Carmine Gallo , CONTRIBUTOR
America’s best employers don’t create jobs; they make meaning and that’s why these companies have the happiest and most engaged employees in the country.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
At a recent dinner party a pilot for Southwest Airlines (#13 on the Forbes list of America's Best Employers 2016) turned to me and excitedly showed me an email from CEO Gary Kelly. Kelly addressed the email to the pilot and copied about five other people, including the pilot’s boss. The email contained a letter from a woman who shared an experience about her brother—recently paralyzed in an auto accident—and the wonderful treatment he had received from the pilot and the entire crew.
Kelly’s email is part of the Southwest way of building and maintaining a customer-focused culture. The email is a key component of Southwest’s “Kick Tail” recognition and awards program. Being recognized for a job well done goes beyond the usual perks and benefits you expect to see in corporate America and yet, in many ways, it’s more valuable. Employees who see that their daily jobs have mission and purpose go the extra mile. The evidence is clear: purpose fueled companies grow faster, have more engaged workplaces, enjoy higher profits and productivity, and have far less turnover.
Free food, on-site gyms, and tuition reimbursements are all nice to have and employees cherish those perks, but America’s Best Employers offer something far more valuable—a life of meaning.
“Ninety-five percent of my assets drive out the gate every evening. It’s my job to maintain a work environment that keeps those people coming back every morning,” according to Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS Institute (#6 Best Employer 2016). Leaders at SAS have discovered that how employees feel about the company’s role in the world drives innovation and builds loyalty.
According to the SAS careers website, “If you have to spend, on average, 54% of your waking hours at work, why not do something meaningful – that you can be proud of?” SAS leaders and HR teams cultivate a culture of purpose through sharing stories of how SAS software makes a difference in the lives of people around the world: “Our analytics software helps organizations make the kinds of important decisions that drive change each and every day – like how to capture the bad guys, keep kids safe, feed the hungry, and even ensure that people who struggle to learn are not lost.”
SAS headquarters in Cary, North Carolina, is a self-contained city. It has a hair salon, fitness center, Olympic-size heated pool and much more. That’s what you can see, but when I’ve spoken to SAS employees it becomes clear that what you can’t see makes the difference in how employees view their employer. Goodnight said it best: “SAS employees are driven and feel challenged to explore how they can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Two weeks ago I sat down with a group of employees at Google, which ranks #2 on this year’s list of America’s Best Employers. We enjoyed a gourmet meal at one of the 30 cafeterias that serves free food at its Mountain View CA headquarters. The employees were almost all under thirty years old.
“You must love the free food,” I said.
“It’s great, but that’s not why I work here,” one young man responded. “To be a part of something that’s changing the world; that’s really cool!”
Perks are nice, but purpose counts more.
“We have a really caring culture that breeds a lot of collaboration,” says Rod Nichols, human resources director at Marathon Petroleum, the #1 Best Employer In America. Marathon maintains the caring culture by continually reinforcing the fact that for Marathon employees, their work has meaning. Marathon has some of the happiest employees in America because a majority of them can confidently say their jobs make the world a better place.
The accounting firm KPMG (#16 in the professional services category) is one of the best examples I’ve come across recently of a workplace built on purpose. In this Harvard Business Review case study, human resources directors at KPMG concluded that “A workforce motivated by a strong sense of higher purpose is essential to engagement.” The firm launched an initiative to help leaders create that sense of purpose. The first step was to answer the simple question: What do we do at KPMG? The answer can be found in this video: We shape history.
The second step was to launch the 10,000 Stories Challenge, asking employees and partners to submit their stories of how KPMG makes a difference in people’s lives. “Most importantly, we recognized that just telling people from the top down about their higher purpose would not succeed. We encouraged everyone—from our interns to our Chairman—to share their own stories about how their work is making a difference,” according to Bruce Pfau, KPMG’s vice chair of Human Resources. The result? Employee engagement has risen to record levels at KPMG.
There is no question that employees love great perks: free food, discounts, reimbursements, generous vacation and maternity leave policies. These perks are closely correlated with employee engagement because it shows that the company’s leaders care for an employee’s well-being. But as Southwest co-founder Herb Kelleher once expressed: “Competitors can buy tangible assets, but they can’t buy culture.”
“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible,” according to Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks (#2 best employer in the restaurant category). Schultz makes a powerful observation. Leaders, if you want to be considered one of the best employers in your industry, focus on building a culture of purpose. Perks bring people in the door, but purpose builds brand loyalty.
Carmine Gallo is a keynote speaker, communication advisor and bestselling author of “Talk Like TED” and The Storyteller's Secret. Sign up for his newsletter at carminegallo.com
The above articleis from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2016/03/23/the-best-perk-at-americas-best-employers-is-the-one-you-dont-see/#67bf2b48fc94