The horror of Japan's recent earthquake and resulting catastrophic tsunami really reminded all of us how delicate our daily lives can be when Mother Nature chooses to make her presence known to humanity. However, what may even be more tragic is how some companies are using the misfortune of so many as subtle marketing opportunities for themselves.
I am referring to the "humanitarian" pleas some firms are making, usually through social media and seemingly innocent and caring in nature, where they will donate "X" amount of currency based on some arbitrary form of customer responses that are being solicited (for example, "likes" submitted via a temporary Facebook page) per the short-sighted promotions. What I am not understanding is why such charity has to have such idiotic conditions placed on it? Why can't we as business owners sometimes turn the switch off and simply act as caring and empathetic human beings and, going against our capitalistic DNA, not try to spin destructive events in the direction that will best benefit our commercial objectives? Instead of engaging in such misguided hegemony, why not just quietly make a donation to a relevant charity? As a contrarian show of support, why not allow employees to take paid time off to assist in the massive restoration effort?
Though economies are always evolving, we as workers who propagate them must sometimes step back and realize business is made up of merely people who have meaningful lives away from the office. When a lethal disaster strikes with little notice, these lives instantly become chaotic at best. The least we can do as members of a global business ecosystem is to never lose the ability to feel empathetic toward our fellow (wo)man. Therefore, let's all do our best not to take the "glad it's not me" approach by engaging in such pathetic attempts for increased corporate exposure. Regardless of what you might hear on CNBC or via a Mob movie scene, business doesn't always have to be just...business.
Don't worry- this post will have no further references to certain fastball-throwing Warlocks. Rather, I came across an interesting blog post from SocialCast which raises the question as to whether or not a healthy salary is sufficient to attract and retain winning (sorry, had to sneak it in there) employees. If you're a materialistic person, you probably think this is a slam dunk (it is March afterall). Duh, cash is king! (whoops, I did it again) However, I'd urge you to reconsider.
I actually have experience with organizations generous enough to pay well, but that also tended to treat headcount as mere commodities. People were to show up and do their jobs without much appreciation (as your pay was deemed enough) and certainly with little regard to staff having a sense of pride in the output collectively generated. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for descriptions such as "pie in the sky," "BS" or "disruptive (coupled with a dismissive laugh)" to be used around the office when talking about extravagant employee perks other companies were providing such as a table tennis complex, Xbox studio or pet massages. Why on earth would companies want to WASTE money on these things? Well, the aforementioned post gives a good clue to the answer. Namely, employees want a sense of purpose which the article states is "...the hope to make a contribution."
From the employer standpoint, you should be thinking about how to best promote pride and purpose amongst the backbone of your company. You want staffers to WANT to "hang out" at work every day. You want them to be willing to defend your business' purpose and standing within your industry. The fact is that money comes and goes. The post describes financial perks as being only "short term." Somebody can always get more currency elsewhere if they so seek it. However, people who are ingrained into the fabric of your corporate mission aren't so easily swayed by external factors. They are the ones who stay late and who think nothing of it to answer a customer's email while supposedly "decompressing" after-hours at their local coffee shop.
Ok, so as a small business owner, how do you get employees to think and act for collective good? The first thing is that you have to eliminate an "us" v. "them" mentality where the former is obviously ownership and senior management while the latter is the rank and file. You need to conduct business in a "we" fashion. As the post again so cogently points out, it is not hard to do this. Reinforcing this culture is made up of the following elements and let me comment on them as well:
Though you may have spent countless hours perfecting your product/service and many sleepless nights worrying about generating revenue to get your company where it is today, never forget that you can't and don't do everything yourself. Your employees are your foundation and a business can get off track quite easily if they become apathetic about your goals and their role in achieving them. Get out of your comfort zone and create new or modify existing perks that will make your workers feel compelled to run through walls for your business. Doing so will make everyone feel like they're WINNING! (sorry, I'm hopeless...)