What does Put People First REALLY Mean?

One thing that I remember during my initial interview with the company was that it was clear that relationships were really important at Simmons. It was compelling enough that I accepted a job as “Chicken Chaplain” that I had never done, in an industry that I never aspired to work in. I am grateful for the last nine years and the impact that this position and that you have had on my life.

Relationships are so important to us at Simmons that we state that one of our Core Values is Put People First. I have been teaching Values & Culture Workshops over the past few months. I have come to realize that there is a lack of clarity around what this Value really means. I took some time to gather some thoughts and I want to share with you quickly what I believe to be true about this incredibly important Simmons Value of Put People First.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.’
— Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT)

Put People First is a call to Servant Leadership.

Many of you are influencers in your department and in the company by your character and work ethic. Servant leaders do not have to have a direct report. You have the power to influence others and it has nothing to do with your title. If you have any position of authority, you have the responsibility to leverage your resources (time, training, coaching, etc) to help your team and company succeed. As we drive One Simmons into the future, it is a call to look to the needs of other teams and departments and seek out ways that we can help drive performance and collaboration.

Continue to Put People First by seeking out ways to lead and serve with others in mind.

Put People First is striving for superior results for the 6,999 other Simmons team members.

When you come to work and give your best, it is not only you who is positively impacted. There are 6,999 other Simmons team members who are as well. Put People First does not mean that profit and bottom-line results do not matter. They absolutely do and we should strive for superior results! We should be motivated to continue to grow, improve and innovate new and better ways to provide quality food products and services to our customers. In return, they give us little green certificates of appreciation!

Put People First by bringing every gift and talent that God has given you and apply it fully to your work and striving for excellence.

Put People First is compassionate accountability.

Compassion is caring for someone enough that you are willing to suffer alongside them. Accountability is holding someone responsible for what one said they would do - or not do. When compassion meets accountability, something magical happens. There are probably people on your team that are falling short in some area(s). It could be performance, behavior, absenteeism, attitude - you name it. Put People First means that instead of just allowing that to continue and possibly leading to a negative outcome, we come alongside them with compassion and say, “I care about you too much to not say something.” Allowing someone’s destructive behavior to continue to their demise (loss of career, marriage, relationships, trust, etc) is not love. It is selfish on our part - we don’t want to have the awkward conversation. So we avoid it.

I care about you too much to NOT to say something.

We Put People First when we lean in with compassionate accountability when our team members are falling short of expectations. A few things might happen: 1) They blow up in your face, change nothing, and eventually quit or self-select off of your team; 2) They are initially offended, but come back and ask for a path or guidance; 3) They have been waiting for someone to care enough about them to call them out, they thank you, and you have their loyalty because you showed your love for them by having the hard conversation. All of these are acceptable outcomes. Doing nothing is not acceptable and it is not love.

Put People First by having a hard conversation with someone with compassionate accountability.

Put People First is treating every person with dignity and respect.

We have an incredible diversity at Simmons - it is what makes our company and culture truly great. Look around you today while you are at work. For a moment, don’t think of these people with their work titles, but see them as someone’s son or daughter. They are someone’s father or mother, husband or wife, friend and loved one. Based on the number of contacts our Chaplain team has every year, there is a very good chance that they are dealing with a life issue or loss. Assume everyone is going through something and treat them with respect in case today is their day.

People carry with them an intrinsic value that cannot be taken away, and which deserves dignity and respect - the same with which you would want to be treated.

Put People First is a reminder that we must be aware of the needs of our people. Recognize when someone is down and ask how they are doing. Catch someone doing something good and recognize them. Show appreciation to someone or a team that regularly excels but rarely hears, “thank you” and you will be living out Put People First.

Put People First is a healthy and continual balancing of our work and our family.

Your family matters. Each of us are challenged with the work/life balance and it seems to constantly be out of balance more than in. That is life. When we Put People First, we give our best when we are at work, but we also manage and prioritize time and energy so that we are able to give, love and spend time with those we go home to. There will be seasons where work is heavy - and if you are in one of those, thank you for everything you are doing. There are also seasons where we can pour into our family and enjoy time with them doing things we love to do.

We Put People First when we realize that work and life will never be balanced. It is a constant balancing act that requires intentionality, communication and grace. You must know that your family matters to the Simmons’ family and leadership team.

Put People First is caring about our customers as well as the families and animals who consume the products we make.

We are feeding families all over the world and the pets we love every day. We have chosen to help solve a problem that meets one of the most basic needs - hunger. Because you came to work today, there are millions of people who will be able to have a meal, to feed and nourish their family, and to care for the pets and animals that we all care for dearly.

We Put People First when we focus on quality, yield and efficiency, because these drive our ability to do more, feed more, and you should feel proud of the work that you are apart of because it really matters.

Put People First is creating a safe work environment where people can do their best.

Working safely is how we do it at Simmons. As you walk around any of our facilities, you should have an eye towards safety and ensuring that there is nothing that could harm or injure someone. We desire for people not only to go home with every finger and toe they came in with, but that they might actually be better! It has to start by being proactive, preventing events and doing safety walks to understand potential hazards and taking the necessary actions to promote a safe and productive place for people to work.

We Put People First when we see an unsafe act or situation, and we do something about it immediately. It is not someone else’s job - it is all of our responsibility.  

Put People First is considering the impact of decisions we make on the people we serve.

In a business our size, we have to make difficult decisions every day that impact not just our bottom-line, but our people. When we Put People First, we have this value in front of us every step of the way. When a decision is made and it impacts people, we do everything we can to promote dignity and respect by communicating to team members, listening to concerns, and sometimes making adjustments.

We Put People First when we consider our customers, team members, and communities as we go about building a great company here at Simmons. As Todd said at the QBR last week, “We are building strong relationships through food.” Strong relationships have driven our success for the last 70 years, and we must continue to focus on Putting People First as we drive towards the future.


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