December 18, 2018

I have written before that one of the significant differences between good management and great leadership is how we develop our people. Great leaders see a whole person, not just the well-trained employee; they value people for their strengths, but also acknowledge challenges and help develop solutions; and they take a keen interest in the employee outside of work – celebrating their personal accomplishments and supporting their greater needs.

I was blown away when I read about Hypertherm, an industrial cutting tool manufacturer in New Hampshire. (The Washington Post.) Hypertherm is considered “recovery friendly,” an organization that hires, retains and supports employees who have struggled with addiction and recovery.

Our nation is facing an opioid addiction and overdose crisis. Many cities and counties are struggling with the emotional toll and overburdening of family support services that comes with abuse and death from drug-related problems. Those same areas are struggling with a work force challenge.

Hypertherm, and recovery friendly companies like them, took the first step by overlooking employment gaps and brushes with the law that often come from a history of drug use. Once they were willing to hire employees who had previously been ignored or avoided, Hypertherm provided support through recovery. Their work place encourages open dialogue about how people are struggling and offers counseling and support.

The circle of leadership grows, as employees in turn volunteer at crisis recovery centers and become mentors to others who struggle. Recovering addicts who have gainful employment benefit from being part of a team and making a contribution to an organization. People who feel like they belong and that they matter are much less likely to relapse.

Although the risk doesn’t always pay off, most often it does and employers find that recovered addicts are among the most loyal and long-term employees. In this day of rock-bottom unemployment, it becomes a win-win-win… employee, organization and community are all benefiting from the recovery friendly approach.