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
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
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.
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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.” (www.greatplacetowork.com/great/employ-
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.)
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 Money.com, 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.
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
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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.” (www.benbehrouzi.org, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 www.performanceforum.org.
economy, nevertheless, the concepts it advances can be applied