For many years, I have worked with many great companies in their training and convention efforts. Analytical Graphics, Inc (AGI) was one of the most memorable ever.
I conducted sales presentation skills training for AGI, the best small company to work in America, according to the Great Place to Work Institute and Society for Human Resource Management.
What a great environment! Perhaps you can adopt some of what AGI does in your company to add to your productivity and morale. I wish you could have been there at lunchtime!
Over the years, I have eaten in quite a few employee cafeterias while training and coaching at client locations. However, I can honestly say, I have never had such great food in any company.
Every day, in the delightful employee dining room, all employees are welcome to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner — for free!
The chef and the owner of the company which provides the food was telling me he has been providing the catering since beginning the company, which only had 30 employees. He changes the menu daily so nobody will get bored, and he enjoys the creative challenge.
After AGI was given the award, a writer who was trying to take a negative slant on the company said to president Paul Graziani: “You only feed them to keep them here.”
“No,” he replied, “They are always here...so we feed them.”
The writer insisted she would only write the article if she could walk around by herself and talk to anyone she wanted to. At the end, she was converted! Everyone agreed, it is a great place to work.
She naturally asked: “With all these benefits, you must have lower salaries?” The answer was “No.”
My four-hour sales seminar was to real-life rocket scientists. AGI’s technology is used by the Intelligence Community and Nasa (the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration). I walked over to the most state-of-the-art conference room I have ever seen to deliver a talk for a women’s group.
Naturally, in this environment there are a lower percentage of women, and I met two female rocket scientists. “Everyone is welcome,” said Ms Lisa Velte, director of human resources, “including the men. In fact many of them attended when the subject was financial planning.”
As the hour stretched into 70 minutes, I was concerned as some may be late for work. Said Ms Velte: “We treat everyone as adults, and they get their work done. We realise that creativity is not just from 9 to 5. In fact, people come to work when it is best for them to be productive. We have a few who do not come in until 2pm, and they are there at 11pm.”
Now I understood why dinner is served! On a tour of the facilities I saw their world-class gym, open 24 hours a day, and the laundry room where busy employees can bring in their laundry. Naturally, the company pays for all supplies.
They do not have a formal day care programme. However, in the school holidays and those “not quite well enough to go to school days”, there is a wonderful playroom for kids of all ages.
There are two creative round rooms for the engineers to relax and brainstorm in, and yes, the walls are whiteboards and they can draw all over them. Then, there is the “virtual water fountain” where not only can you see and talk to employees in the kitchen areas on each level but also in the kitchens in other locations and field offices.
“This makes everyone in the field office feel part of headquarters,” said Ms Velte. “One of the reasons I was excited to work here,” she said, “is our president, who believes in the open office layout.”
As we turned a corner, there he was, in an office with no walls at all. He was totally approachable.
I know what you are thinking...we have to cut all the frills out of our budgets. Organisations like AGI have to be concerned with the bottom line like every other company.
Perhaps they realise that happy, appreciated, well-fed associates and rocket scientists thrive and are more creative. Surely, this is good for the bottomline too.