Management Theorist

Frederic Herzberg said, “If you want people to do a good job, you need to give them a good job to do.” That's the philosophy at Nordson Corp., this year's People Performance Management Award winner, based in Westlake, Ohio. The award, sponsored by the Forum for People Performance Management & Measurement at Northwestern University, honors companies that successfully integrate internal and external motivational strategies to promote business growth through an engaged workforce.

“First and foremost, we believe that the best way to motivate and to get the best out of your employees is to give them interesting work and enough authority to make decisions that they can see visibly impact the success of customers and Nordson's success,” says Bruce Fields, vice president of human resources at the $839 million manufacturer and worldwide distributor of industrial equipment. “We surround that with a supportive, career- and development-oriented community and a flexible management culture.” That's the formula.

Nordson supports employee career development in a number of ways. It has a tuition-reimbursement program that allows employees to pursue advanced degrees as well as a number of in-house training programs, coordinated and sometimes delivered by Fields' 40-member human resources staff. HR works with the company's leaders each year to identify what they would like to emphasize in their training programs. That could range from quality techniques and measurements to training in “balanced scorecards,” a popular strategic management system. Annual reviews between employees and their managers always involve a discussion of each employee's career goals and upcoming training opportunities.

Employees can also expand their roles by taking on responsibilities that are not in their job descriptions. “If you see something that needs to be done that nobody else is doing, you can go to your boss and say, ‘I'm interested in learning more about how to do that,’ and go to it,” Fields says.

Employees are recognized and rewarded informally but often. Managers are encouraged to take action when people go above and beyond, “Whether it's ‘Hey, take your spouse out to dinner on Nordson’ or recognizing that person at a meeting,” says Fields.

Does Fields believe that these philosophies are integral to this company's success? Absolutely. “If we can get employees to be able to achieve their personal goals, then they will be the type of employee who is engaged and interested in solving the customer's problems, which then works for us.

“Our employees generally wake up in the morning knowing that if they do right by the customer, they are typically doing right by Nordson.”

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees; and a frequent presenter to management groups and conferences. For more information, visit

Nordson's Formula:

  • Support and involvement
  • Autonomy and authority
  • Learning and development
  • Flexibility