I can remember when companies treated their employees like extended family. Employers realized that making a work environment comfortable encouraged employees to stay longer and work harder. Employees liked going to work everyday and left with a feeling of belonging and job satisfaction (if they left at all). Employers encouraged a Work/Play balance that contributed directly to enhanced creativity which in turn lead to innovation that kept companies on the leading edge of their market segments.
It’s clear to me that there are still some companies out there that know how to build an enjoyable, productive environment and they are realizing the benefits. The thing that surprises me is the number of companies that just don’t get it.
In the late 80’s the startup company that I worked for was trying to get a new product to market in a cost effective way and they realized that adding staff would not achieve the goal. What they needed was to have their existing employees work longer hours. They decided to offer the employees an opportunity to take their families to Disney World and Fort Lauderdale for an extended weekend. The company chartered a plane to make sure that everyone would travel together, they booked hotels and paid for everything. That trip became a legend that stuck with the company for years as a shining example of what could be accomplished when everyone had a common goal.
In actual fact if the employees were to add up the cost of the unpaid overtime and compare that against the cost of the adventure, they would have realized that the company came out on top. The company saved money on salaries and ended up with a world class product.
You could say that wasn’t fair, but the part I left out was that every employee was a share holder and the eventual success of the company paid way more than anything that was lost in salary. As an employee, I know that I really didn’t care. I had the adventure of a life time, made friends that I still have today and learned things that I continue to use in my work life 30 years later. I don’t think that I have ever learned as much in a compressed period of time. Did I compromise other things, yes … there are only a fixed number of hours in a day and I had to sacrifice time with my wife. We talked about it in advance to make sure there were no suprizes and we both enjoyed the adventure. Money from the companies shares paid off our first house!!
What’s the moral of the story?
It’s not always obvious what people will do when challenged and it’s not obvious to those same people what the benefits of sacrifice and challenge will yield. So, add a pool table or a beer keg, make sure all your employees are share holders and have an open dialog so that those shareholders know what needs to be done.
Adventures have more value than they cost and a first class work place will pay dividends that competitors can’t match. Companies have reputations and those reputations attract potential employees. If you want the best, you have to be the best.
Money is important but there is more than one way to achieve your financial goals. There are things more important than money and the two are not mutually exclusive.