Recently, Bob Fryling, publisher of InterVarsity Press, told me about a daunting challenge that faced his organization. You’re in for some fresh, relevant examples for building greater trust, honest and open communication, and a sustainable strategy – all keys to boldly facing the digital revolution that is turning Christian publishing upside down.
“The digital revolution, as well as new, changing reading habits, prompted our company to make some major changes in how we do business. We were committed to remaining relevant and true to our call of publishing resources that equip and encourage people to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord in all of life. To continue to accomplish that, we had to produce eBooks for all of our books while still maintaining a successful print publishing business.”
It was like trying to drive the car while changing the engine at the same time.”
What were their keys to survival? For IVP, the solution emerged through its people.
Bob and all of IVP’s senior leadership affirmed three signature strengths of the company’s healthy workplace culture – strengths identified through the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey, which they have faithfully implemented over the past 13 years.
Says Bob, “The dual challenge of creating a digital printing house on top of a print publishing business required a lot of trust and partnership of our established departments.”
Trust took hold and permeated the IVP culture. Today, trust continues to grow for good reason:
- Bob personally meets with each new employee on his or her first day of work. “We find that transparency and trust grows as we invite our people to participate in our culture, rather than just having to learn it.”
- IVP’s people own their culture (and thereby deepen their trust) by reviewing all measures of a healthy, flourishing culture, with special emphasis on both their Top 10 and Bottom 10. “This process gives us a sense of what we’re doing well, and how to work together on areas that need improvement.
2. Honest, Open Communication
Thoughtful approaches for delivering targeted information help IVP’s people understand the rationale behind key decisions. These include:
- Regular all-staff meetings that remind people of IVP’s purpose through announcement of forthcoming books, author presentations and industry news.
- Fresh and regular reminders from Bob of IVP’s progress. He regularly writes a personal update email to keep the staff informed.
- Daily financial charts on income, plus in-depth financial reports relieve people of needless guesswork and instills greater ongoing trust. “People don’t like spin. They want accurate information about where the company is and where we’re going.”
- All IVP employees are encouraged to refrain from business email on Sunday. This expression of Sabbath is an emphasis in Bob’s new book, The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How We Lead by Who We Are.
3. Sustainable Strategy
A third strength of IVP’s healthy culture is how leadership constantly involves its people in shaping the company’s calling through:
- Twice-a-year executive leadership meetings of all department heads. All employees receive a major report after each retreat.
- An annual “IVP Day” involving all employees to speak into a major issue, such as multi-ethnic publishing or managing conflict, the focus for 2015’s event.
Not only has InterVarsity Press clearly addressed and survived the digital-print challenge, the company continues to thrive through its people, who look forward coming to work for a respected Christian publishing house with 120 new titles annually and 1,400 back-listed titles.
Their publisher knows this story better than anyone. Which is why Bob deserves the last word:
Considering our culture and our company, I keep coming back to Jesus, the greatest model of Christian leadership: ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). That’s something we can call aspire to and pray through each day for our organizations and ourselves:
To be full of grace and be graceful,
to be full of truth and be truthful,
to be full of peace and be peaceful,
to be full of joy and be joyful.”