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HR Magazine, July 2004 - Green Mountain Brews Passion

By Adrienne Fox  7/1/2004
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HR Magazine, July 2004

Vol. 49, No. 7

Great Places to Work: Analytical Graphics Inc.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
33 Coffee Lane
Waterbury, Vermont 05676-1529

“Find your passion” should be the workplace motto of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., a coffee manufacturer and distributor. CEO and founder Robert P. Stiller strongly believes that if the nearly 600 employees aren’t passionate about their work, they can’t perform at the level needed to make the company successful. Therefore, the company’s training programs and development opportunities center on the search for each individual’s passion, even if that path leads those individuals away from the company.

The company’s new Your Wildest Dreams program asks participants to remember high points in their lives to determine what they’re most passionate about. The exercises include interviewing co-workers about their strengths and brainstorming goals.

Programs such as this may sound like feel-good fluff, but every training program offered by Green Mountain, which has annual revenue of $115 million, is directly tied to performance and the business. Even the meditation program is designed to help employees focus better on the job.

And opportunities for job skills training and professional growth abound at this environmentally and socially conscious business in the small town of Waterbury, Vt. The company offers employees a wide variety of programs, ranging from leadership training to financial literacy programs to Dale Carnegie classes.

Stacy Lang joined the company at age 21 as a data entry clerk and seized every opportunity possible to learn and grow. Green Mountain paid for her compensation training and Dale Carnegie class, and now Lang serves as an HR manager specializing in compensation and technology.

“Anyone who has had an eager desire for personal growth, Bob’s supported that,” she says of the CEO.

Others stretch themselves through the company’s financial literacy program, where employees from all levels teach each other. You may find a coffee roaster teaching a sales manager about profit and loss terms, how his job affects the bottom line, and the company’s employee stock purchase plan and benefits.

Pulling together people from different levels and departments for projects is common at Green Mountain. Doing so gives employees development opportunities they wouldn’t normally have, says Kathy Brooks, vice president of HR.

“We are very team-based here,” says Brooks, who was hired by Stiller last year to focus on organizational development. “People pitch in to do whatever needs [to be] done.”

Some people don’t thrive in this kind of environment, Brooks says, but others make the most of the opportunities given to them.

Lance Mansfield is one of those who have thrived. He was 19 when he began loading trucks at Green Mountain and never saw himself as a manager until his supervisor recognized his potential. Since then, several of his supervisors have mentored him; Mansfield says that mentoring “happens naturally here.”

Mansfield’s most recent supervisor groomed him to succeed her. “I worked on projects normally reserved for supervisors, and I sat in on key meetings,” he recalls. These experiences, coupled with the leadership training he received, helped prepare him for the service dispatch supervisory role he has held for three years.

“The philosophy here is to promote from within,” Mansfield says. “People love to see co-workers promoted and recognized for their strengths.”

Adrienne Fox

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