I have a lot of people tell me how unique my company is. I guess it’s because in my industry (call centers), most businesses are focused on being the lowest bidder and aren’t concerned about sacrificing employee morale and margins. In contrast, our attrition is a fraction of the norm, we’ve been named a “Best Place to Work” nine times, and have margins over 100 percent greater than competitors.
We did it with a simple strategy of treating our people like…people, but why should that be unusual? Treating employees right is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business.
This is highlighted in David Wolfe’s 2007 book, Firms of Endearment. It tracked the financial success of companies that fostered employee-centric cultures. They included companies like Costco, The Container Store, and Starbucks. Research revealed that over a 10-year period, these companies returned 1027 percent for their investors, versus a 127 percent return from the S&P 500.
Thankfully, there is a growing group of companies who realize their employees are their most important stakeholders — before customers, vendors or investors. At Beryl, we call this philosophy The Circle of Growth (SM).
The Circle starts with gaining employee loyalty. The level of service and quality of work employees give in return results in customer loyalty. Loyal customers drive profits into your business. That profit is returned into your employees to give them better tools and resources to do their jobs, as well as rewards. Circle back to the beginning, repeat, and over time your company will continue to improve, giving you a competitive edge.
Working within this framework, we’ve built our culture by removing hierarchy and being transparent. We encourage healthy debate and employee input through events like open forums. We’ve built trust by caring about people in the totality of their lives. If a co-worker needs help with rent or a note of encouragement to get through a tough time, we’ll deliver it.
We have fun, as evidenced by the tricycle races we’ve held in our halls. We support our local community, and we are committed to fostering a learning environment through company training and clubs so people can grow personally and professionally. In short, our company exists to enhance the lives of the people that work with us.
Is it a pretty cool place to work? You bet. However, the investment we make in our culture pays off in our productivity, customer satisfaction, and financial performance.
That’s why I hope one day we will no longer be “unique” and this will become the new standard of treating employees right. Companies who don’t see employees as their best investment will continue paying a price for years to come.
Paul Spiegelman is a sought after speaker and author on corporate culture. He’s founder and CEO of Beryl, the country’s leading healthcare call center, and CEO of Small Giants, a non-profit dedicated to small businesses that choose to be great instead of big. In 2009, he launched The Circle of Growth, a corporate culture consulting and training company. His first book, “Why is Everyone Smiling? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit” was published in 2007.