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The panel

Comcast's senior vice president of the greater Chicago region Leann Talbot (upper left), Loyola University President Father Michael Garanzini (upper right), Abt Electronics Co-President Jon Abt (lower right), and Jill Smart, worldwide head of human resources for Accenture (lower left). (Chicago Tribune staff photos)

•"Try not to miss an opportunity to publicly congratulate or recognize someone for what they've done. Those are better rewards than monetary rewards. Public recognition is so much more valuable to most than a small check or bonus. If there's anything that we neglect, it's that we neglect to recognize the small efforts that people make."

Jill Smart
Chief human resources officer at Accenture

Smart has been with Accenture more than 30 years. She has found that one of the keys to maintaining a happy and driven workforce is giving employees opportunities.

"Our people and the type of people we hire don't want to stagnate," Smart said. "They may not want a career trajectory that's just up and up the ladder. But they want to develop and grow, they want to develop their skills, they want to learn new things."

To that end, the company offers an array of courses in social media, leadership development and mentoring.

Smart believes that presenting employees, in any workplace setting, with ways to challenge themselves and push in different directions will inherently breed satisfaction and loyalty.

"Regardless of your size, companies need to set expectations and be able to tell their employees what the opportunities are and aren't," she said. "I think you need to have a strong, transparent organizational culture and core values, regardless of whether you're 243,000 people or two people."

One of Accenture's core values, Smart said, is respect for the individual.

She carries around a list of ways she can be a better leader. One item on the list used to say: "Treat people the way you want to be treated." She changed it to say: "Treat people the way they want to be treated."

That's an important distinction from a person in charge: focusing on the way "they" — the workers — want to be treated, not on how you — the boss — want to be treated.

That approach is working in all four of these companies. It's simple, yet profound — and effective.

Be open, be decent, be fair. That's what makes a happy workplace.

Rex Huppke writes the "I Just Work Here" column for the Monday Tribune business section and Trib U.
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