From file "064_pss" entitled "PSdnaFTR.qxd" page 01
From file "064_pss" entitled "PSdnaFTR.qxd" page 01

Before Mike Brezina was offered a job at David Weekley Homes, CEO John Johnson showed up at his doorstep to make sure Brezina's wife and kids knew what Dad was getting into. Working as vice president of human resources at the 1,500-employee company would be demanding and require long hours, so Johnson wanted to be up front with the people closest to Brezina before he took the job.

“We want to make sure that the significant other in a person's life understands what we're all about,” Johnson says. Johnson didn't stop by just because Brezina, who got the job at the Houston-based home builder in 2004, was coming into the executive suite. Conducting a “key influencer” visit is standard operating procedure at David Weekley, which strives to include employees' families in the workplace. “We really try to hire the whole person,” Johnson says, “because we've found that often those significant others become advocates of ours in times of stress and unhappiness at work.”

Mike Brezina, vice president of human resources, David Weekley Homes. Year founded: 1976, Headquarters: Houston, Number of locations: Builds in 16 cities, Number of employees: 1,551, 2005 gross sales: $1.2 billion, 2005 homes closed: 4,612

The whole-family approach is one aspect that has helped the firm be named to Fortune magazine's “100 Best Companies to Work For” list five times. And in a fast-paced industry where balancing work and family has become increasingly challenging, it is this focus on employees' families that sets David Weekley apart. “I joke around with John Johnson and [founder] David Weekley that my wife loves this place as much or more than I do,” Brezina says.

Interacting with employees' families doesn't stop after the hiring process. The company has regular, family-oriented functions, such as barbeques, picnics, and holiday parties, where employees are encouraged to bring family to “celebrate success.” The firm offers counseling to employees and their families through its non-denominational “Marketplace Ministries” program, and has chaplains available to help with wedding and funeral arrangements. In 2004 after Weekley met long-term growth and customer satisfaction goals, the company flew all employees and their families to Hawaii for a five-day paid vacation.

While family-friendly, the firm cautions it isn't “touchy feely,” nor is it an undemanding place to work. Customer satisfaction results are posted daily, and internal statistics, such as retention and job satisfaction, are routinely shared with the work force and reviewed by the top brass. If one department is experiencing unusually high turnover, Johnson says he's got no qualms about asking why. “We've got an HR department, but if a particular team is having an issue, I'll go to the manager responsible; I don't go to HR,” he says. The company is also not afraid to let workers know when they need to improve, and routinely provides feedback, good and bad, in quarterly reviews. “You owe it to an employee to tell them if they're not performing,” Johnson says. “We'll actually write down for somebody that they have to improve on these three things or they're not going to have a job.”

Bryan Booth, a project manager who's worked at Weekley for nearly 10 years, will use problems encountered by his employees as lessons to others. When one of Booth's builders was failed by an inspector on a new method for constructing foundation beams, Booth made sure all his builders knew what the issue was. “We had kind of changed it overnight, so the first guy who went through the process wasn't clear on what was expected,” Booth says. “Rather than waiting for the other six guys to experience the same problem, we got everybody out there to look at it.”

Booth admits that the up-close-and-personal, family-oriented approach isn't for everyone. “Sometimes, when we tell people we're going to celebrate success and that we want their family involved, they think it's a good idea at first,” Booth says. “But then, when it actually happens, they start thinking that it's like Big Brother. I really wish we could come up with some sort of a litmus test to see if somebody's going to embrace the culture or not.”

But in his own life, the company he works for plays a vital role for both him and his family. Like Brezina's spouse, Booth's wife backs the firm when things get tough. “If I ever came home and told her I was going to quit David Weekley, after I came to from her knocking me out, we'd have a very long conversation about it,” Booth says. “She really likes the company; even though she knows it's not perfect, it strives to be. They don't just talk the talk, they do it.”