This is the last day of January 2010! A month whizzed past us just like that! Quietly and unsuspectingly!! Wow!!!
Today I like to comment on the Fortune Magazine Asia Pacific Edition February 8, 2010, No. 2, where it published the "100 Best Companies to Work For!"
No. 1 on the list is SAS (Statistical Analysis System), a privately owned software company in the North Carolina area. It listed the co-founder and CEO as saying: "If I can keep the employees happy, I can keep the customers happy and the growth in revenue and profitability will be a natural consequence!".
In the citation, it mentioned the list laundry list of benefits SAS offered: "high-quality child care at US$410/month, 90% coverage of the health insurance premium, unlimited sick days, a medical center staffed by 4 physicians and 10 nurse practitioners (at no cost to employees), a free 66,000 sq. ft. fitness center and auditorium, a lending library, and a summer camp for children."
The CEO, its only one in the 34-year history of the company, described the culture as: "trust between our employees and the company." That the company does not treat the employees as criminal and hence the need to watch over them! They are free to come and go as they like except those in the front desks and customer facing type where they need to be available to the users and customers. The turnover is 2% in an industry that see easily more than 20% p.a.!!
Lessons for me are:
1. to build a culture of trust, it has to start from the top. It has to demonstrate how the senior leadership trust the people with actions and not just words. It also demands open and 2-way communication of the mutual expectations and commitment. Commitment means: doing the right things when no one is watching. This is a step higher than seeking compliance as compliance means 'doing the right things when SOMEONE is watching!';
2. the fact that the company is a privately held one means that it does not have to focus on the short term quarterly performance accordingly to the CEO! This is a significant factor though I also believed that a publicly listed company can still hold on to its long term goals despite quarterly fluctuation in performance if the CEO and the Board of Directors are steadfast and resolute!;
3. it is NOT the best pay master among the highly competitive software industry and it DOES NOT offer stock option! The Holy Grail of very smart compensation experts always preached that stock option is a powerful tool to attract the best talent and retain them! This is very significant as it meant the 'conventional wisdom' of 'paying the best will attract the best' is not always right! People are driven by the 'laundry list of benefits' mentioned in the citation and NOT just the pay package! SAS is still very profitable and growing nicely despite these generous benefits. Like the CEO said: My most valuable assets drive home at the end of each day and it is my job to make sure that they come back the next day, and the next day, and the next day! If it is just money, then there will always be someone who is willing to pay that extra dollar to snatch or entice that talent to move! It has to be more than just money! The trust helps!!
A simple universal truth - when you take care of your employees, they will take care of the customers, and the customers will take care of the company by giving it more orders! Of course, the employees have to deliver to the customers what they need and want with the right solution at the right time right price and right quality!