Today I came across a couple of articles that got me thinking about the workplace and what makes us happy. The first was an oral history of a Toronto Canada landmark – a massive record store on Yonge Street called HMV.
A Happy Place to Work
HMV was my employer for 13 years and in 3 countries and, Blue Sky Resumes excepted, it was the best company I ever worked for. I worked in Human Resources, but throughout the article and in the comments section, you can see that store employees felt just the same way about the company in its hey-day. Here are a few of the comments:
There was this kind of family vibe—it felt really community-based. It felt like it was this indie shop within the retail world.
It was a great job, though, with awesome staff and managers and some pretty nice perks like free CDs, concert tickets, movie screenings and in-stores. I enjoyed my years there!
I was one of the lucky second-wave of hires at 333, May 1991. A few week or two after being hired, I was taken off-site, to the Novotel on The Esplanade, for two days of extra training in company history, business arithmetic, loss prevention, and some team building. It was great. The staff who had that kind of extra training stuck with that company for a LONG TIME (some just left the company recently, nearly 20 years after they got hired!)
The article also outlines the changes that took place as the industry was hit hard, management took a different approach, and the employment culture changed entirely. Some of the ex-employees may not understand the business realities, but they do understand that the culture they enjoyed so much disappeared:
Needing some extra cash about a year ago, I decided to re-apply, and reluctantly, HMV took me back. It wasn’t long before I realized what a mistake I’d made […] The emphasis now seemed not so much on product knowledge or customer service, but on how many HMV Loyalty cards you were able to sell […] the Superstore just wasn’t a fun place to work anymore.
John Jantsch’s 4 Ps
After reading that article and wallowing in my memories for a few minutes, I checked one of my favorite marketing blogs and found this post entitled The 4Ps of a Fully Alive Business. You really need to read the whole thing, but in it, Jantsch argues that ‘fully alive’ businesses share 4 qualities:
He closes with:
Imagine if every business were started with this framework. Imagine if everyone could go to work for a company built with this way of thinking at its core. Imagine if we could experience these Four P’s by simply becoming a customer of your business? What would that be like?
I suspect all the employees of HMV Canada back in the 90s could answer that question – and I suspect some of you have experienced it in places you’ve worked. And yet the vast majority of companies just don’t deliver on any of the Ps, let alone all four.
So if all that works, why do so few companies do it?
Our resume clients complete a questionnaire called the Explorer, which is an in-depth self-assessment tool. One of the questions they answer is “what type of company do you want to work for in your next job?” Invariably the answers mention some or all of Jantsch’s Ps – people describe companies that are passionate about what they do, companies who treat their employees like adults capable of making smart decisions, companies who innovate, companies with good team spirit … in other words, they describe “fully alive” companies. Businesses where, years later, an ex-employee might say “that was the best company I ever worked for.”
But when they get to the sections describing their actual employment history, it’s often a litany of bad management, lack of trust, overwork (or the opposite, boredom), inability to influence company direction, and overall frustration.
Makes you wonder why so few companies are able to get this right.
So, what’s the best place you ever worked and why was it so great?