Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to reflect on all that we’re grateful for, but for some companies, gratitude is not a once-a-year occasion, but is a value embedded in their company culture.
Bristol Mountain, a ski resort in upper New York State, began its “Snow Angel” program last year. Guests and staff who are witnessed performing an act of kindness — such as brushing the snow off their neighbor’s car windshield in the parking lot, helping a new skier up off the ground, giving up their spot in line or picking up a lost pole — are rewarded with a translucent card containing an image of a Snow Angel as a token of thanks.
“[Both staff and guests] love the idea of getting the card,” says Drew Broderick, Bristol’s director of sales and marketing. “It’s almost like a medal.”
The snow angel program not only gives reason for guests and staff to be kind to one another, but is good for business, she says. “It instils this warm feeling throughout the entire organization,” says Broderick.
Steve Butcher, CEO of Seattle-based fair-trade ticketing company Brown Paper Tickets, encourages his 85 employees to give back to the community through “paid time on.” Each year, employees are given 40 volunteer hours at normal salary. Last year, more than 250 hours were cashed in. Butcher says instilling a culture of volunteerism helps employees become more fulfilled as individuals, and in turn, perform better.
“They’re better to work with,” he says. “They’re more cooperative. [They] make better decisions on the job, and they’re more empathetic to our customers.”
Creating an organizational culture of generosity is healthy for business, says Patricia Thompson, an Atlanta-based corporate psychologist and president of Silver Lining Psychology. Here, she offers the top three reasons to create a culture of generosity in your business:
1. Enhances mood. “Research shows that engaging in acts of kindness is associated with greater happiness,” says Thompson. While being stressed and in a negative mood puts our bodies into fight-or-flight mode and limits our range of thoughts, making us less effective as problem solvers, positive emotions can improve productivity and inspire innovation. “Having positive emotion broadens your perspective and allows you to be more creative and curious,” says Thompson.
2. Encourages teamwork. A culture of generosity encourages employees to work collaboratively. In the case of Brown Paper Tickets, Butcher says employees often corral others to participate in their volunteer projects, creating bonding opportunities that translate into creating a more cooperative environment in the workplace.
3. Employee retention. Thompson says more and more the newest generation of employees are looking for more meaning from their work. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found 21 percent of millenials place a higher priority on helping people in need while only 15 percent placed priority on having a high-paying career. “Having opportunities to feel they’re getting fulfilment through their work and not just a paycheck is increasingly important,” says Thompson. Fulfilled employees are more loyal and committed to the company, giving businesses that embrace a culture of generosity a competitive advantage.
Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.
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