How to Engage Employees—Sustainably

How to Engage Employees—Sustainably

Would you jump for joy because of a basket of fruits, free coffee or a foosball table? Of course not. A lot of employers, however, seem to be missing this point. The ever-present pizza lunch still leads the list of employee perks. Satisfied employees are better employees. So getting employee benefits right is important. Have you asked yourself, which benefits do I need to offer to my staff to make them happy and motivated for the long-term? This is exactly what I have been asking myself as the head of an agency group with around 100 employees. I want to provide my co-workers with something that makes them truly happy. I admit, we are not Google, Facebook or Amazon, where staff are rewarded with generous bonuses or share options. My colleague Markus Oeller and I had to be more creative. And we came to the conclusion that our staff would really value something that money can’t buy. Time. Public Holidays In Germany Are Distributed Unevenly Some of our employees have up to four more days off per year than others. Why? Our agency group has offices in four different German states. In Germany, states have different official public holidays. For example, the south of Germany is predominantly Catholic and therefore has more public holidays. In the predominantly Protestant north, however, Catholic holidays are not observed. But that is unfair. Equality and fairness are very important to me. I always considered it illogical for Germany to have so many differing rules regarding holidays. We are a company that acts across Germany. Why should our colleagues in the north have fewer free days than those in the south? Bavaria, the state with the most days off, is the strongest economic region in Germany. This gave me food for thought. More Equality for More Satisfaction I am a true northerner, whereas my business partner and co-founder Markus grew up in Bavaria. When his family was off work, he often couldn’t be with them because it was a normal work day in his office in the north of Germany. The logical next step? Let’s rethink the holiday calendar. As entrepreneurs, we have the power and choice to make the necessary changes towards more equality. Therefore, we decided to offer our employees in the north the same public holidays that the south enjoys—immediately, without limitation and fully paid. Three Very Good Reasons for Equality in Holidays 1. It’s a unique selling point for our agency. This special offer is a clear differentiator for us, compared to other agencies and companies. In Germany, it’s rare, and it’s now part of our corporate identity. 2. It helps staff retention and employee satisfaction. For our staff, this holiday initiative means being part of a special company, for which they go the extra mile. They tell family, friends and business contacts about it, which increases brand awareness of our agency. 3. It makes recruiting a little easier. In the hard fight for highly qualified personnel, the additional days off make a difference. For example, when people considering a position with us Google our name, they can’t miss the holiday story. The media has picked up our story, and it’s a story that highlights our culture and values. The Cost of Days Off From a business perspective, we obviously needed to consider the cost. The additional days off translates into a roughly 80,000-Euros investment per year. But it’s worth it. The positive impact more than justifies the financial investment. Looking Ahead Our initiative for equality in days off has resulted in a tremendous echo in the media. Coverage in regional and national print and online media has exceeded 100 articles. TV crews from Germany’s largest stations visited us in Lübeck and Hamburg and we have been invited to several radio interviews. Counting trade media, daily newspapers, TV and radio exposure, we reached more than 41 million contacts—in theory about half of the German population! I hope that our initiative kick-starts a movement that other companies in Northern Germany join. And whether you’re in Germany or not, it’s a good reminder that being creative about employee benefits pays off. Today, more free time for family and friends is often much more valuable to great hires than a bonus, the latest iPhone or a football table!

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