Today is Employee Appreciation Day, the official day employers in North America celebrate employees. It's the one day for companies to thank their troops for the hard work and commitment they deliver all year long. Who doesn't like a piece of cake, a special lunch or a little gift to signify their contributions to an organization?
It's nice to be noticed. That's why we at Project: WorldWide celebrate our employees each and every day.
First, we give our U.S. employees a stake in our company. No matter their level in our organization, every one of our staffers is a part owner. When Project: WorldWide decided to become an employee-owned company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), it had an immediate and dramatic impact on our business. It changed the focus from the number of hours worked to deliverables. Our employees go above and beyond to ensure we are successful. As an ESOP, we are much better able to attract and retain talented and passionate people. Studies show that ESOP programs bring out the best in employees and more innovative ideas from all levels of organizations.
Treating employees like business owners is quite rare in corporate America, according to John Case, a veteran observer, analyst of the business world, and nationally known writer on entrepreneurship and management. In an article he published in December in The Harvard Business Review, Case said employee stock ownership plans encourage "employees to think and act like businesspeople rather than like hired hands." That matters. When employees have an economic stake in the performance of their company, they tend to work harder, perform better and are less likely to leave for other jobs. We have seen that to be the case at Project: WorldWide, where retention is high and turnover is low.
We also reward our employee owners with flexible time off (FTO) so they can enjoy a better work/life balance. That means that instead of accruing a designated amount of paid time off (PTO), there is no limit on paid vacation, other than reasonableness. And, manager approval, of course. In January we made FTO a holding-company policy that all of the 11 agencies in our network can implement and staffers have been vocal in praising the switch.
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A junior copywriter at our creative agency Argonaut in San Francisco, which successfully piloted FTO in 2015, recently told her managers that Argonaut's encouragement of and excitement about employee side projects that boost creativity was one of the main reasons she joined the agency and among the reasons she loves her job. I love that she feels like she works for a company that wants her to truly learn and grow to be the best possible version of herself and create better work. Indeed, we do.
Another employee owner is the artistic director of a small theater collective in San Francisco. A weekly show the group performs each weekend requires a prolific amount of creation and fairly intense performances, which translates into working many nights and weekends. "Having a situation where I'm able to take time for that kind of outlet is hugely beneficial and influential for my agency work," he recently shared.
FTO really changes the focus to what people get done and accomplish away from how many hours people are working. It creates a results-driven culture of trust, empowering our employees and managers to be responsible for their time.
Celebrating our employees and recognizing the extremely creative people who fuel our companies is a business imperative. It certainly ups our game and boosts our bottom line. We are nothing without great talent -- our greatest asset. So, here's to saying thanks today and every day. Now, let's eat cake.