Startup Morale

OfficeSpace

Every day I enter the doors to my current place of employment I pass by 3 plaques housing the names of every employee honored for 20 years or more of employment there.  The plaques have accumulated 180 names total.  Sadly this is a rarity in today’s marketplace.  I would wager that 20 years from now, those plaques are removed because few new names are being added.  This is no disrespect to my employer it’s just the reality of the marketplace where jobs are constantly abandoned for greener pastures. Loyalty exists paycheck to paycheck simply because money is usually the only morale driver at least in my region of the country.

I live in the Midwest where the famed startup stories and legends of company perks at places like Google are only part of some mythical place known as Silicon Valley.  Typically the only benefits that differentiate one company from another in these parts is the amount of out of pocket expense incurred for yearly medical benefits.  Boring.  Except for the local Big Oil company or two most benefits and company policies are fairly interchangeable from one place to the next.  Now I currently have a couple entrepreneurial things on the back burner and who knows maybe one day something will take off.  When it does I’ve got a wish list of perks or intangibles I hope to institute from the start that I hope will coax a few people to work for me and stay put.  Here they are and reasons why in no particular order:

  1. Offer A Flex Work Schedule.  Can you say Half Day Fridays?  This is something common in places like Colorado where you live in a real life playground but it makes sense for many other practical reasons besides morale that I won’t list here.  I once watched a 60 Minutes special on Patagonia the outdoor gear outfitter based in California.  One key to their employee success and productivity they highlighted was a very liberal and trusting flexible work schedule policy.  It was simple; get your time in when you wanted to…period.  For example employees still had to put in a 40 hour workweek but if someone popped in the door and boisterously exclaimed, “Surf’s up!”, they bolted for the beach and returned to work that afternoon, evening, or weekend when their cups were full and the waves had died down.  It didn’t matter when so long as you got your hours in.  You can only imagine the loyal employee base they have as a result!  For some this simple flexible policy will cause an employee to think real hard before bolting for a  job that paid a couple dollars an hour more.  That’s a novel concept that certainly goes against the grain of our punch card culture for standard factory workers but perhaps a slightly more restrictive policy will still produce similar results.  I know for me a similar policy would’ve allowed me to catch my son make his first snow angel this year rather than sulk that the moment was enjoyed via a texted photo.  I would have happily came in the following Saturday after the snow had melted if I could’ve left early that day.
  2. Work To Play Is The Company Motto!  I’ll never understand our country’s aversion to vacation allotment but it’s not remotely close in comparison to the rest of the industrial world.  Some will argue it’s a factor that affords us the world’s largest economy but I say bunk.  I say we’re successful in spite of our lack of vacation days.  Two weeks a year seems to be the universally accepted starting vacation policy.  That typically goes up as a reward for different milestones of company service.  I’ll offer 3 weeks starting vacation minimum not counting personal time.
  3. Provide Only The Best Stuff For Employees.  If the smartphone and tablet trend has taught us anything it’s that employees are tired of drab corporate centric products.  Buy them that iPhone, iPad, or touch mouse they envy.  Buy them the best gear available to do their job or at least help them get it.  My company pays up to $100/year for steel toe shoes.  I took the $100 and added $30 out of pocket to buy a premium brand that are ridiculously comfortable.  I haven’t dipped into that $100 allowance the last 2 years because I’m quite happy with the pair I bought then.  I’d say this was a win win policy for my company and me.
  4. Offer Internet Freedom.  Want to foster employee loyalty?  Show some trust.  Naturally all things should be doled out in proper portions but for most company internet policies that means an all or nothing approach.  Bandwidth restrictions I get because we are after all at work to be productive and a few Pandora boneheads can really sap internet productivity for the responsible majority.  Restricting adult sites is a no brainer too, but that’s where I think a line should be drawn after.  For starters open up social sites already!  Get with the times employers and let your employees have a free second to make evening plans with their buddies or even a coworker.  Internet filters in my opinion are a lazy exec’s way of micromanaging.  It’s silly.  If your employees are judged on their productivity and performance and they’re spending all their time on Facebook then their performance will suffer.  These things work themselves out if your people are being fairly judged on performance.
  5. Never Waste Employees’ Time.  Don’t make your accountant take a 45 minute online safety training course covering the proper shop safety gear when he/she will never ever set foot on the factory floor.  Limit the allowable number of meetings/length of meetings for each business day.  I know this sounds restrictive but most employees will actually appreciate such a policy for it’s time-respecting merits.
  6. Premium Toilet Paper.  This one is self explanatory.
  7. Free Great Coffee.  Can I get an Amen!  Don’t be cheap, pick one great perk like free premium brand coffer or an expresso machine to splurge on your employees. It really is the small things that count folks.
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