<disclaimer: this blog post is inspired by the fictional portrayal of Google in the movie “The Internship”>
Summer is officially here, and that means a few more faces around the halls of SAS as high school and college student interns beef up their resumes while graciously helping out across campus. Like any other job listing, SAS internships are highly sought after and enthusiastically accepted – mainly due to our world-renowned corporate culture.
As a former SAS intern (more than 16 years ago), a movie buff and huge fan of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, I was eager to see the widely-promoted summer flick “The Internship.”
With popcorn in hand, I resigned myself to the fact that this would likely be a 2-hour commercial for Google – pulling out all the stops to highlight the coolest and quirkiest aspects of this amazing workplace. And, given that Google and SAS are always top of Fortune's Best Place to Work list, I also expected to see a lot of similarities between our two companies. I was right.
It’s no secret that corporate culture is a priority for both SAS and Google. Both companies have beautiful campuses, recreational sports leagues, coffee shops, gourmet cafeterias, on-site dry cleaning, daycare and countless other luxury and convenience offerings designed to make their employees happy at work.
Ok, true enough that SAS doesn’t have a loopy slide from the 6th floor to the coffee shop in the Executive Briefing Center. Nor do we have EnergyPods for mid-day siestas or Technicolor bicycles for pedaling to and from meetings. Albeit very cool – those things weren’t what really stood out as differentiators to me.
Both companies strive to make their employees happier at work. SAS strives to make their employees happier at work – and at home.
Why sleep in a nap pod when you can sleep in your own bed?
In true Owen Wilson style, he’s the carefree loveable goofball cheering everyone else on. In this movie, he interrupts a female executive’s attempt to recharge in one of the not-so-private egg loungers to philosophize about life outside of work. You see, he notices when looking at her shared calendar that she’s working in the office until midnight every night, hence the need to rest in the pod for twenty minutes mid-day to rejuvenate. She can’t even point him in the direction of a nice date restaurant because she eats at work or alone late at night. She explains that while she’s been focused on her career, the reality of a husband and children have now passed her by.
Of course, (spoiler alert) this is a Hollywood portrayal of the stereotypical dismal personal life of a career-driven woman designed to foreshadow these two possibly falling in love later on; but, sadly it does represent some reality of what so many career-driven people face regardless of industry. So often, it’s not possible to have a career and raise a family. This doesn’t just apply to women, though that’s how Hollywood always likes to portray it. Single men, married men, single parents of both genders – they all have similar struggles – not enough time at home, not enough time at Little League games, not enough time on the weekends.
SAS’s workplace culture encourages a flexible work environment, which includes flexible work hours. Of course, we all put in extra hours and do what it takes beyond those hours to get the work done and keep our customers happy – but the point is, we’re trusted with our own schedules and given freedom to do what needs to be done – on and off campus.
An article in USA Today this week states that most Americans hate their jobs - even with perks, citing 70% of Americans who do not feel engaged or inspired at work. It dawned on me that maybe some companies offer similar on-site amenities to keep employees at work longer.
In contrast, SAS employees enjoy these same benefits while also being encouraged to have a life off campus. To leave mid-day for a child’s preschool play, to take an aging parent to the doctor, to work from home if the exterminator is coming. The amenities we enjoy on campus are designed to make our lives easier and our stress lower, while our unlimited sick leave policy is intended to keep us healthy and make our families a priority. This way, we bring our best selves to work. This is why 98% of SAS employees rate SAS as a great place to work (2013 GPTW trust index).
Because of this philosophy, employees like SAS developer Brandy Mann can combine her passions – work and family. For her and so many like her, SAS provides “an environment where you aren't sweating bullets when daycare calls and your child is sick. A place where you can take your infant on a stroller ride at lunch to give yourself a break and feel like you get to still have an active role in his day. Managers who understand that if you have to leave a little early for a doctor's appointment, you will log in at night to make up your work. A give and take that, as a parent, is worth its weight in gold. Respect, understanding and a true work/life balance.”
SAS employee Maged Tawfik agrees, and elaborates on the business value of this philosophy: “Flexible work hours, telecommuting and unlimited sick leave are the stuff that makes benefits consultants cringe. Yet an environment with such attributes relieves the employees of a great deal of anxiety and worry, enabling them to focus more clearly on their productive tasks.”
As Fast Company recently assessed, SAS employees are made happier, more engaged, and produce exceptional work. Customers are more loyal because products have fewer bugs, and their contacts at the company rarely change.
Simply put: Happy employees = happy customers.
Diversity is in our DNA
At one point in the fictional movie, a manager tells a room full of eager Millennials competing for one group internship that “Diversity is in our DNA.” And while the gender, ethnic and educational diversity was represented on-screen, one category was not – age. In fact, the recurring punch line of the movie is that these two men – only in their 40s, mind you – are too out of touch, technologically-inept and completely non-relatable to possibly fit in such bright, young, technology-driven minds.
Having witnessed over the years many friends and family go through the same personal rebranding struggle that Owen and Vince experienced on-screen as their respective companies downsized, this scene is painfully true in its representation of how so many companies – and people – view age in the workforce.
At SAS, such diversity truly is in our DNA. We are a multinational, multigenerational workforce. From our 55 country offices, to the number of women in leadership roles, to the wide range of tenures, educations and backgrounds of our employees, SAS truly believes that everyone brings value.
Take SAS veteran Chris Hemedinger for example. Chris has a whopping 20 years with the company – working here since the Clinton administration and now works alongside people who were actually not yet born when he attended his SAS employee orientation. And yet, his wit and tech-savy is relatable by many across industries, by coworkers and customers alike.
In the movie, the feel-good take-away is that these old guys could teach those young whipper-snappers a thing or two about real-world experience; and, the socially-awkward kiddos could help the old guys embrace technology. GROUP HUG! The sad part is that they all had to work REALLY hard to get to that realization. Granted, it’s a movie, and there has to be conflict/emotional struggle to justify the warm fuzzy pay-off in the end. But, it left me thinking, “This is a no-brainer at SAS.” We believe everyone brings something to the table.
At SAS, it’s just how we operate. It’s because of this flexible environment and empowering leadership that our employees make a difference in our customers’ lives. Because SAS makes a difference in ours.