Recently I was at a seminar hosted at Rho, a clinical drug development and contract research services firm headquartered in Chapel Hill, NC. There was such a positive vibe about the building, from the welcoming receptionist at the front desk to the Rho employees signing us in to the Rho employees participating in the workshop. In a time when employee turnover is so high and an ever increasing number of people seem to dislike their work, this positivity was great to witness. So I decided to spend some time with Brook White, Executive Director of Communications at Rho. I really wanted to explore their documented corporate values of “living what they believe,” including integrity, quality, great people, teamwork, and more (link to the full list: http://www.rhoworld.com/rho/about/our-values)STAN: I really enjoyed my visit here last month and the positive vibe that seems to prevail around your campus. What do you attribute that to?
BROOK: We know that our smart, talented people are our greatest asset, so we strive to create an environment where all of our employees can thrive. We encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance—we discourage checking email after hours, encourage employees to use their vacation time, and provide benefits like a concierge service to help employees maintain that balance. We’re also doing work that matters. Our research improves health, extends life, and enhances quality of life.
STAN: In a culture where I see more dissonance between what people say and what they do, how do you succeed in “living what you believe?”
BROOK: It starts with a company’s leaders. Our Leadership Team demonstrates these values in their work and in their interactions with employees. We also make sure that from the beginning, each employee understands the importance of these values to our organization. Our co-CEOs, Dr. Laura Helms Reece and Dr. Russ Helms, have a series of three lunches with new employees to review the values, why they are important, and what that looks like in our day-to-day work.
STAN: I’d like to explore team work a little more since often times people sabotage others or refuse to assist their coworkers in a competitive environment where people want to get the best performance rating or get ahead. How do you truly incent team work at Rho? Do you really reward those who demonstrate strong team work?
BROOK: Teamwork is something that is highly valued at Rho. Leaders set the tone by making sure their teams receive credit for accomplishments rather than taking credit for themselves. We also have a peer-to-peer award program where any employee can recognize the good work of any other person in the company. The recipient receives both a gift card and recognition on our company intranet site. We also don’t have annual performance reviews. Performance feedback is given in the moment year round, so that the focus is on helping employees grow.
STAN: How do you handle people who seem to promote their own agendas or careers and aren’t good team players?
BROOK: We reward those who demonstrate teamwork, integrity, and our other core values, and we don’t permit or reward behavior that is out of alignment with those values even if it produces results. Results are important, but it can’t be results at any cost.
STAN: Finally, do have any metrics and measurements that show that good team work and living your other values truly leads to profitability? Can you show that correlation?
BROOK: We’ve been in business for more than 30 years, and we’ve been profitable every year. Even in years when living our values has meant making difficult decisions, we’ve managed to make a profit. While we don’t keep those specific metrics, our profitability year after year does show that a business can be successful and do the right thing. It’s not one or the other.
STAN: Thank you Brook. In closing, is there anything else you would like to share about Rho?
BROOK: On a personal note, this month marks my tenth anniversary at Rho. It has been a privilege to work alongside such a wonderful group of people and to work for an organization that actively demonstrates the values it espouses.
STAN: Thank you, Brook for spending this time with me and I wish you and Rho the very best in the future.
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Photos courtesy of Rho’s Corporate Communications