How to be LOVELY to the little people

NEWS: Man reads book, gives away millions of dollars.

Not just for weighing cake.

Not just for weighing cake.

This week, Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments in the US slashed his own salary from a million dollars to $70,000. Pretty fascinating. That he has done so in order to raise the minimum salary of every person who works for him UP TO $70,000 dollars is just utterly brilliant.

I won’t rehash the New York Times’ article  but here’s the bit I love:

The happiness research behind Mr. Price’s announcement on Monday came from Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. They found that what they called emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about $75,000 a year.
— New York Times

WOW. I mean, really, WOW.

To read the book is one thing. To action that research into real life, fabulous. If only more businesses were wise enough, brave enough, to take hold of all this amazing behavioural research and actually

do something wonderful!

From the man who has just made 120 of his employees pretty happy:

I’m a big believer in less,” he added. “The more you have, sometimes the more complicated your life gets.
— Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Regular readers of this blog will also know the reverse of this, which is how little people (oh, ok, capuchin monkeys) react when you give them unequal pay.

What interests me is this. What happens when you give people EQUAL PAY for the SAME TASK? Hmmm. I’ve had a few jobs like that. What happens when people get paid the same is, in my anecdotal experience, the key topic of conversation becomes whether or not someone is a lazy git.

Brazilian innovators go further.

It’s been kicking around for a few years, but if you haven’t read Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick  I would recommend it. Brazilian Ricardo Semler took over his father’s business, SEMCO, at the age of 21. He and his dad had very different ideas. On Ricardo's first day he fired 60% of all top managers. Over time, SEMCO has adopted some radical practices. Here are a few you might like to experience in your own workplace:

  • Anybody who is hired or promoted must be interviewed, evaluated and promoted by all the people who will work for him.
  • Around 25% of all employees set their own salaries
  • There are no fixed working hours at all, each worker decides in his/her work group on the best schedule.

You can find them all on the wikipedia link

But that's Brazil! What about Blighty?

Here in the UK we have the John Lewis Partnership

While it’s generally known that John Lewis is owned by its employees, what isn’t widely known is that it was John Lewis’ son Speden Lewis who was our own 1920's super-cool maverick. Aghast at the foot-dragging level of staff motivation in the store he was managing, he embarked on a series of changes. He was 29.

Speden’s changes:

  • Shortened working hours
  • Gave staff commission
  • Installed hot and cold running water in the staff bedrooms above the shop
  • Gave all staff an extra week of holiday each year
  • Distributed shares to staff, who were now called “partners”

Pretty radical for 1920! Particularly as Speden was managing one store (Peter Jones) and his father was managing another (John Lewis Oxford Street).

In contract, John Lewis made no improvements to the conditions of his staff, and grievances built up to such an extent that in 1920 there was a five-week strike at Oxford Street. Despite support for the strikers from – among others - Queen Mary, Lewis sacked them and engaged new staff.
— Wikipedia


Speden got full control of John Lewis when his father died.

In 1950 he effectively handed the company over to staff.

In 2013, John Lewis Partnership's yearly bonus to staff was £210 million. The equivalent of 17% per employee, effectively two month’s salary.

So, rebels are out there. Quite often they are the young ones, the children of an older regime, personally passionate about staff welfare. Whether they are making it up as they go, or taking the research that exists and making it work in the real world, they are to be applauded. Because as the saying goes, innovative ideas often look like bad ideas at the time - that's why they are innovative!

To sum up, in the words of Ricardo Semler:

If you have to give back, you took too much in the first place.
— Ricardo Semler

How do YOU make your employees happier? Your team? Tell us in the comments!

SPAM SPAM SPAM? Oh ok, we won't then.

It’s free. To do what I want. Any old time.

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