Of every kind of gratitude that matters in business, one of the most vital is a company’s appreciation for its great employees. Even more than money, an environment of gratitude, the opportunity to serve with great leaders and genuine appreciation inspires employees to engage fully and to produce stellar work.
Within the next few days, 10 of our Utah companies will be honored as the year’s Best Companies to Work For. I am proud to note that at least several our clients will appear on that list. In keeping with the season, I took the chance to visit this week with recipient Dan Caffee, CEO and co-founder of marketing firm Neutron Interactive (one of the firms we’re not representing) to get his perspective on the kinds of gratitude employees appreciate best. (Caffee’s company has received the Best Companies award four times so far during its seven-year life.)
“As a CEO, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing my employees succeed,” he said. “I want to create an environment where my employees can thrive, be creative, and expand the potential of the company exponentially.”
“When an employee knows they are sincerely cared for, there’s more trust; there’s more hard work; and there’s better ability to focus their creative assets on the company’s growth. Everyone wins.”
The benefits Caffee’s employees appreciate most comprise five categories, he said.
“We provide the best work environment possible,” Caffee says. “We offer standing desks, a mini working gym on site, loads of snacks, and a very open work concept that allows employees to put more on their creativity, and much less on contenting with the physical environment around them.”
Neutron Interactive is one of the few remaining companies to provide 100% of employee and dependent medical and dental insurance premiums. The company takes that contribution a step further still with contributions to their Health Savings Accounts, as well as matching contributions through the company’s 401K.
“We want to provide generous health and retirement benefits to keep our employees present and engaged during work.”
At Neutron, Caffee’s management team sponsors activities to encourage communication among everyone who works at the company. Activities include everything from broom ball on ice to classic team building games. Teams are allowed to choose their activities together.
“We all prefer to work with people we like, and we’re more likely to accomplish great goals with people we know how to communicate and collaborate with particularly well,” Caffee said.
“As a CEO, I loathe when projects aren’t moving,” says Caffee. “I want to always see movement and progress. I want employees’ minds to always be thinking forward.”
The company offers education reimbursement to employees to encourage their individual growth, but the benefits also bleed into the work they accomplish for Neutron, Caffee says. “We’ll do anything from paying for classes at a university, to paying for certificates that encourage their growth at Neutron, to paying for a trip to an educational conference,” he says. “We do this not just because it’s a cool thing to do, but because our employees value learning, and we want to hire and foster the kind of employees who want to learn more.”
As a company, Neutron recognizes that some people perform their best at peculiar times that don’t necessarily adhere to stringent 9 to 5 hours. “We care more about getting the work done than whether our employees show up at 9 on the dot every day,” Caffee said. Managers are also willing to show flexibility when their employees have needs to attend to outside of work, to avoid having to stress about commitments such as doctors’ appointments. The less stress an employee has to feel about outside circumstances, the more quality time they have to focus on their company’s creative assets, he says.
Above all of the compensation and benefits, however, it’s the unprompted words of genuine appreciation that inspire employees best, Caffee says. It is vital to take the time to be present for employees and to thank them appropriately and even publicly for their loyalty to the company and for their outstanding results.
In fact, research shows that 65% of employees would rather have a better boss than a raise. Knowing that, what kind of an employer are you? In this time of gratitude, perhaps we can all take a page from the Best Companies playbook and show the gratitude to our employees that will not only contribute to their health and well-being, but will also help to inspire their best work.