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Iowa’s Creative Corridor Transforming into a Hub for Democratic Workplaces

May 14, 2014

Let’s be realistic, Iowa will never have snow-capped mountain peaks, miles of white sandy beaches or the vast urban metros with professional sports stadiums. But those are the reasons why we love this state. What makes this place different and special is how we treat each other.  In Iowa we look out for each other and we take pride in our communities.  And, one way we can compete for talented people is to infuse these values into work and rethink the way we operate in the workplace. Company culture matters now more than ever and some entities are realizing the benefits of this new mindset and are being recognized for it. Hagie Manufacturing (Clarion), Fusionfarm (Cedar Rapids), Geonetric (Cedar Rapids), and the Iowa City Area Development Group (Iowa City) were among the 41 organizations worldwide certified in April as part of the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™. WorldBlu scores an organization on ten democratic principles including transparency, integrity, dialogue and listening, accountability and choice on leadership, individualism, systems, and processes. WorldBlu is a global community of leaders and organizations committed to practicing freedom - rather than fear - in the workplace. The company was founded by an Iowan in 1997.  Well-known companies making this year’s WorldBlu List include Zappos.com, Menlo Innovations, New Belgium Brewery, DaVita, and The WD-40 Company. Organizations ranged in size from five to 65,000 employees representing over $11 billion in combined annual revenue. As economic development groups we can help drive this conversation to make more companies and organizations aware of how they can leverage our natural inclinations as Midwesterners to reshape the workplace.  Today workers are seeking an environment that values their input and recognizes them as vital assets for growth, not cogs in a machine.   By creating an environment of trust, enjoyment, accountability and a recognition of the person as a whole, companies can attract the best and brightest talent, be it in manufacturing or any other type of business. The Iowa City Area Development (ICAD) Group and its regional partners are sharing this message to help more employers make substantive changes to their workplace culture to encourage team-centered, democratic workplaces. Beginning in 2012 with a conference on workplace culture, representatives from Hagie Manufacturing in Clarion were invited to our region to share their story of transformational culture and rethinking the work environment to attract talented people.  Hagie won Zappos’ Community Catalyst Award for 2011 after they made significant cultural changes within their organization following a Zappos Insights boot camp.  Zappos is world renown for their workplace culture and provides training opportunities for companies through boot camps and on-site conferences. Since then, several other events and learning opportunities, including field trips to Clarion to see first-hand the power of culture in practice, have helped more companies consider how to re-envision their mission, vision and values; hiring and firing practices and overall engagement with their people. More than 50 companies across the seven county region of Iowa’s Creative Corridor have taken part.  Participating companies have seen improvements in employee attraction and retention, workplace safety and customer satisfaction, as well as global recognition from WorldBlu. One thing is for certain.  There is no magic bullet to address workplace challenges.  Here, more and more companies are actively addressing their culture and taking pronounced steps to improve; others are still evaluating where they stand and are trying to grasp how to begin making changes. Most importantly, this topic is now at the forefront for many organizations throughout Iowa’s Creative Corridor, including Kirkwood Community College and Diversity Focus. The WorldBlu list served as a springboard for new ideas and events, and ICAD Group is excited to help sponsor an even bigger workplace culture event: a full-day conference in June called “Workplace (R)evolution.” Throughout this process, ICAD Group has endeavored for the entire region to be known for its workplace culture. The biggest challenge for our region, as well as the state of Iowa, is addressing the shortage of capable workforce. If more Iowa companies and organizations employ this transformational mindset, we can begin to reverse the decades of brain drain that have ravaged our state’s ability to grow and engage future generations. - Mark Nolte, President, Iowa City Area Development Group

 

 

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Iowa Economic Development Authority
200 East Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Phone: 1.515.348.6200
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