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Susan M. Heathfield


By March 6, 2009

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A client company is experiencing the downside of a profit sharing system and not realizing the benefits of employee valuing actions embraced long ago.

Many of the events and activities fostered in earlier years have become entitlements for the employees who have come to expect these perks as part of the way the company does business every day. It will be a difficult transition to help employees understand that free lunches, free beverages every day, and paid company celebrations and events had a powerful core reason for existing when they were created.

The newer employees have no clue about the history of the company or why these events, activities, and customs were created, what they hope to achieve, or why they are currently provided. I have long believed that companies need to do a much better job of educating employees about the cost of the benefits they receive and the reason the benefits are being provided, as an example. Before every event, the history and the reasons for holding the event should be communicated. Too often the newer employees never hear the company stories nor understand the uniqueness of the way in which they are valued in an employee-oriented company.

I am an even bigger believer in not allowing people to take for granted company provisions that were initiated to value people, but become entitlements when people fail to understand the history, the rationale, or the value. Yup, I'm on a roll today, having encountered several of these situations in recent months.

From Valuing to Entitlement

Here's an example, I worked with a small Web design company whose president decided to bring in Friday lunch as a way to build his team. Team building was the sole purpose for the lunches. After a couple of months passed, he was approached by a group of employees who wanted to bring the food back to their offices instead of eating with the group. He reminded them of the reason why he brought in the lunch and explained that eating at their desk was not an option.

The next time I saw him, the story was even funnier, another group of employees approached him and said they didn't want to eat in every Friday. He said, fine, the lunch is a voluntary team building event. Their response? Well, if it's a voluntary event, than we'd rather that you just give us the money so we can buy our lunches somewhere in town... 'Nuff said? Last I knew, he had decided to bring lunch into the office twice a month.

Educate people and enable the recognition provided to support the development of the culture you want to create.

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