People, Ping Pong & Purpose

by Todd McDonald on April 24, 2013

With all of the extra amenities available, have you ever wondered how anything gets done at tech companies like Apple, Google, or Facebook – or even that new-age ad agency downtown? It’s well known that a variety of businesses are starting to replace cube farms with in-house gyms, free haircuts, and recreation rooms complete with foosball and ping-pong tables, so it makes sense that the aforementioned companies have some of the highest happiness ratings around. But doesn’t it seem almost counterintuitive that companies would introduce all of these competing distractions to the eight hour work day?

These perks, it turns out, are nothing more than a silver lining. Candidates for these positions undergo a rigorous hiring process, and they are well vetted to ensure that they will get the job done. All of the extra creature comforts are just a way to encourage engagement and interaction beyond the typical schedule.

As Joel Hans, managing editor at manufacturing.net, argues in his recent article, Legos on the Plant Floor?, “these Silicon Valley employers don’t care why an employee stayed two hours later after their regular hours — even if all they did was drink free microbrews and played ping pong the entire time. By keeping them in the office, there’s a higher chance they’ll contribute more around those break periods, and the bevy of benefits tend to push employees into coming back on the weekends, when they will inevitably continue to work beyond their 40 hours.”

But is it the physical perks or the people and the company itself that keeps employees happy long-term, working beyond the required 40 hours and willing to go the extra mile? Research done by the San Jose Business Journal indicates that it’s actually company culture that breeds these high happiness ratings. Of the seven happiest Silicon Valley tech companies, “smart people” and “work life balance” are the biggest perks rather than the “free food” (which was rated highest for only one of these companies).

So what’s the takeaway? Do we need these fancy amenities to attract young talent to manufacturing and keep them satisfied and hard-working? At TEQ, we think the answer is a resounding no.

Instead, we make sure to live and breathe our core values every day, and because of that, we know exactly who to hire so our team has common basis for approaching and solving problems.

And, while we’ve actually recently started a campaign to beautify our office space and create a more energetic and welcoming environment with features like a cybercafe, we didn’t spring for sushi bar or a gym. Our new office space (like a ping-pong table) is just a meeting grounds to enhance creativity and productivity.

We also make sure to encourage a good work-life balance by making sure people take a break and spend some time at home with their families. Human interaction in the office, work related or not, encourages creativity and productivity, and the smart, driven individuals we hire keep coming back for that.

What about you? Have you used your core values and company culture to transform your work environment? What was the result?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eric Ozrowski April 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Great Post Todd! 100% agree.

At Nick’s Pizza & Pub, it truly starts with a clear, explicit Purpose. We like to say our Purpose is “Why” we do what we do, our values are “How” we do what we do, and our pizza is the “What.”

The result has been the incredible team and working environment that we’ve built over the last 18 years in our two restaurants. We actually run our business more like a school than a restaurant and it develops our team into leaders for life!

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