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Why Caring Companies Win


ome of the most forward-thinking companies in

genuinely emphasizes the quality of people’s lives with a

their employees’ experiences at work and their

For the past two years, most business leaders have been

the country are putting people first by improving

work/life balance. And they are prospering. The approach may

preoccupied with finding ways to keep their core busi-

mance in an economy battered by change, according to a recent

Employees have been exposed to a variety of strategies

be the most effective strategy for improving company perforstudy by the Forum for People Performance Management and

Measurement, a Naperville, Ill.-based research center affiliated with Northwestern University.

Post-recession economics are paving the way for new

approaches to employee engagement and business productivity. The emergence of social media, an increasing need

for transparency, and labor market trends are transforming

Fall 2010

the global marketplace into a people-centered economy,

giving rise to a new concept called “employee enrich-

ment.” Employee enrichment is a strategic approach that


“people-first” orientation.

ness operating — to simply keep the organization alive. designed not only to attract the best talent, but to also

make them as productive as possible. Engagement techniques such as special training, career development and

employee incentives have worked, often yielding measurable results. Nevertheless, the past two years have seen far

too many employees preoccupied with the impact of a shrinking economy and company downsizing. This has left them

grateful for just being able to keep the jobs they have and their

leaders at a loss as to how to improve employee engagement and productivity.

Customer Care News

But the good news from all the upheaval is that there has

never been a better time to try new methods for improving the work environment, keeping employees engaged and generating better business results.

ronment. The fundamental shifts require organizations to place less emphasis on control and a more sincere emphasis on people.

In recent years, interest in how employees feel about their

One promising approach is detailed in a new study by the

work environments and leaders

entitled, “Leadership and the Performance of People in

of business organizations sur-

Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement Organizations: Enriching Employees and Connecting People” (Won-joo Yun and Frank Mulhern, Nov. 2009).

The study reframes the concept of business leadership

from a people-first perspective, examining the importance

of identifying and meeting the needs of multiple constituents — employees, consumers, shareholders and the community at large. The central focus is a concept called “employee enrichment.”

has grown as increasing numbers vey, study and reward successful

companies for exemplary human

Central to the concept of enrichment is a focus on the well-being of individuals.

resource practices. In just one

example, Fortune magazine partners annually with the Great Places to Work Institute® to conduct one of the most extensive

employee surveys and cultural audits in the United States in order to select the 100 “Best Companies to Work For.”

The Great Places to Work Institute website includes

Employee enrichment extends beyond the concept of

examples of what employees at some of the best workplaces say

employees to really have better lives. It addresses work and

• “Management truly encourages and expects individuals

work/life balance to encompass real concern for helping non-work factors and attempts to enhance people’s lives based

on the expectation that the better a person’s well-being, the better that person performs.

The concept of employee enrichment is very different from

employee engagement, which more or less says, “Management

wants employees to be engaged so they perform better for the company.” The study abandons the idea of using people to make an organization perform better and replaces it with a

“people-first” orientation. Implicit, but not dominant, is the

about their work environments:

to care for themselves before work. They understand personal lives are more important than jobs.”

• “We are obviously in business to make money, but the

people come before profits. The company takes care of the people first, and the people in turn take care of the profits.”

• “The company is always striving to improve itself and

at the same time giving individuals the motivation and encouragement to achieve their desires.”

expected positive outcome that enriched employees have on

• “Every morning I wake up I am more than excited to get

encourages an organization to make people the priority and

appreciates it.” (

the organization’s performance. The enrichment approach

then figure out how to make money in a people-first envi-

to work and do the best I can for a company that really ees.php, downloaded 1/8/2010.)

Fall 2010


Central to the concept of enrichment is a focus on the

each party sacrifices something to achieve something else.

for the employee and how employee interests are aligned to

tion and benefits. Employers provide compensation and ben-

well-being of individuals. The emphasis shifts to what is good organizational objectives. The reality is that people are the lifeblood of any organization. People provide resources to the

firm, shareholders provide capital, customers provide revenue

and profits, and employees provide labor, innovation, service and a host of other components that make success possible.

Using an enrichment focus means that care for the wel-

fare of people must be central to the organization’s culture.

its objective. In the context of a people-centered approach,

enriching the lives of employees gets added to the overall value exchange. The value exchange ultimately encompasses all aspects of what people get from organizations and what organizations get from people.

In the most recent selection of Fortune magazine’s Best

Companies to Work For (CNN, downloaded

relationships they have with their co-workers. Yet leadership

as: a fully staffed on-site medical center, a free fitness center

and management practices provide limited guidance on how organizations should build healthy communities and foster a culture of caring.

Fall 2010

efits in exchange for labor that helps the organization achieve

Places of employment are real communities for the people who work there. Employees place tremendous value on the

At the heart of the relationship between the employer

and the employee is the idea of a value exchange whereby


Employees provide time and effort in exchange for compensa-

1/21/10), extraordinary employee perks include such things and natatorium, corporate artists in residence, an on-site

farmers’ market, healthy living incentives, concierge services, and paid sabbaticals along with the more common techniques

like generous retirement investment matches, etc. Value also

comes in the form of “intangibles,” the invisible qualities

Customer Care News

offered in the work relationship that go beyond compensation.

constituents — employees, consumers, shareholders and com-

was asked by Forbes magazine to comment on actions that

of an organizational vision and alignment of interests.

Ben Behrouzi, founder of DotNext, had this to say when he companies can take during tough economic times to shore up

munity — it relies on the more traditional leadership approach

A fundamental gap exists between emphasizing profit

employee happiness and well-being:

maximization in the short-term and treating employees and

there’s no growth, especially in a recession. At DotNext, we

Adding the customer to the picture opens up the possibility of

“We all know that without a happy and thriving team,

employ a two pronged approach…: First, we immediately roll

out substantial, structured and predictable performance-based

compensation in the form of bonuses…. Second, we aggressively enhance the quality, frequency and quantity of spirited culture activities that play directly into happiness and well being.” (, downloaded 1/8/10)

Organizations can provide value to employees by moving

beyond the basics of regular compensation and benefits to

encompass personal growth. The idea of promoting personal growth among employees shifts the focus of leadership away from strictly marketplace outcomes and moves it toward the

enrichment of people’s lives. Implicit in such thinking is the expectation that the collective personal growth of individuals

actually contributes to organizational growth and performance. Personal growth can take a variety of forms including

education support, training programs, physical and mental

customers as people who have a variety of needs and concerns.

creating “customer enrichment,” that is, designing a company’s products and services to truly enrich the lives of customers. Further research is needed to determine how specific

management initiatives in product design or service delivery systems can manifest themselves in high-quality customer experiences.

There are many implications as a result of this research.

Among them are:

• The idea of developing “employee insights” much like consumer insights, as a way to deeply understand how to enrich employees’ lives

• The concept of serving the whole person and recognizing that “work” and “life” are no longer separated, and therefore can’t be balanced

• The importance of human connections — human social

networks at work lead to an emphasis on the workplace

wellness efforts, rewards, and incentive programs.

This human value connection also represents a “flow of

performance.” Organizations succeed because information

community and how that culture impacts society as a whole

As the ability to attract, retain and motivate high per-

and actions flow from person to person. While such a flow

formers becomes increasingly important in an emerging, post-

Yun and Mulhern emphasize personal relationships more

people-centered approach to leadership and overall business

seems to be identical to the idea of organizational processes,

than the rigidity of formal processes. A top-down approach fails to acknowledge the connectivity that happens on an

ongoing basis both within and, sometimes, across an organization. They explain that a necessary first step is to put

recession economy, further work is needed to develop a more strategy. One thing is clear: employers need to value their workers as people and reward them in ways that truly enrich their lives. CCN

mechanisms into place for tracking and measuring the flow of

The Forum for People Performance Management and

simultaneously manage multiple flows of performance among

Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program at

performance, because organizations perform better when they

many people. Surveys can provide satisfaction and engagement scores while other metrics such as absenteeism rates, hours spent at work and employee retention can be added to the evaluation mix. Implications

The people-first framework outlined in the Forum study

Measurement is a research center within the Medill Integrated

Northwestern University. A central objective of the Forum

is to develop and disseminate knowledge about communications, motivation and management so that businesses can

better design, implement and manage employee engagement both inside and outside an organization. Contact the

Forum at 630-369-7780 or

probably fits best into the emerging information and service





to many situations. While it draws on a constituent-based




approach to leadership that balances the needs of multiple




Performance of People in Organizations: Enriching



Fall 2010

economy, nevertheless, the concepts it advances can be applied




Why Caring Companies Win  

Some of the most forward-thinking companies in the country are putting people first by improving their employees’ experiences at work and th...

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