc. President and CEO Dave Voss says he wasn’t going to read.
But a member of his marketing team convinced him to read Matthew Kelly’s “The Dream Manager” while on a flight to Florida. The book discusses how companies who help their employees achieve personal dreams can improve engagement, retention and productivity.
“I couldn’t put it down,” Voss says. “And I had it just about read by the time I got to Florida. You have to put yourself in the time where we were — the end of 2012. We were coming out of the worst recession that this country’s ever seen.”
Voss’s team at Miron, like many companies weathering the recession, worked longer hours for equal or less pay, he says, and he worried employees felt disengaged or burned out.
“So when I picked up ‘The Dream Manager,’ it just became very, very clear to me. It just slapped me in the face, like, ‘Shame on you, Mr. Voss, you’ve worried too much about every employee’s work life and you really never thought about their total life — their life beyond work,’” Voss says. “As an employer it’s kind of our job to make sure that people continue to think about their whole life and their dream life and their goals.”
Inspired, Voss announced the company would hire a full-time dream manager.
At first, the idea drew some skepticism from Miron team members and even Dream Coach Carrie Garczynski herself, before she was hired, when she first heard what the company was doing.
“I laughed and said, ‘Nobody does that. That sounds extremely risky. A lot of fun — but nobody does that,’” Garczynski says.
But Garczynski’s interest was piqued. Once Miron employees heard her presentation during the company’s 2013 summit, they were interested, too.
“We talked about how you have the opportunity to create your story, no matter what the chapters are behind you, and here’s a benefit for you to help you map this out,” Garczynski says.
To date, 43 Miron employees from corporate and satellite offices have gone through the Miron Dream Project, custom designed with a construction-related theme by Garczynski, who has a background in communications and corporate training.
Projects have included learning to play an instrument, saving for a trip to Italy, developing a salsa-making business, speaking in public and finding birth parents. Miron doesn’t provide financial support for the dreams, but Garczynski meets with each dream achiever on a regular basis to map out a timeline, put together a detailed plan and help put employees in touch with the outside resources they need, such as business advisors and financial planners.
“I was thinking if I could take 10 employees and turn them from marginal people into people that are excited about their life, excited about their interaction with other people — hey, that would be something different that no other company can say they tried,” Voss says. “It attracts better talent. It builds a better team, it creates a strategy and takes your organization to the next level.”
Craig Bieri wanted to develop his interest in photography and ended up building a “hobby business” that in just a few months has garnered bookings for family, engagement and wedding photos.
“Just being a creative person, I need creative stimulation 24/7,” Bieri says. “So having this outside of work really kind of sparks my creativity at work, too.”
Employees can keep their projects totally confidential if they want to. Lindsey DeWitt didn’t want anyone to know that she was training to be the first female Miron employee to run the full Fox Cities marathon. Just a few days before she ran, she let the cat out of the bag.
“It was kind of a good feeling, and it gave me a lot more motivation and excitement,” DeWitt says. “So I’m kind of glad I kept it confidential up until right before.”
DeWitt’s greatest challenge was her doubt. “I had a lot of inner battles with myself,” she says. It’s not an uncommon challenge and one of the reasons many employees may not have considered giving voice to their dreams or may not want other employees to know what they’re working on.
Garczynski’s job is to help keep team members on track. She kept checking in with DeWitt to make sure she sent in her registration for the marathon, for example, and when DeWitt said she had butterflies about the race, Garczynski sent her a motivational message about butterflies being a symbol of rebirth and renewal.
For Bieri, Garczynski connected him with a business instructor at Lawrence University to help him get established.
“I think it builds morale internally,” Bieri says. “I think it adds to production and quality of work. It adds personality to the people that are in the program — you just see them shine whenever they’re talking about their dream or achieving their dream.”
Goodwill Industries NCW has had a similar program called Circles of Care for about six years.
“We recognize that people are whole and complex,” says Dottie Mathews, organizational chaplain. Goodwill’s wellness team includes Mathews and another chaplain, health and wellness coaches and a financial wellness coach for its 1,400-plus employees.
“I think, one, it’s a very obvious and palpable message that people are cared for as individuals, that we see them as individual people and care about their overall well-being,” she says. “Two, we have evidence to believe that it reduces absenteeism and that it helps with our insurance premiums.”
The self-insured organization started the program in 10 of its stores and recognized quickly a reduction in measurable insurance claims such as ER visits.
“We have an insurance consultant who has told us that it’s his belief that we saved many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, over the years that Circles of Care has been in existence,” Mathews says.
While Miron hasn’t quantified the results of its program, its benefits are apparent in the way it’s building team morale and communication, Garczynski says.
“I think it’s a phenomenal program, and once people learn more about it and take advantage of it, it’ll really show its true colors,” Bieri says.
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