It has become routine. For the 14th straight time – which is every year since its first publication in 1998 – SAS has made the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. This includes eight appearances in the top ten, and in 2011, for the second year in a row, SAS is ranked #1.
Press attention has been substantial, including a nice photo of SAS campus artwork on the home page of CNN.com (replaced this morning by pieces on Octomom’s burgeoning film career, and George Clooney’s malaria), and full coverage on CNNMoney.
What being a best company to work for means to the employees is well documented – exceptional health and child care, flexible work schedule, recreation facilities, wellness programs, and on-site conveniences like car washing, dry cleaning, haircuts, and massage. Like several of the top-ranked companies, SAS provides all of these. For fortunate employees, every day has a happy start, a happy middle, and a happy ending. About the only creature comfort we lack is subsidized tattoo and body piercing, and I hear that is being considered for 2012.
Press coverage has focused on the perks the “100 Best Companies” provide to employees, and I find this very troubling. If I were a customer of one of the 100 Best, would I really want to be doing business with a company that treats its employees so well? Why should I be subsidizing the “epic” perks that are being handed out – isn’t this just costing me more to do business with them? Bottom line: What’s in it for me?
This is a legitimate question. So what do you get when you do business with SAS?
SAS is not running a charity or adult babysitting – it is running a business. SAS is successful only to the extent that it provides products and services that deliver value to its customers.
The genius behind the management of SAS (and other great organizations) is the realization that value is most effectively delivered by a talented, experienced, motivated, loyal, and focused workforce. Good management provides balance and security for the employee, allowing each individual to focus on the customer, and on solving the customer’s problems.
With voluntary turnover in the low single digits (versus 20%+ for industry peers), consider the cost to SAS of creating a desirable work environment versus the cost of turning over 1/5 of your workforce every year. There are the hard costs of recruiting, relocating, and training the new hires. But consider also the less obvious cost of an inexperienced and transient workforce – just how much value are they providing? Are they committed to your organization and your customers, or to finding their next job?
Treating people well, providing them with autonomy, and creating a stimulating environment in which to excel, is not just crazy and lavish corporate welfare…it makes a whole lot of sense.
Can anybody say threepeat?