Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day Out

My employer had me over to visit recently for meetings and during one of the days I was there, we had a "day out" for our department. About 25 of us packed into a bus and drove to a small English town to visit the Gainsborough Museum and a print shop. We spent a half day doing etching and printing the results on paper and a half day in the museum. I have to say that it was rather enjoyable, and it was definitely a bit of a bonding time for me with people that I see once a year (or less).

I have to admit. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, and grumbled a touch. The museum wasn't terribly interesting to me and I didn't want to spend the time there when I could have been coming home a day early, but I did see the value in there. I got to know a few people better, and I think the bonding that occurred in the common experience will help some of us to work a little better in the future.

It reminded me of other events at places I've worked. One 20 person department had a monthly event of some sort for a few hours (lunch, a baseball game, a movie, etc.). Another had a large cookout 3-4 times a year for hundreds of employees.

Perhaps a waste of money, but none of the events was extravagant and all provided employees with the chance to let loose a little and get to know each other. I have to say that the places that did have some out of work bonding were the places I most enjoyed working. It's something I might recommend to small businesses, and something I'd do if I get another business going.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Treating Employees Well

I have had very few employees in my businesses, mostly just partners, so I’m not sure how I’d handle most issues, but I have worked for lots of people and seen relations between an employer and employee handled great, good, fair, and poorly. Unfortunately the latter seems to dominate.

I found this post from Reed Hastings on setting employees free very interesting. The idea that you value work, that you want employees to be happy and excited is a great one. In small companies, I can see this working well, and helping the company to grow and people to bond.

One thing in the post that strikes me as a better deal is the idea of compensating employees fairly now. Don’t do vesting, don’t do delayed compensation. Pay people a fair wage, and give them outright option or stock grants when appropriate, and vest them immediately. Delaying the grants makes it seem like you really don’t want to give them out, and you’re basing the reception on time, not work done. Not the message you want to send if you want motivated people.

I don’t know how well it scales, but it would be nice to see how a larger company could implement some of these ideas, and perhaps build a better culture.