how to become a local hero

When disaster strikes, every one of us has the opportunity to act heroically.

When disaster strikes, every one of us has the opportunity to act heroically.

By Mel Kleiman, CSP

Remember the old comedy/Western “Support Your Local Sheriff?” James Garner starred as Jason McCullough, a guy who runs out of money on his way to Australia and takes a job as a small town sheriff just for the pay.

In true Hollywood fashion, Garner’s character drives the bad guys out of town, becomes a local hero and decides to stay on as sheriff.

No Hollywood Director Needed
Heroism doesn’t depend on swashbuckling good looks and dramatic actions. Heroes are common people who take action to help others and do what is right—and every one of us has the opportunity to become one without any help from Hollywood.

Every time we offer support and encouragement to the people we hire, every time we help them find the tools and aide people need to weather problems, we behave heroically.

Phil Freeman of Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc., noted that his company provides financial assistance for employees in trouble on a case-by-case basis and is considering establishing a more structured employee help fund.

“It always amazes me how quickly our people move to help a co-worker in trouble by giving money, donating vacation time and providing whatever other support they can,” said Freeman, whose company operates 312 stores. “It really says a lot for the high quality of our culture.”

Heroic behavior begins by treating everyone who works with the dignity and respect we all need and desire. It continues with recognizing and acknowledging that the most important parts of your employees’ live happen outside of the store. When those things include family crises, make it easy for them to fulfill their family commitments. Even when the Family Medical Leave Act doesn’t apply, figure out how to give people the time off they may need to handle personal problems.

Companies that treat their employees with compassion also behave compassionatel toward their communities. For example, after Hurricane Katrina struck, fuel prices escalated overnight, especially in the Southeast.

Though many took advantage of the opportunity to raise prices, Spinxco, which operates 70 stores in Greenville, S.C., chose to operate at zero profit margins on fuel until wholesale costs returned to pre-Katrina levels.

Offer benefits such as health and disability insurance to help employees weather the storms that life often brings. If possible, choose a health insurance plan that includes an employee assistance program.
If that option is not within your budget, create your own employee assistance network by researching the services available within your community. Find out which agencies and volunteer groups offer which social services. Make a list of your findings, complete with names of the appropriate people to contact for help and make that list available to everyone.
Tap into resources through your local business community, too. Many community colleges offer workshops that increase child raising, money management and other skills that support happier and more healthful lifestyles.
When personal problems arise, try to accommodate switching employee work shifts if that will help.
Some companies have developed a small free loan process for employees. See if yours can do that, too.
Allow employees to share a portion of their earned time off with their fellow employees when needed.

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