Monday, April 6, 2009

Some thoughts about work.

“Work is a process, it’s not an end in itself. Work is a part of the process that is life. If you don’t find that process enjoyable, I don’t see that there’s anything else” - Jess Lair in I Ain’t Well, But I Sure Am Better.

I believe there’s nothing inherently negative about work except that many people settle for security even though they really don’t like what they’re doing. As a result, they never fulfill their potential and they end up hating the rewards of their work because they gave up too much to get them. Making a good living doesn’t have to mean giving up a good life. Today, we have too many people who live without working and altogether too many who work without living. It doesn’t have to be like that – here’s the first of many encouraging examples:

The Yankee Candle Company’s factory in South Deerfield, Massachusetts is a like a huge university craft studio where T-shirted employees work in bright wide-open rooms with piped-in rock music. Michael Kittredge, Yankee Candle‘s founder, made his first candle when he was16 by melting crayons in a milk carton. Now, 30-years later, Kittredge and his 5,000 employees made and sold more than $730 million worth of candles in 2007. Yankee Candle has 450 retail stores plus a growing catalog and online business, and an expanding North American wholesale customer network.

Much of Yankee’s success can be traced to the way that Michael Kittredge treated his workers. He seemed to know that keeping his employees comfortable and mentally engaged made them safer and more productive. For starters he made his factory a physically inviting place to spend eight hours a day. The inside was neat and well ventilated: the grounds were spotless and pleasantly landscaped. Production meetings often took place outside on new-mowed grass. Kittredge provided comprehensive medical and dental insurance for all his employees, and a 15,000 square-foot employee fitness center with an indoor tennis court and a staff of full-time fitness professionals. The smaller perks included a weekly pizza party, quarterly breakfast banquets, performance awards, and free cruises for star employees. Everyone got their birthday off with pay. and every employee - even the new person scraping wax off the floors - got their own Yankee Candle business cards. These policies paid off in happy workers.

Last time I checked, more than half of Yankee Candle’s original employees were still with the company. For example, Nancy Spanbauer stacked candles on a cart her first day at work. Now she’s the company’s head of production. Yankee Candle proves that what’s good for the employee is good for the company. If workers feel less important than the stuff they make, they'll squander their creativity on finding new ways to goof off and laugh at the people in charge.

Your comments are welcome. Please let me know what you're thinking....

No comments: