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Putting the Caring Back In Companies

Written by Wendy Carlson, Senior Compensation & Benefits Manager

“EITHER you earn money OR you have a personal life.” This is a common misconception I encounter all the time out in the world – in general, people think that working at a nonprofit is the only way you’ll find a caring, supportive culture at work. The widely held perception is that working in the high-powered corporate world means you sacrifice your personal life for financial success.

Wendy CarlsonNow, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying this misconception isn’t rooted in some truth. There are a lot of businesses out there treating their employees like machinery, each with a calculated cost, capacity, and output. They offer bare minimum cookie-cutter benefits, but on top of that, they treat all employees with suspicion, assuming they would rampantly take advantage of the company at any point. Working in Human Resources becomes very depressing in that type of environment. You hear many heart-breaking stories and you aren’t empowered to help.

A Better Way

A culture supportive of employees can co-exist with profits. At First Business, it’s promoted from the very top. Our CEO, Corey Chambas, is fond of saying if he had to choose an alternate title, it would be “Chief Culture Officer.” Here, it means that all our benefits and other activities that touch employees align with a philosophy of trusting and valuing them. It doesn’t just happen – we make a choice to support them how we can.

To encourage them to recharge, we require employees to take a real break from First Business, which we accomplish in partnership with our IT department. Internally referred to as IT lockout, our FBIZ Unplugged initiative allows our employees to fully disconnect from their workplace by blocking new email from entering your inbox for five days straight. In this age of constant connectivity and high expectations, our managers encourage all employees to participate in FBIZ Unplugged once a year.

We also design our benefits to help employees through good times and bad. Like anyone living a normal human life, they experience events that cause them to need time away from work. Whether because of an illness or to care for a family member, it’s important to us that First Business doesn’t cause more stress on top of what they’re already handling. When a grandparent asks to take extended leave to care for a grandchild, we don’t point to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and say, “No, sorry. Doesn’t qualify.”

  • If employers look for ways to restrict employee benefits, you have to wonder how much anyone really enjoys working there.

For employees, it’s not always all about compensation. Investing in expert, dedicated employees with great benefits and supportive policies pays the company back with productive, happy employees who stay. It’s a win-win dynamic that I see play out on a daily basis.

Happy is Best

Serendipitously, I just saw an article based on several studies showing that happy workers are more productive – because they are happy. Keeping them happy increases their loyalty. The article points to creating an environment that “authentically increases workers’ happiness” through engaging them in positive activities. Which, in turn “could potentially boost revenue and improve company culture.” The study also shows that happy people are more likely to “go above and beyond,” are “less likely to burn out, be absent from work, or quit their jobs.” They’re also more likely to earn slightly more than unhappy people. And the icing on the cake from this article: happy insurance agents sell 37% more insurance policies than unhappy ones! The company and the employee both win.

Doing the right thing for people turns out to be the right thing for companies. It’s not EITHER/OR. Culture and profits can co-exist in harmony.

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