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Creating an Environment for Excellence: a tour of O.C. Tanner, voted in the top 50 “Best Places to Work.”

Written by: WTA Admin on March 9, 2021

As a 93-year-old company that employs over 1,500 people worldwide, services 13.5 million users, and has a presence in more than 180 countries, O.C. Tanner is the global leader in employee recognition and workplace culture. 

Recently, the World Trade Association of Utah toured their Salt Lake City manufacturing and shipment facilities with Gary Peterson, executive vice president of supply chain and production, and Adam Weston, value stream fulfillment director. The tour began in their Norm Tanner Room, which showcases several examples of the customized awards O.C. Tanner has designed and produced for numerous organizations - Taco Bell to the U.S. Olympics. 

With these custom awards, innovative design meets with strategic recognition and each one is specific to the company it serves. Their manufacturing methods help to ensure “quality at the source” said Weston.

Not only does O.C. Tanner serve their clients with unique solutions, but the senior leadership also aims to serve the team members on the front lines.

“We began our journey focusing on continuous improvement as a culture almost 30 years ago.” said Peterson. “The old culture had the manager as most important, the ones who had all the answers. We basically turned that model on its head so that team members are now recognized every day as the ones who make most things happen.”

At the end of the workday, the teams gather to review the goals chart and everyone is equally involved. Through the use of “improvement cards”, each team member has the opportunity to input any ideas to develop a stronger process.

These suggestions are guided by the company “strategy map” that directs everyday efficiency. Once a month, the teams meet to review with executives.

“It would be ridiculous for me to go in and tell these guys how to do their job.” said Peterson. “All I can do as a leader is go in and say, ‘how can I help?’ These guys know what they’re doing.”

The leadership at O.C. Tanner takes great pride in the results of their team-driven improvement process. They have seen huge improvement in certain areas, especially decreasing “labor cost per piece” in their manufacturing facilities.

One team wanted to decrease labor cost per piece from $0.40 to $0.33 at 18% improvement by implementing 5 process improvements.

“That is an aggressive goal and our teams, they hit it.” said Peterson. “They actually implemented 7 process improvements and they have 4 others in progress besides that. It was more like a 22% decrease in cost in 6 months, pretty awesome.”

The team members as well take great pride in these work strategies. “Respect for every individual means they know what to do, they know what to expect with what they’re doing, and that they have as much value at work as possible.” said Weston.

During the tour, an employee was asked what the best thing about working for O.C. Tanner is. “Honestly, it’s got to be the culture,” he said. “The way we’re able to work with each other is just incredible. In fact, I’ve never seen it with any other company.”

He then described the benefits of team problem solving. “It’s one of the smartest ways you can attack any problem, because we all have different perspectives on situations. We all have different ways we want to approach and think about it. So, we’re able to connect with our teammates and brainstorm different ideas.”

To keep these contributing ideas fresh and to give a voice to numerous perspectives, O.C. Tanner aims to hire employees based on the ability to encourage their diverse, cooperative culture.

“A high percentage of our employees are refugees from various war-torn areas around the world.” said Peterson. “They come here with very little and being in a strange country with a strange language it’s very possible to feel disempowered; to feel like they’re on the fringes.

The powerful thing I think happens at work here is they get their mojo back. It’s very important to us that our people walk out this door not just having an impact here but walking out with swagger. We feel that we really impact the world.”

O.C. Tanner continues to look for ways to drive teamwork, encourage creativity at the source, and inspire a sense of pride in their employees. The positive atmosphere greatly influences the quality of the items they produce.

To learn more about O.C. Tanner’s products, services, and resources Click Here.

About World Trade Association

World Trade Association of Utah is the state’s longest standing non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and advancing international trade and commerce.  The WTA provides a monthly forum for the exchange of ideas and information through various workshops, seminars, publications and special events with leading government, business, academic and international trade organizations.  Each year WTA bestows the leading International Person of the Year Award and the International Company of the Year Award.

For more information, visit wtaofutah.com.

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Copyright © 2021 World Trade Association of Utah
Copyright © 2021 World Trade Association of Utah
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