Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin and Metropolitan Chicago– the largest of 161 Goodwill organizations internationally – announced this spring plans to sell its Greendale headquarters building, establish a new HQ within a work and training center on Milwaukee’s far northwest side, and make its hybrid work model permanent for employees. Those decisions were driven by what leaders described as a shift in the social enterprise’s service delivery and commitment to be more embedded in the communities it serves. BizTimes Milwaukee associate editor Lauren Anderson recently caught up with Hallberg on what the shift means for the organization.
What went into your decision?
“It became pretty clear to us, as an employer, we’re going to have to offer greater flexibility. We want to be inclusive and create a company culture where we’re able to attract and retain top talent. We learned we could do that.
“The other thing that became very important to us … is that we have been transitioning our mission service delivery from being part of larger Goodwill facilities to moving that directly into the community, where individuals are at. We’ve been on that path to do more service delivery in the communities throughout our territory.
“And I’m a strong believer that when you are operating in the support level or the corporate level, you need to be connected with the mission and you need to be connected with our business operations that support our mission. So, we’re going to distribute our leadership team into facilities across our territory so we can be close to the mission operations. It reminds you when you show up to work every day why you’re going to work every day.”
Will you lose synergy if your leaders are spread out?
“What we’ll see is a lot of hoteling space and a lot of collaborative space. So, we may have executives that are housed in Chicago, housed in Milwaukee, the southeastern Wisconsin area, but we’ll hold leadership team meetings in common spaces, so we are working together on a regular basis. … We have learned how to be a team while working remotely, and so we know we can do it, but at the end of the day it has to be a combination. Having in-person connection creates relationship, it sets the tone.”
Significance of returning to Milwaukee?
“The James O. Wright Center was purpose-built for Goodwill in the (early 1960s) and has been our corporate headquarters until recent history. So, it is our history, and it’s also our future because of where it’s located on the northwest side of Milwaukee. We are attached to the community. We are where mission delivery needs to take place.”
Lessons in managing through change
“In 2020, we actually started to engage in a long-term strategic planning process to say, ‘What does Goodwill need to look like 10 years from now?’ It’s really easy to get caught up in the crisis of the day, which you have to manage, and you can’t downplay that. … But when there’s a crisis, there’s also opportunity to really change direction, if necessary, to focus on things that become really important.”