How a Medical Company Cured Their Culture with Employee Recognition

by Sabrina Son on Apr 9, 2015 11:00:00 AM

frontera-a8392f2465cff7af166eab3c665f45b3Frontera is a mobile medical diagnostic testing company and was founded in 2001 by Ches Williams, Nate Nelson, and Richard Baker. They worked at the same start-up 15 years ago, and when the dotcom bubble burst, they were forced to figure out what to do next.

When Frontera first started, neither partner had any experience in the healthcare industry and didn't even get regular doctor's checkups. But they were intrigued with the space and had encouragement to pursue their business idea. 

We probed into Frontera's growth and how their culture has evolved over the years. Ches often proclaims that he's not a mastermind, but he shared plenty of universal best practices on how to improve organizational culture at work. And one of those strategies involved employee recognition.

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Recognizing What Motivates People

Ches acknowledges that you can always do better at understanding what drives people. If a manager comes from a sales background, then it's easy to assume that others are also motivated by extra money.

However, Ches and his partners learned that it's not the case. Some people want more recognition, others prefer time off, and some would work harder to be rewarded with monetary incentives. Ches wanted to create a compensation plan to help everyone achieve whatever goal, and he realized understanding their motivating factor was the first step.

Trophies for Winners

Every year, Frontera awards a “Heisman” award to an employee that goes the extra mile and embodies their culture. The idea behind this award: if everyone was like this prizewinner, Frontera would have an A+ culture. The award is a three-night stay with their spouse at a resort that Ches himself vacationed at many years ago. The experience at this resort left such a memorable impression that he still talks fondly about it today. He wants Frontera to have a similar positive impact on their own customers — he wants clients to talk about what a wonderful experience they had with the company’s services.

You Got Caught!

Ches and his partners also know the power of daily recognition. His partner Richard started the “You-got-caught!” initiative that empowers employees to recognize their peers for good deeds each day. Many Frontera employees are field based, so the executive team rarely got to see them do phenomenal things. Employees feel great about recognizing a peer, and the peer loves being recognized. The initiative quickly gained popularity and effectively reinforces core values and purposes.

For a guy who keeps saying he’s not an expert in HR and company culture, he sure has a lot of great ideas. Ches says, “The train has left the station and we're going down this path. It’s up to us to help them believe it, but not everyone wants to be along for the journey, and that's OK.”

Maybe the key is to admit we’re not perfect so that we’ll always keep striving to do better.

 

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This post was written by Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the managing editor for the TINYpulse blog. A Seattle native, she loves her morning (or anytime) coffee, spending her weekends on the mountains, and of course, the famous rain.

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