One hundred and twenty-five years is far beyond the average lifespan of a company, such as Rexnord Corporation. So how has an industrial supply company that made its public debut the same year as the Pledge of Allegiance managed to remain vital, boasting a global presence with eight thousand employees worldwide?
According to chief human resources officer George Powers, Rexnord Corporation’s relentless commitment to continuous growth and an engaged workforce has enabled the company to outlast its competitors and venture into new markets. Grounded in the “spirit of continuous improvement,” the company’s own Rexnord Business System (RBS) provides a framework and growth model that not only lends itself to scalability and continuous growth across the company, but, Powers says, is also ultimately driven by and involves employees.
“RBS is based on the idea that if you have great people, a winning plan, and repeatable processes, you can perform a little bit better for our customers each day,” Powers says. He has witnessed firsthand RBS’s ability to enable speed, scalability, and consistency.
RBS promotes a common approach that is sustainable and provides a competitive advantage. RBS looks at business practice benefits the same way one might manage a portfolio or savings account. The hope is for consistent positive behaviors and practices to produce exponentially compounded results. “We look at the secret to RBS as understanding that continuous improvement compounds every day,” Powers says.
That belief is applied company-wide. Every leader at Rexnord attends a three-day RBS boot camp where they are certified in a number of processes that help comprise RBS. Powers says that the boot camp made a strong impression immediately. “The first thing it did was really help me understand that I had to position HR in a much more outcomes- and results-oriented manner,” Powers says. “I had to be much more disciplined about what we’re doing and how it’s driving outcomes.”
It’s exactly that willingness to reframe and adapt that has helped Powers accrue such success with his HR team in a relatively short time span. Powers says that HR’s identity has evolved drastically from essentially a support function established to respond and react—a far cry from the industry goal for HR and a far cry from where HR is at Rexnord today. “Being proactive is really where the value of HR comes in in the strategic sense,” she says.
Being proactive also ties back into the goals of continuous growth at the foundations of RBS. “I’m asked every day—like all of our leaders—to find ways to continuously improve,” Powers says. “It’s the culture here from an RBS perspective to be proactive.”
Powers says that transparency and communication are essential for continuous improvement not just in his role, but for all the leaders at Rexnord. “Go see,” a common company expression, encourages leaders to go out into the field to get a better understanding of operations facilities, associates, and partners and to get an unfiltered perspective from bottom to top. “We just spent the last two months going and seeing our sites around the world, conducting town hall meetings, sharing things we’re driving from a strategic perspective, and listening to our associates on what matters to them,” Powers says. This prevents leaders from becoming disconnected from the overall business that makes Rexnord what it is, and it reminds Rexnord’s employees that there’s real value in having a current and active pulse on the business.
“During those town hall meetings, we had the opportunity to talk about how RBS supports our core values, encourages employee contributions, and empowers everyone at all times to solve smarter,” Powers explains. “Our ethical standards are non-negotiable, our community involvement is powerful, and we treat people with dignity and respect. Ultimately, we know the best ideas come from unique perspectives, and our talent management process is designed to help employees every step of the way—from acquiring talent to continued growth and development.”
Employees also have access to a company intranet site where they can further discuss key ideas and continuous improvements that are important to their corner of Rexnord. The dashboard is part of a larger intercompany knowledge management system that was developed to help facilitate the flow of good ideas across the company. Powers says it has been a valuable asset in helping reinforce RBS principles and encourage discussion among Rexnord associates. It’s an accomplishment that Powers is proud of because he can see RBS success stories posted every day.
“RBS is based on the idea that if you have great people, a winning plan, and repeatable processes, you can perform a little bit better for our customers each day.”
Looking ahead, Powers says that HR has a tremendous opportunity to step up and be part of Rexnord’s continuing digital revolution in the marketplace. “By leveraging RBS, HR can step in and help the organization by anticipating what it is going to take from our people to be successful with an agenda that hasn’t been the traditional agenda of the past,” Powers says. There are a number of opportunities that his team has identified and is already putting into action. Those great growth opportunities, he says, are strengthened as RBS behaviors continue to be embedded into company culture and leadership.
While Rexnord combines a proven legacy of quality and growth with the newest thinking about technology, digital solutions, and smart products in the industry, Powers remains confident that the company’s 125- year history of reinvention will continue to serve it well: “You don’t last 125 years in business if you’re not continuing to evolve.”