Through Growth, Development & Change – People Will Always Come First at M3.

The other day I came across a quote from Richard Branson on LinkedIn, “put your staff first, customers second and shareholders third.”  As the Director of Human Resources at M3, my job is centered on our employees.  While I can look at metrics like employee satisfaction or turnover, I wonder if they’re accurately telling me what I need to know. Are we putting our people first? Do M3ers feel valued? Are the investments M3 is making in employees leading them to become more invested in M3?  Contemplating this, leads me all the way back to the beginning. . .

September 18, 2003. On this day, as a 23-year-old recent college graduate, I began my journey at M3.  At the time I didn’t know anything about M3.  I was fresh out of school and needed to get off of my mom and dad’s payroll. Finding a company that paid the bills was WAY more important than finding a company with an outstanding culture. I was lucky enough to find both.

In 2003, M3 had 100 employees, operating out of Madison and Milwaukee. At that time, M3 didn’t have a ton of formal processes; heck, we had only had a ‘formal’ HR department for 18 months. Being part of that 100 employee company I was able to see firsthand how our informal structure not only helped us be nimble in business, it created flexibility for employees.  In turn, employees felt uniquely valued. We did whatever needed to be done to take care of each employee individually. This is part of what has made, and continues to make, M3… well, M3.

Fast forward 13 years and, today, we are approaching 250 employees and have expanded our geographic footprint from two locations to five (adding offices in Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Wausau).  As we grew over the years, it was natural to both need and want to add more structure. And I learned as you add structure, it challenges an organization to remain flexible.

In focusing on our employees, my biggest priority is ensuring that M3 remains flexible and true to its foundation by doing the right thing for people who work here.  Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Sometimes, the right thing can be contradictory to other decisions that have been made. Sometimes, it can look inconsistent. Sometimes, it can make my job harder. Sometimes, it can upset others.  Obviously the right thing is not always the easy thing.  Over the years, I have found myself doing something for one employee and doing something completely different (including doing nothing at all) for another. What I have learned is that you can treat people fairly without having to be equal.

Over the last few days, while running into various employees, I have found myself having internal dialogue about how M3 is being flexible for that employee – in ways that matter to them, in ways that make their version of work-life balance possible, in very different ways. Then, it kind of hit me all at once, putting people first is a feel thing that comes from the gut; understanding if your company has a culture that supports that philosophy does too. AND putting people first isn’t something you can review on some report.

Even though I have only worked for M3 in my professional career, I’ve gained a lot of wisdom in working for a company that has grown so much.  Over the last 13 years, M3 has grown as a business and I have grown as a professional.  During times of growth I have challenged, and will continue to challenge myself, to ensure one thing remains constant – M3 will put people first.

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