Do Company Benefits Reflect Company Values?
I love babies. Not surprising for a man with 13 children. Although, building our family through adoption, many of those children came to us as little people, not necessarily as babies. I have to admit I’m happy that my lovely wife and I have moved past the “having babies” to “having grandbabies” stage. However, while we were still building our family I had the opportunity to work for two different companies. We had a baby with company #1 and then a couple of years later had a baby with company #2. These two companies were rivals. Very intense rivals, often competing for the same employees. Do benefits make a difference?
Company #1 was a company started by a couple of guys at Brigham Young University. One was a professor, the other one of his students. The company was based not just in Utah, but in Utah county; the heart of “Mormon country.” Most of us were newly married with young families.
Company #2 was a multi-national company headquartered in Washington. It was started by a guy who was single and had dropped out of school. It was headquartered near Seattle. While a wonderful city, not considered nearly as “family oriented” as Utah with it’s strong family culture. In fact, this company was often described as “evil” by its detractors.
While at one of these companies, my lovely wife had a baby. She, of course took time off. Having a baby is hard work. But, about three weeks after the baby was born, her supervisor called.
Hey, I know you just had a baby, but we are getting killed by the support queue. Is there any chance you can come back a week early? We could really use you on the phones.
While working for the second company we also had a baby. This company had a different policy, though.
Rodney, we know your wife just had a baby. Feel free to use your vacation time, but in addition we are going to give you 4 weeks of paid leave. Go be with your son. Oh, and don’t even think about coming back early. We are turning off your login and card key access for the next month.
In addition the second company sent us a baby blanket, company branded baby toys, and a solid silver picture frame inscribed with my son’s name, birthdate and birth weight.
Which company do you think supported families and family values better?
What if I told you the two company’s were Microsoft and WordPerfect?
And despite the founding, the location and the culture of the surrounding community, WordPerfect was much less family-friendly than the evil empire in Redmond. I’ve reflected on this contrast a lot over the years. There are many practical reasons for their different policies. For one, WordPerfect employees had a lot more babies than Microsoft employees. A new baby was an event at Microsoft. It was fairly routine at WordPerfect. We tend to celebrate events.
Also, Microsoft was a much stronger company than WordPerfect. They had a more diversified product line. And while WordPerfect owned the word processor market at the time, Microsoft owned Windows, and programmaning languages and DOS and a bunch more.
But, more than the economics I was struck by the values that each company supported. A WordPerfect supervisor called my wife three weeks after having a baby and asked her to come back to work. My Microsoft supervisor basically kicked me out of the building for at least a month and said, “Don’t come back for the next four weeks.”
Now, twenty years later, I couldn’t tell you what version of WordPerfect Office my wife was taking calls on in support. I couldn’t tell you what team I was on at Microsoft when we had a baby. The details of the jobs have been lost to my own personal history. But, even now, after WordPerfect has ceased to be a company and I haven’t worked for Microsoft for over a decade, I still remember how the two companies treated me. And while I enjoyed working for both, that memory clouds my opinion probably more than any other event.
You have the opportunity to showcase your company values through your benefits program. It’s less about the features and more about what you show your employees is important to you as an employer.
Make sure you are sending the right message.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved