Engagement Practice _ 47: Initiate a Culture of ‘‘Giving-Before-Getting’’

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Some companies initiate generous work-life and health benefits for their

employees out of genuine, warm-hearted caring, and others do so more as

a means to an end—capturing and keeping talent. My research and experience

tell me that employers with the former motivation generally build

more caring everyday cultures and arouse more commitment from their

employees. That does not mean that taking a more calculating approach

based on generous benefits cannot succeed. I believe it can, especially if the

decision to provide those new benefits signals the beginning of a cultural

transformation based on a more caring and respectful treatment of the

workforce.

In researching the best practices of employers of choice in the late

1990s for my first book, I was struck by how often the companies identified

as employers of choice were led by CEOs with a sincere passion for taking

care of their employees as people: Jim Goodnight at SAS Institute, Quint

Studer at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Herb Kelleher at Southwest

Airlines, Hal Rosenbluth at Rosenbluth Travel, and Wilton Connor at

Wilton-Connor Packaging Company—to name a few out of a growing

number.

What I noticed in all these leaders was their ‘‘if-we-build-it-they-willcome’’

faith in making the first move. What they all seemed to know

intuitively was that if they demonstrated an initial willingness to trust their

employees by giving valued services, then the employees would willingly

reciprocate. As astute business executives, they also certainly realized that

well-treated employees take better care of customers, but that realization

did not seem to be the driver of their generosity.